All of rural America, and I suspicion most of rural Canada, is mourning the recent passing of Baxter Black. I’d guess that Baxter — “The Cowboy Poet and Philosopher” — is as revered in rural America as was Will Rogers nearly a century ago, or as Jerry Litton, the “Aggie” Missouri congressman, who died in a plane crash decades ago.
Baxter was a personal friend of mine, although we only spent a mere few hours together. As fellow rural humorists, we launched our column-writing careers around the same time in the 1970s. That was our common ground, although Baxter’s career eclipsed mine as “Milo Yield” by any measurement possible, except, sadly, for number of years published. I’ve outlived him.
As publisher of FARM TALK newspaper, I was one of the first to sign-on for Baxter’s weekly column, “On the Edge of Common Sense,” and he never forgot that.
Later on when he lived in Colorado, Baxter had a quasi-booking business for rural public speakers that amounted to a mere handshake agreement. He simply maintained a short list of fellow rural public speakers and when he had to pass up a speaking engagement, usually because of a scheduling conflict, he would offer up his list of speaker names and basically say, “You can pick from these, if you want to.”
I, as Milo Yield, was fortunate enough to be included on Baxter’s speaker list. Our only agreement — it was verbal — was to send Baxter’s business a small percentage of my booking fee. It was a bargain while it lasted. When he moved to his ranch at Benson, Arizona, the speaker booking ended.
The first time I met Baxter he was the keynote speaker at the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association convention in Springfield, Mo. I picked him up at the airport and I delivered him back to his motel after the evening’s festivities were concluded. He, I, and most of the MCA bigwigs gathered in Baxter’s room to continue the good times well into the night.
That evening he regaled all of us with his humor, great stories, and even by performing a few off-the-wall poems that he never did in public.
Year’s later, after I was out of the newspaper bizness, and spending more time public speaking as Milo Yield, I had a booth at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention in Phoenix. Of course, Baxter and his wife Cindy were the stars of the convention trade show. They couldn’t walk 10 feet without striking up a new conversation. Naturally, they spent some time with me at my booth and I got caught up on his move to Arizona.
Year’s later, I wuz vacationing in Tucson and gave Baxter a call and he invited my little entourage to his ranch for a visit and tour. We spent a couple of hours, but the memory I treasure the most is that I have a picture of Baxter and me — both grinning from ear to ear — sitting in his new, red, outdoor privy, with it’s split barn door opening.
The view out the top window, while sitting on the “throne,” was a panorama of his “sticks, stones, cactus and a little grass” ranch that he called “most relaxing.”
I know there are untold thousands of rural folks who, like me, hold Baxter in great esteem — not only that he was uncommonly funny and entertaining, but also because he communed with the common man and woman and was justifiably proud to proclaim his rural roots from his humblest speech, to his nation-wide poetic renderings on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. or on his regular RFD-TV show, “Baxter Black from Out There” or his “Monday with Baxter Black” radio shows.
Baxter adored to his core all his myriad audiences and they adored him back. His is a legacy of “humorous achievement and countrified philosophy” that won’t be easily, or quickly, surpassed.
Rural America will miss him. It won’t soon forget him. Neither will I. My hope is that our next meeting is at the “Great Cow Camp in the Sky.” Rest in peace from a life well-lived, my friend Baxter.
In the same vein as the country humor that Baxter so astutely conveyed, he would have loved what happened this very morning at our Wednesday morning “Old Boars Breakfast Club” get-together.
Let me remind readers, the main goal of the Club is not breakfast. It’s gabbing and BSing — from start to finish. Well, this morning we three cooks, ol’ S. Turen Mixitt, ol’ P. Len Dicett, and yours truly, got so absorbed in our gabbing that we neglected to pay attention to the grub we were preparing — scrambled eggs with onions and peppers and topped with melted cheese, hash browns, biscuits and ground sausage gravy, link sausages, yogurt cups, and three fresh fruits — pineapple, watermelon, and banana.
Len put the ground pork sausage in an electric skillet to cook before we mix it into the gravy (which we make from a commercial gravy mix), but he got distracted and put in the onions and green peppers to cook with it. Then I, made the mistake of dumping five dozen broken eggs into the skillet to start warming up.
A few minutes later, we discovered the error and that we had no ground sausage for the gravy. So, we expropriated about a fourth of the link sausages heating in the oven and chopped them up to dump into the gravy mix.
Up until that time, nothing drastic had happened. But, then, Turen had a mental lapse while preparing the gravy. The huge pot of water was hot on the stove and he dumped in a box of gravy mix — or so he thought. But, as he was stirring the mix after he dumped in the chopped up link sausage, something didn’t seem right. That’s when his eyes got big when he realized he’d grabbed the wrong package from storage and put pancake mix into the pot, not gravy mix.
Now was a time for serious chefs consultation. So, we put our heads together and decided to proceed as if nothing had happened. The “pancake gravy” wuz the right consistency, so we added some salt and pepper seasoning, and put it out on the serving line.
The 19 folks at breakfast, like good soldiers, put the “pancake gravy” on their biscuits and ate it with nary a public comment — although we three chefs noticed some abnormal facial expressions while eating. A few taste-bud impaired folks even went back for a second helping.
Toward the end of breakfast, we three chefs confessed the errors of our ways. No one got mad. Everyone had a good laugh and went home in good humor. And when I went home, my chicken flock had a great feast of leftovers from our error-filled breakfast.
I think Baxter Black would have enjoyed our aggie mishap.
Two simple words of wisdom for the week: “Pay attention!” Have a good ‘un.