By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
Cowboy poet Baxter Black can’t stand spaghetti, but he greatly appreciates a rural, Western way of life for the values of its people.
“That includes work ethic, independence, entrepreneurism, family, loyalty, patriotism,” he explained during a telephone interview Monday. “I could keep going and say belligerence, cantankerousness, etc. There’s a resiliency in them.”
Even though people in agricultural production are trying to make a living, Black said, it’s not all about the money.
“You’re in it because it’s there in you, and you’re only happy when you’re doing it,” he said. “It’s not always a good living, but it’s a good life.”
Black — a humorist who writes poetry, anecdotes and a syndicated column about cowboy life and has presented on the radio, on television and at events — is scheduled to speak at the upcoming Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet.
The former large animal veterinarian said he hopes people are entertained by his presentation.
“I make people laugh, and that’s my only point,” he said.
Black said he has, he hopes, a modest appeal to people in agricultural commerce or who have cows as pets. His 20 years on public radio has taught him how to talk to “Gentiles,” also known as urban people, as well, he said.
After almost 30 years of writing a weekly column, Black said, one might think he would have run out of material.
“But I will tell you this: There are an infinite number of ways you can get bucked off or run over by a cow or kicked,” he continued.
People tell Black their stories when he travels around the country or send them via e-mail.
Black refuses to accept awards because he doesn’t believe such poetry should be competitive, and he said he feels blessed to make a living telling stories to people he genuinely cares about, the agriculture community.
Black said he can tell stories about cowboys because he is one. When he uses cowboys as his subjects, he’s picking on himself, he explained.
Black’s stories are about a horse, a cow, a cowboy and the wreck they get into, he said. And he knows all about wrecks, including sheep wrecks, cow wrecks, financial wrecks and, Black said, Tyrannosaurus rex.
The cowboy poetry of Baxter Black rose from his work to write songs. Nashville wasn’t interested, but during his rounds as a veterinarian, Black picked up and retold stories about the people he knew.
In his mid-30s, Black used his song-writing ability to put a story into verse.
“And I did find this out: There’s something magical about a poem. It immortalizes,” Black said.
Stories change with the retelling, but no one has a right to alter someone else’s poem, he continued. In that way, Black said, the friends he told of in his verses became immortal.
(By the way, if you’re still wondering about Black’s aversion to spaghetti, he says it comes from 19-cent Kraft spaghetti dinners. He lived on them when he was in college.)