Baxter Black, who raised cowboy hair to folk art, has died at the age of 77

Baxter Black, the country’s most famous cowboy poet, who died June 10 in his house, in his house, in his house, died June 10, in his house, in his house, in his master poetry, which nourishes a lot, prospects Wide open, his broad horizons were elevated from Western dog tradition to something of folk art. farm outside Benson, Arizona and was 77 years old.

His wife, Cindy Lou Black, said the cause was leukemia.

It’s worth stopping to ask why there is cowboy hair in the first place. Cowboys, after all, are not known for their communication skills. However, this species has flourished. More than 100 cowboy poetry festivals are held each year, with the wandering Mr. Black often featured as the main event.

A fluffy Reed with a leash mustache the size of a mop head under a gray Resistol hat, he portrayed himself as something of a Will Rogers on the High Plains. He infused his writing with a mixture of gentle humor and folk wisdom wrapped in narrow chants and loose metrics, as in his poem “Take Care of Your Friends”:

A friend is not a word.

Despite its use and abuse, I still love the sound.

Save it for the people who did it right

I know I can count on him if necessary.

Wordsworth is not, but Mr. Black did not claim to be a genius. He said that cowboy poetry began as a way to stave off boredom on the trail and to communicate stories among men who would rarely break a book, and continues because it attracts those who might be intimidated by formal poetry.

He said cowboy hair was fun. Forget the signs of immortality. Mr. Black’s hair was cracked for wisdom about things like horse dung, the evils of plants, and the merits of artificial preservatives:

One day I’ll be sitting in my rocking chair on the balcony, and everyone will say I look great,

Because I’ll be well saved, no one will know I’m dead, unless they read my expiration date.

His perky hair was contagious. Newspaper profiles often carried headlines such as “Poem on the Run” and “Write, Cowboy”. More than one proclaimed him the “Poet of America”.

Although Mr. Black, a former rodeo rider and veterinarian for large animals, has been identified primarily as a poet, he has been more prolific as an essayist and radio commentator. His weekly column, “On the Edge of Common Sense,” appeared every week for 40 years in more than 100 newspapers. His weekly radio show “Baxter Black Monday” was heard on about 150 stations.

If people outside of the Country West know his name, it’s likely due to his multiple appearances on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” and his years as a guest commentator on NPR, where he specialized in adjusting to his global listeners.

Mr. Black has written more than 30 books, including poetry, fiction and children’s literature, of which an estimated two million copies have sold, his wife said. He also released several audio recordings of his work – an especially popular medium among his fans, who appeared in his tapes during long trips across the Great Plains.

No stranger to casual poetry, writer Calvin Trillen described Mr. Black as “probably the nation’s most successful poet alive.”

Baxter Ashby Black was born on January 10, 1945 in Brooklyn, where his father, Robert, was serving in the Navy.

Robert earned a Ph.D. in veterinary sciences, and after the war took his wife Theodora (Ashby) Black, Baxter, and his three brothers into a series of academic positions. He finally arrived at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where he was appointed dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Robert Black became well known in the competitive cattle circuit, judging events across the Southwest, an activity that soon attracted his son. By the third grade, Baxter had his own cow, and in middle school he had his first horse. In high school he was president of his local chapter of Future Farmers of America (today the national organization FFA).

“Farming, or getting close to the ground is a good way to put it, I’ve always been there,” he told musician Andy Hedges on his podcast “Cowboy Crossroads” in 2021. A child no one else can.”

After Robert Black died of a heart attack in 1960, Theodora Black went back to school for his master’s degree, then worked in New Mexico. Her boys got jobs too; Baxter worked on farms and earned extra money as a bull rider.

He attended New Mexico State, but his wife said that after three years without an undergraduate degree, he was accepted into the Ph.D. program in veterinary sciences at Colorado State University. Graduated in 1969.

Mr. Black and his wife are survived by his two brothers Bob and Steve. his son Guy; daughter Jennifer Kabbag; and four grandchildren.

Hired by an Idaho cattle company after he graduated from school, he found himself on the road, traveling from farm to farm to check on the cattle. Along the way he picked up stories and jokes, and soon discovered he had a knack for relating them to the next batch of listeners.

In 1980 he moved to Denver, where he was hired by a pharmaceutical company to provide its medicine to ranchers and other veterinarians. Finding work boring, he began filling his shows with some of the stories he’d picked up over the years.

Suddenly he was invited to conferences not to talk about drugs or cows but only to speak. When his employer fired him in 1982, he left veterinary medicine behind.

Most of his audience consisted of people who could relate to his stories from the farm, and groups such as the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association and the California Association of Cotton Harvesters and Growers. He rode the growing cowboy hair circle and began garnering the attention of the national media, who found his wisdom at home irresistible.

Noting the dearth of news about the rural West in national coverage, in 1988 he recorded a poem about a wildfire in Yellowstone—”lightning cracks across the sky like veins across the back of your hand”—and sent it to NPR headquarters. A few days later, a producer called, asked if they could turn it on, and if he had more. He would continue to be regularly suspended for more than a decade.

Mr. Black distinguished his “patron” audience outside the West from his “general” audience on NPR and elsewhere.

“There are a lot of things that are hard to play on NPR, like talking about cow droppings a lot,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2001. Did someone slap him in the face?”

He maintained a busy schedule, as many as 150 appearances per year, until the mid-2010s, when dementia began to undermine his public speaking. But he continued his writing. He presented his last column in December 2021.

He wrote, “I consider myself very fortunate to have become a part of the wonderful world of horse sweat, soft noses, close calls and twilights on the trail.” “I like to live a life where the horse is important.”

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