Martin endures through the years

Baxter Black

I can’t remember how many songs Martin wrote, probably half of my notebook full of livin’ room hits.

I guess nobody knew me as well as Martin. All those sad love songs, honky tonk songs, funny ones, bluegrass, country, cowboy, even the occasional gospel song, he heard first.

I was better at the lyrics but he could come up with the oddest melodies.

I spent hours trying to decipher or invent the chords that would fit his tune.

While it is true we spent most of our time together alone, there were many occasions when I would take him with me. He was especially popular during the fall cow works on the big ranches. We’d be there four or five days.

It takes a while to preg check 2000 cows. Martin would wait for me in the bunkhouse or in my vet truck but when work was over I would take him to the cookhouse.

After we’d eaten we’d play music and tell stories. What fun it was. The cowboys liked it, too. These outfits were so far out, there was no television, and satellite TV hadn’t been invented. No VHS, maybe a weak radio signal, so entertainment was at a premium. We weren’t great but we were there.

Sometimes one of the cowboys sat in and played or sang. I remember at one big outfit a prospector would show up and he played Irish songs on his mandolin. And by gosh, Martin spoke Irish. I didn’t even know it.

I took him to the sheep camps, too. The herders couldn’t speak English but they could understand Martin.

He went with me after the divorce. I got my deer head, my shotgun and Martin. We moved to another life. I became an itinerant poet and he joined me on the road.

I went places with Martin, I normally wouldn’t have gone without a gun. He made friends fast. We stayed up many a night together.

I confess, on more than one occasion I’ve had to go back and rescue him. I remember how sad he looked in the middle of a vacant parking lot one early morning. He’d spent the night there alone.

His case was pretty shabby looking. Mostly duct tape and stickers from seedy places. He’d break strings and I’d have to substitute the odd gut string or wrong one to let him finish.

He’s ridden in boats, on pack mules, on top of pickups, on ski lifts, snowmobiles, wagon trains, railroad trains and training wheels.

I had taught him how to stand up. The strap button on his butt wouldn’t

let him stand up straight, so he had a jaunty look about him. People would marvel at his balance.

We were standing side by side one evening and he fell off a three-foot ledge and broke his neck just below the tuners. I got him home, put him in a vice and with two machine bolts and nuts and some Elmer’s Glue I patched him up.

He could still carry a tune. I glued his back when it started gaping.

But, he’s played with some wonderful pickers and singers in his day. I got him a new case but I run one of my old belts through his handle and around his waist to keep him from poppin’ out at the wrong time.

Occasionally these days we get to pick with somebody, but mostly we just play along with XM radio or strum an old song one of us remembers. He’s aging well, getting a little mellow. Wish I could say that about myself.

Oh, well, my kids are musical, so I guess he’ll be around a long time, long as the machine bolts and Elmer’s glue holds out.