Baxter Black (born January 10, 1945) is an American cowboy, poet, philosopher, former large-animal veterinarian, and radio and television commentator.
Black grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He was trained as a large-animal veterinarian at New Mexico State University and Colorado State University, but began writing and speaking in the early 1980s. Black left his veterinary career soon afterwards, and since has published over a dozen books of fiction, poetry, and commentary. He is a regular commentator for National Public Radio's Morning Edition, and also hosts a syndicated weekly radio program, Baxter Black on Monday and writes a syndicated weekly newspaper column, "On the Edge of Common Sense."
He currently resides in Benson, Arizona, in the Eastern part of the state.
Black was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on January 2, 1945. In high school, he had a few honorable feats such as becoming the FFA President, the Senior Class President, and lettered in wrestling one year. Beginning in high school, he started to riding bulls in rodeos and continued riding throughout college. Baxter Black attended college at New Mexico State University and Colorado State University, and graduated in 1969. If it wasn't for Black's extensive education he would not be where he is today, and would never have been able to become a veterinarian, or a poet for that matter. Before becoming a poet, he practiced medicine as a veterinarian. His veterinarian career last from 1969 to 1982, and he specialized in large animals, such as cows and horses. Baxter worked for three different large companies, and two of the three changed ownership. During his last veterinarian job, Black spoke on the side.. His charisma and humor were appealing to his crowds, which added to his popularity. He continued his job as a veterinarian for two years, and during that time he spoke at over 250 programs. His last company let him go, and his speaking jobs still kept coming in. After this series of events, his career as a poet was beginning and he still continues to speak at Agricultural conferences and other social events across the country, write a column, speak on the radio, and has a short segment on RFD-TV.
He currently resides in Benson, Arizona, with his wife, Cindy Lou, and has no cell phone, television, or fax machine. One of his philosophies of life claims: "In spite of all the computerized, digitalized, high-tech innovations of today, there will always be a need for folks to be a cowboy, "Ya either are one, or ya aren't!"." (Black, B.)
Black's commentary, poetry, and fiction writings come from his personal life experiences which makes his writing unique. His work is often compared to Will Rogers because of the quality.
Poetry has an infinite number of ideas and themes to it, but in Baxter's writing a few are to take notice. Black comments in an interview, "...I believe in life after death, and I believe in telling people about it, if I think they need to be exposed, or I would like to expose them." (Black, B)
Life as a cowboy play a big part into writing this kind of poetry. Although, this doesn't mean a person has to be or live the life of a cowboy to write this type of poetry.
Black states in an interview, that his stories are about a horse, a cow, a cowboy and the wreck they get into. Black knows all about the kinds of wrecks, which include sheep wrecks, cow wrecks, financial wrecks, and finally, Tyrannosaurus Rex. (Black, B)
Black's views on cowboy poetry:
Baxter Black claims that cowboy poetry has saved Western music. Black states in an interview, "Well, every singer you can name outside of The Riders in the Sky, probably wouldn't be making a living if it wouldn't be for the poetry gatherings. The poetry gatherings saved Western music and gave it this renaissance that it's had...However, there is no chance for a cowboy poet. You know, if you could name five of them that make enough to buy a car, then you'd be doing good." Cowboy poetry isn't something a person does for a living, rather you come to an event and are a part of it. Poets read their work and might get their expenses paid for. The difference in what a singer and a poet make is a noticeable difference.
Black believes that good writing can come from anywhere but if you're going to tell a tale about cowboys, "you're going to have to know what you're talking about. On the other hand, my whole way of looking at it in the Cowboy Poetry deal is, anybody is welcome." His inspiration is gathered while being on the road. Out of the numerous jobs he has a year, each one of them has a story, whether it is from the journey to and fro or the people encountered. Since he is a cowboy, he feels he can tell stories about them. When he uses them as an idea in his poetry, he's poking fun at himself. From a personal standpoint, Black uses his humor to get his message across. (Black, B)
If Black has learned anything from his speaking, it's that, "And I did find this out: There's something magical about a poem. It immortalizes." The stories told by Black don't have the authorization to be altered, and because of that the characters spoken in the lines have become immortal. (Black, B)
This type of poetry is not considered a competition because of the small number of active participants.
Black has presented his poetry at gatherings of the American Cowboy Culture Association, which holds the annual National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration each September in Lubbock, Texas.
Baxter Black's radio career was something he actually stumbled upon. He's a man that plays life by chance, and he took one when sending some of his work into a radio station. Black specified in an interview, "It was the year Yellowstone caught on fire, 1988. We were listening and they didn't have any coverage to speak of, and it was a huge deal in our life. It was a huge deal in Colorado (where I lived) and the sky smelled like smoke and I had this big tumultuous poem about range fire...So I sent them this. I just sent it to "Public Radio" in Washington D.C. And two or three days later I get a call back." (Black, B)
Partial List of Works:
Horseshoes, Cowsocks, and Duckfeet,
All Natural Beef,
The Buckskin Mare,
Cowboy Is His Name,
The Cowboy And His Dog,
Evolution Of The Ranch Wife,
Good Bye, Old Man,
Legacy of the Rodeo Man,
Take Care Of Yer Friends,
To The Feedlot Hoss,
Tombstone Of Canaan,
Where's The Horse Meat,
Women and Mules,
A Vegetarian's Nightmare,
Ride, Cowboy, Ride! (Eight Seconds Ain't That Long)