Baxter Black

Baxter Black

This weekend cowboy poet, columnist, and extraordinary human being Baxter Black passed away. I saw Baxter Black in 1985 at the Garden County Fair. He climbed up on the arena fence and sat there telling stories - some of the stories were in verse. What wasn't funny was touching. Most of what he said was both. In his own words, "It is a gallows humor in a world where catastrophe is riding on your shoulder.  And…on stage and in books it far out-sells serious poetry."

Black's popularity as a cowboy poet started in the 1980s. He rose to fame with the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. In the 1980s he was on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. By the end of the '80s he was a regular Monday morning commentator on NPR's Morning Edition. You are probably familiar with his column "On the Edge of Common Sense"which ran in over 100 papers, but he wrote novels as well. He published 30 books of commentary, poetry and fiction.

The funniest book I ever listened to was "Hey Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?" read by Baxter Black himself. Black tells the story of Cody and Lick, two rodeo cowboys. They are determined to make it to the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. As they compete in rodeos across the west, these friends find themselves in all sorts of predicaments- hilarity ensues. 

Rather than just write about how funny Baxter Black was, I am going to share some excerpts from "A Commotion in Rhyme" by Baxter Black. It's one of the books we have in the library- a combination of poems and commentary, one section I liked was

Cowboy Curses:

  • "May you cough at the wrong time in the sale barn and buy 26 head of broken mouth Shetlands…
  • May the choreboy use your good rope to stake the milk cow out in the bar ditch
  • May your only good dog get caught in the neighbor's hen house…
  • May you notice your missing wedding ring as you put the last scoop of wheat in the elevator"

Here are some book titles Black suggested "one might find on the Barns & Stable Bestseller List":

  • "Herefords are from Venus- Angus are from Mars:
  • "Chicken Soup for the Freshly Weaned Ruminant's Soul"
  • "The Joy of Artificial Insemination"
  • "The Sheep Whisperer"
  • "A Power Line Runs Through It"
  • "Feedlots of Madison County"

Finally, some Public Signs Black proposed.

  • "HOME COOKING: Today's special: leftovers, microwaved to perfection just like you get at home
  • No Hunting or Trespassing: Violators will be shot, ground into chorizo and fed to the barn cats.
  • EASY MONEY PAWN SHOP! We lend cash on anything of value! All we require is proper identification and a member of your family as collateral."

I heard Black called the Will Rogers of our time, and that seems like a fair assessment. He did a good job of explaining agriculture to folks who have no experience in the field- and also to those who do have ag experience. Through this mission he managed to entertain everyone.

If you would like to take a trip down memory lane, or if you are discovering Black's works for the first time, you can find several items by Black in the Gering Library, including books and DVDs. If you would like to read or listen to something we don't have, just ask. I can track it down on Interlibrary loan for you.