When you’ve lost the romance and love for farming, and you’re tired of restless work, or when you’re exhausted from the daily wager, year after year, of working in agriculture, you can turn on Baxter Black and remember the joy and pleasure of the lifestyle you fell in love with. He was a gift to the farming community.
Dr. Baxter Black had an innate talent for speaking directly to people. Whether you heard her voice on a cassette tape played in a tractor cab or at a convention in front of thousands of fans, her poems and words of wisdom have given us something to understand. His ability to turn a sentence was remarkable, but what struck me was his ability to relate to so many of us.
I met Dr. Black at the Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Lewistown, MT. Being a more literal thinker, I had never paid much attention to poetry. It was summer, the hay was being baled and we were about to start the fall chores, and hauling the hay meant more time in the tractor.
I have never grown anything other than dry land hay. However, I do know something about lunchtime rationing that requires eating a sandwich at 10:55 sharp to stay awake, especially when hauling bales in an old tractor with no air seat or radio. For years, those Baxter Black and Friends the tapes provided the adult companionship and humor needed when I was stuck on a piece of equipment with a baby and a border collie.
Find humor and beauty in the mundane with Baxter Black
While interviewing Baxter Black at his home in Arizona, he took me to see “the best place in the house” – his prized Dutch door outhouse. And, what a view he had!
Even its rock face had that special, personal touch. Every stone, brick and piece of concrete has been collected as a souvenir of Black’s travels over the years. As he told the stories on his wall, Baxter pointed to a concrete stone: “See this one? It’s supposed to be Texas. My friend, put it upside down. And Texas, well, it looks like a duck.
Baxter recalled seeing a herd of cattle entering the paddocks from his spectacular vantage point while working as a veterinarian.
The herd steadily moved towards the door like a teardrop backwards. “It was so quiet and peaceful, a view you could steal. You could hear the cowboys hooting at the cows, but suddenly the tear splashed the door. And the tongue has become colored. ‘Git outta the gate you no good sofa ditches, I am a gunnin’ four yo shoes a musta linka booda nina tens!’”
This incident inspired one of his first poems, written on the bonnet of his vet truck – The Cowboy and his dog. If you’ve ever worked cattle with dogs, you can relate to it.
Some life lessons from Baxter Black
Glitz and glam if you need it! With a closet full of wacky handmade shirts, he said you’ll get curious looks and probably look like a clown. However, once you’ve captured their attention, the show is all yours.
There’s no time to sit and pout. Even when you’re out of keys and life has taken everything from you, you don’t have time to sit on the ashes. Get up, dust yourself off and do something!
Don’t let them know you don’t know. As a feedlot worker, Baxter was given the daunting task of balancing rations. Having never done this job before or taken a nutrition course, he used positive self-talk and got the job done.
“You’ll be amazed at how capable people think you are if they don’t know you well. Don’t waste this advantage.
Do what you want, how you want, and see what happens. Don’t be afraid of decisions.
The truth in humor is what makes it funny. There are no science fiction jokes.
The last time I saw Baxter Black was at the NCBA conference in New Orleans at the Justin Boots booth. Baxter signed a copy of Poems to save in his backward, upside-down, weird, left-handed way, and we talked about our last trip to Benson. We talked about Las Cruces and New Mexico State University.
Baxter stopped abruptly, mid-sentence, pointed to the center of my forehead and told me I was going somewhere, so I better get my butt on and get going. I was in a weird place then; I was “keyless” myself. That’s what I needed to hear. Took a few pictures for the fans, found Cindy Lou, said goodbye and continued on our way. And I’ve been working ever since.
Baxter leaves a wonderful legacy of videos, DVDs, CDs, books and poems for the next generation. I sincerely hope that even if you are unfamiliar with the work of Dr. Baxter Black, you will take the time to share the fun, humor, spirit and passion with the next generation of farmers. He wrote them for us, because he was one of us.
Heidi Crnkovic, is the deputy editor of TODAY. She is originally from New Mexico with deep roots in the Southwest and a passion for all things agriculture.