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Baxter Black, America's favorite cowboy poet


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line.GIF (1552 bytes) Baxter Black defines cowboy poetry. All, including his enormous number of loyal fans, agree that no one has done more to enlarge the audience for quality Cowboy Poetry.

At Baxter's web site you can find out more about him, his columns, books and recordings, and find his schedule of appearances.

Read about some of his books below.

Baxter's weekly show, Out There, airs on RFD-TV His weekly National Public Radio radio program, "Baxter Black on Monday," is now heard on over 140 radio stations. See Baxter's web site for the current list of stations.  You can also hear the program on demand on the web on Hugh McLennan's Spirit of West radio program.

Find audio selections by Baxter Black on the Western Horseman web site.
 

A little public service announcement for Baxter Black:

This is Baxter Black's official Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/BAXTER-BLACK/125757310773938. You'll find a direct link to it on his web site, www.BaxterBlack.com.

There is a Facebook page that is NOT Baxter's page, a page that Baxter does not approve, which the owner is unwilling to remove (http://www.facebook.com/baxterblack).

Please make any "Likes" or posts to Baxter's official page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/BAXTER-BLACK/125757310773938.

 

www.BaxterBlack.com
 

With Baxter's kind permission, we're pleased to have three of his most-requested poems posted below:

The Buckskin Mare

Good Bye, Old Man  

Legacy of the Rodeo Man

Baxter Black is billed as an "irregular commentator" on National Public Radio (heard occasionally on Morning Edition). In Summer 1999 he took part in the NPR Commentators' Summer Reading Suggestions.  He said that A. B. Paterson, author of The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses, was "To my mind the finest poet ever to chisel words in the book of life."

About another of his recommendations, Norman McClean's A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, he says "If words were jewels, the last paragraphs . . . deserve to hang like a two-pound diamond in Elizabeth Taylor's cleavage."

Read more about Baxter Black's favorite poetry in our Favorite Cowboy and Western Poems Project.

Baxter Black created and performs the Public Service Announcement for
The BAR-D Roundup: Volume Four

Listen to the recording here.
 


Poetry

The Buckskin Mare

Good Bye, Old Man

Legacy of the Rodeo Man

The Buckskin Mare
     by Baxter Black

A story not unlike "The Buckskin Mare" was passed down as true, although the characters and location were of my choosing. A cowboy became obsessed with capturing an elusive wild horse. Unable to rope her, in his madness and frustration, he shot her. He was ostracized by his fellow cowboys and drifted off. Strangely enough, had he captured her "fair and square," brought her in and shot her on Main Street, his story would have ended differently. His crime, which concerned itself less with legal text and more with "doin' the right thing" is as real today as it was then. It's all part of the Code of the West.

He was every burnt out cowboy that I'd seen a million times
With dead man penny eyes, like tarnished brass,
That reflected accusations of his critics and his crimes
And drowned them in the bottom of a glass.

"He's a victim," said the barkeep, "Of a tragic circumstance.
Down deep inside him, bad luck broke an egg.
Now his long time compañeros and his sagebrush confidants
All treat him like a man who's got the plague."

He was damn sure death warmed over, human dust upon the shelf,
Though Grasmere ain't the center of the earth
He appeared like he'd be lonesome at a party for himself,
So low was his opinion of his worth.

"Pour me two, and make'm doubles." Then I slid on down the bar
And rested at the corner of his cage.
I had judged him nearly sixty when I saw him from afar
But eye to eye, I'd overshot his age.

'Cause it wasn't time that changed him, I could see that now up close,
Pure hell had cut those tracks across his face.
His shaking hand picked up the drink, then he gestured grandiose,
"This buys you chapter one of my disgrace.

It was twenty years, September, that I first laid eyes on her,
Not far from where this story's bein' told.
She was pretty, in an awkward way, though most would not concur,
A buckskin filly, comin' two years old.

We were runnin' wild horses on the Blackstone range that day.
We found'em on the flats right after dawn.
There was me and Tom and Ziggy, plus some guys from Diamond A.
They caught our scent and then the race was on!

We hit'em like a hurricane and we pressed'em to the east
A'crowdin'em against the canyon rim
'Til the fear of God was boilin' in the belly of the beast
And chance of their escape was lookin' dim.

We all held the bunch together and we matched'em stride for stride.
I took the flank so none of them would stray.
Then I saw that buckskin filly take a trail down the side,
I rode on by and let her get away.

'No big deal,' I told my cronies, as we later reminisced
And celebrated with a glass of beer,
She would'a made poor chicken feed, so I'm sorta glad I missed.
I'll get her when we crack'em out next year.

Shor'enuf, next fall we found'em up on California Crick.
The buckskin mare was still amongst the pack.
I had made a little wager and I aimed to make it stick,
Whoever roped her pocketed the jack.

We lined'em out and built our loops. then ignoring protocol,
That mare changed course and never missed a beat!
She took dang near the entire bunch when she climbed the canyon wall
And left us empty handed at her feet.

In the several years that followed she eluded each attempt
To capture her, in fact, she seemed amused,
And her reputation deepened, as no doubt, did her contempt
For us, the bumbling cowboys she abused.

The legend of the buckskin mare, which to me, was overblown,
Was bunkhouse, barroom gossip everywhere.
She achieved a kinda stature, way beyond mere flesh and bone,
And stories of her deeds would raise your hair.

Some attributed her prowess to a freak in Nature's Law.
Still others said she was the devil's spawn.
So the incident that happened at the top of Sheepshead Draw
Served notice hell's account was overdrawn.

'Cause upon that fateful gather there was one foolhardy dope,
A greenhorn kid who didn't have a care
But susceptible to eggin' and right handy with a rope
So, 'course, we pumped him up about the mare.

He was lathered up and tickin' like an ol' two dollar watch
When we spotted the object of the game.
Though we wanted other horses, each one ached to carve his notch
On the buckskin mare, Bruneau Canyon's fame.

They were down amongst the willers by a muddy water hole.
The kid went first. He had her in his sights
And halfway up the other side where the slick rock takes it's toll
He caught that buckskin legend dead to rights!

He was screamin' bloody murder as she clawed her way uphill!
He pitched the slack and pulled his horse up hard!
She was jerked around and faced the kid, and friend, if looks could kill
I'd have folded before she played her card.

But the kid began descending with his back turned toward the mare
He planned to choke her down, I won't deny,
But she jumped from high above him, like a bird takes to the air,
She looked for all the world like she could fly.

Time was frozen for an instant as she leaped out into space,
A piece from some unholy carousel 
And I stared, slack jawed and helpless, in the morbid scene's embrace,
Oddly peaceful, until the hammer fell.

She came down like fallin' timber! Like a screamin' mortar shell
And scattered terra firma in her wake!
She lit runnin' off his wrong side like a thoroughbred gazelle!
That nylon rope was hissin' like a snake!

It flipped behind the kid's own horse. Laid the trip as sweet as pie.
She thundered by him takin' up the slack!
The rope drew tight around his hocks, then she shifted into high
And jerked that horse right over on his back!

'Course the kid fell backwards with him. In my heart I knew his fate.
His soul was headed for the great beyond.
She was draggin' horse and rider like a bundle of deadweight
When Clay rode in and cut the fatal bond.

She escaped. That goes unspoken, toward the seeding to the west.
To our dismay the kid had breathed his last.
She had spread his brains all over, but ol' Maxie said it best,
'That's what ya' get fer tyin' hard and fast.'

The years creaked by like achin' joints. Driftin' cowboys came and went.
The buckskin mare, she held her own and stayed.
She became a constant rumor and engendered discontent
Among the bucks whose reps had not been made.

But to me she was an omen. Like a black cat on the prowl.
I had no admiration for her kind.
She began to stalk my nightmares, an obsession loud and foul
Only drinkin' would get her off my mind.

There were still a few ol' timers like Jess and Dale, Chuck and Al,
Who spoke of her as one without a fault.
They bragged her up, which didn't do a thing for my morale
'Cause I'd begun to dread each new assault.

But I went, like I did always, when they organized last year.
We met at Simplot's Sheep Crick winter camp
Then headed east toward J P Point, it was sunny, warm and clear
But I was cold. My bones were feelin' damp.

It was gettin' close to lunch time when we finally cut their track
And found'em at the Bruneau Canyon's verge.
We rode in like mad Apaches! I was leadin' the attack!
The first to see us comin' was the scourge,

The scourge of all my sleepless nights. The bogeyman in my dreams.
I told myself, this run would be her last.
She ducked across my horse's nose, to draw me out, it seems.
I followed suit and then the die was cast.

She went straight for Bruneau Canyon, made a B-line for the edge.
My head was ringin' with her siren's song
Then she hesitated briefly, sorta hung there on the ledge
Like she was darin' me to come along.

Then she wheeled, without a 'by yer leave' and disappeared from view.
I reached the precipice and never slowed!
I could hear the boys' shoutin' but by then I think they knew
I was rabid and ready to explode!

We landed like an avalanche, my horse, a livin' landslide!
I'll never know just how he kept his feet.
My boot hooked on a buckbrush limb and whipped me like a riptide,
And in the crash, I damn near lost my seat!

But I kept the spurs dug in him as I held the mare in sight.
Varmints skittered, as down the side we tore!
There were boulders big as boxcars, rocks who'd never lost a fight,
That stepped aside to watch this private war.

Then the cunning crowbait got me! She came up to this ravine
And jumped it! Looked to me like just for show.
But I reined up hard and halted. There was twenty feet between
My horse's hooves and sure death down below.

But no horse, no fleabag mustang, was a match for my resolve.
I drove the steel in my pony's hide
'Til he leaped above the chasm! I could feel his fear dissolve
As we sailed, soaring, flaunting suicide!

An eternity of seconds that concluded in a wreck
The likes of which you've never seen before.
Nearly cleared the far embankment, got his front feet on the deck
And pawed like someone swimmin' for the shore!

Then he shook one final shudder and went limp between my knees.
I scrambled off him, prayin' not to fall.
He'd impaled himself upon a rock and died without a wheeze,
His guts a'stringin' down the crevice wall.

Then his carcass started saggin', slippin' off the bloody skewer.
I lunged to save my rifle from the slide!
My revenge was all that mattered, a disease that had no cure
Save the stretchin' of one ol' buckskin's hide.

I stood up and tried to spot her but my head was feelin' light,
I knew she might be hidin' anyplace.
Then I heard some pebbles clatter up above and to my right
And there she waited...laughing in my face.

She was standin' like a statue and was backlit by the sun.
I shook so hard coins rattled in my jeans.
I could feel my heartbeat poundin' like the recoil of a gun.
My rowels were janglin' tunes like tambourines.

As I raised the shakin' rifle, bugs were crawlin' in my veins.
I levered in a shell for her demise.
A thirty-thirty center fire, one hundred and fifty grains,
And shot'er dead...right between the eyes.

You could hear that gunshot echo all the way to Mountain Home.
The rolling boom just seemed to stay and stay
And it drummed its disapproval like a dying metronome,
A requiem that haunts me to this day.

I climbed out of Bruneau Canyon with my saddle and my gear.
A grizzly greeting filled me with despair.
See, my so-called friends left me to rot. The reason why, was clear.
They'd staked a cross...in honor of the mare.

The rest, well, you can figger out. But my Daddy always said,
'You gotta play the hand that you been dealt.'
I done made that sow a martyr and I wish that I was dead,
Because, my friend, I know how Judas felt."

©
Baxter Black
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This poem is cited in our Favorite Cowboy and Western Poems Project.

This poem is included in Baxter's:
Croutons on a Cow Pie, Volume 2 (Book)
Baxter Black's Double CD (CD)
Original 4-Pak (Cassette)
Buckskin Mare Cassette (Cassette)

 

Good Bye, Old Man  
     by Baxter Black

Somewhere deep in the old man's eyes a mem'ry took a'hold.
It fought the ageless undertow that drains and mocks the old.
I wiped a dribble off his chin, "Pop, tell me what you see?"
"It's all the boys I rode with, I think they've come for me."

Unconsciously I checked the door. "It's nothin' but the wind.
You better try and git some rest, tomorrow we'll go in."
"Is that you, Bob? I can't quite see. Yer mounted mighty well.
You never rode a horse that good when we were raisin' hell."

"Lie down, old man.  There's no one here."  "No wait, that looks like Clyde.
He helped me put ol' Blue to sleep. Why, hell, he even cried.
Now don't forget to check the salt, them cows'll drift back down.
Well, I'll be damned, there's Augustine, he worked here on the Brown.
 
"When I hired on to buckaroo...But that's been fifty years."
The old man squinched his rheumy eyes, I dabed away the tears.
The boss had told me he was old, had seen a lot of springs.
I bet ya if you peeled his bark, you'd count near eighty rings.
 
We'd rode the last three summers here together on the rim.
Just he and I, for puncher's pay. I'd learned a lot from him.
But now I'm settin' by his bed, uncertain what to do.
I ain't no good at nursin' coots.  I'm only twenty-two.
 
"I reckon that I'm ready now. My friends are set to go.
They've got an extra mount cut out that's just for me, I know."
"You've got to stop this foolish talk!  You shouldn't overdo!
Pop, all you need's a good night's sleep. You'll be as good as new."
 
"Don't make it complicated, kid, cut a pal some slack.
The saddle on that extra horse...that's my ol' weathered kak.
I'm comin' Bob, I'll be right there."
  He winked a misty eye
And tried to reach up for his hat, then died without a sigh.
 
I'll tellya, man,  it freaked me out!  I dang near came in two!
I'd never watched a person die, especially one I knew.
I tried to say a little prayer but all I knew was grace.
So I just said, "Good Bye, Old Man," and covered up his face.
 
I poured myself the bitter dregs and stood out on the step.
Alone I listened to the night, as still as death, except,
I thought I heard above the coffee sloshin' in my cop,
The far off, easy, pleasured sound of old friends catchin' up.

© Baxter Black
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This poem is cited in our Favorite Cowboy and Western Poems Project and Jeri Dobrowski's commentary about the poem is particularly interesting.

This popular poem is included in Baxter's:
Croutons on a Cow Pie, Volume 2 (Book)
Original 4-Pak (Cassette)
Buckskin Mare Cassette (Cassette)

 

Legacy of the Rodeo Man
     by Baxter Black

There's a hundred years of history and a hundred before that
All gathered in the thinkin' goin' on beneath his hat.
And back behind his eyeballs and pumpin' through his veins
Is the ghost of every cowboy that ever held the reins.

Every coil in his lasso's been thrown a million times
His quiet concentration's been distilled through ancient minds.
It's evolution workin' when the silver scratches hide
And a ghostly cowboy chorus fills his head and says, "Let's ride."

The famous and the rowdy, the savage and the sane
The bluebloods and the hotbloods and the corriente strain
All knew his mother's mothers or was his daddy's kin
'Til he's nearly purely cowboy, born to ride and bred to win.

He's got Buffalo Bill Cody and Goodnight's jigger boss
And all the brave blue soldiers that General Custer lost
The ghost of Pancho Villa, Sittin' Bull and Jessie James
All gathered by his campfire keepin' score and takin' names.

There's every Royal Mountie that ever got his man
And every day-work cowboy that ever made a hand
Each man that's rode before him, yup, every mother's son
Is in his corner, rootin', when he nods to make his run.

Freckles Brown might pull his bull rope, Casey Tibbs might jerk the flank,
Bill Picket might be hazin' when he starts to turn the crank.
Plus Remington and Russell lookin' down his buckhorn sight
All watchin' through the window of this cowboy's eyes tonight.

And standin' in the catch pen or in chute number nine
Is the offspring of a mountain that's come down from olden time
A volcano waitin' quiet, 'til they climb upon his back
Rumblin' like the engine of a freight train on the track.

A cross between a she bear and a bad four wheel drive
With the fury of an eagle when it makes a power dive
A snake who's lost its caution or a badger gone berserk
He's a screamin', stompin', clawin', rabid, mad dog piece o' work.

From the rollers in his nostrils to the foam upon his lips
From the hooves as hard as granite to the horns with dagger tips
From the flat black starin' shark's eye that's the mirror of his soul
Shines the challenge to each cowboy like the devil callin' roll

In the seconds that tick slowly 'til he climbs upon his back
Each rider faces down the fear that makes his mouth go slack
And cuts his guts to ribbons and gives his tongue a coat
He swallows back the panic gorge that's risin' in his throat.

The smell of hot blue copper fills the air around his head
Then a single, solid, shiver shakes away the doubt and dread
The cold flame burns within him 'til his skin's as cold as ice
And the dues he paid to get here are worth every sacrifice

All the miles spent sleepy drivin', all the money down the drain
All the "if I's" and the "nearly's," all the bandages and pain
All the female tears left dryin', all the fever and the fight
Are just a small downpayment on the ride he makes tonight.

And his pardner in this madness that the cowboys call a game
Is a ton of buckin' thunder bent on provin' why he came
But the cowboy never wavers he intends to do his best
And of that widow maker he expects of him no less.

There's a solemn silent moment that every rider knows
When time stops on a heartbeat like the earth itself was froze
Then all the ancient instinct fills the space between his ears
"Til the whispers of his phantoms are the only thing he hears

When you get down to the cuttin' and the leather touches hide
And there's nothin' left to think about, he nods and says, "Outside!"
Then frozen for an instant against the open gate
Is hist'ry turned to flesh and blood, a warrior incarnate.

And while they pose like statues in that flicker of an eye
There's somethin' almost sacred, you can see it if you try.
It's guts and love and glory—one mortal's chance at fame
His legacy is rodeo and cowboy is his name.

"Turn 'im out"

© 1986,  Baxter Black
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without the author's written permission.

 

This often-requested poem was featured in the movie 8 Seconds, about Lane Frost. In the movie, the poem is called "Cowboy is His Name."  You can read both poems here on a fine site dedicated to Lane Frost.

This poem is included in Baxter's:
Coyote Cowboy Poetry (Book)
Original 4-Pak (Cassette)
Buckskin Mare Cassette (


Visit

www.BaxterBlack.com


Books and Recordings

You can read about and order all of Baxter's books, recordings and more at his web site.

 

Among Baxter's offerings:

 

  Poems Worth Saving; see our description here.

  Reindeer Flu; see our description here.


  Lessons from a Desperado Poet; how to find your way when you don't have a map, how to win the game when you don't know the rules, and when someone says it can't be done, what really they mean is that they can't do it is a unique "self-help" book in which he tells of his own experience and offers advice to others.

(Find our description here.)

 Baxter Black Double DVD Live includes previously uncollected segments of his appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson; the Baxter Black and Friends show from Iowa Public Television; segments from Baxter Black Out There; and more. It is described:

Baxter has covered a lot of trails in his effort to scatter the seeds of cowboy poetry. He's always had a good relationship with Public TV and was privileged to be on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson! This DVD, Baxter's third, is a two-disc collection of his appearances on both.

(Find our description here.)

  The Back Page, a collection of  Baxter's columns from the back page of Western Horseman. The publisher describes the book:

For more than 15 years, many Western Horseman readers have begun their journeys through each issue by, strangely enough, starting at the back. That's because, during those years, the back page has been occupied by the humorous ramblings of America's best-selling comedic veterinarian, Baxter Black. This book is a collection of these observations, accompanied by the original illustrations that appeared in the magazine. This look back at 15 years of the best of Baxter is sure to bring smiles to the faces of cowboy philosophers everywhere.

The World According To Baxter Black: Quips, Quirks, & Quotes, "...a collection of mental pictures, slippery alliterations, verbal hors d’oeuvres and a trail of broken consonants that may miss the point, but still lead you on to the next page."

   Blazin' Bloats & Cows on Fire! or It's Hard to Blow Out a Holstein, a "collection of tall tales and poems about the real life of cowboys in the 21st century." 

  Hey, Cowgirl, Need a Ride?
Baxter's latest novel,  which features the adventures of rodeo cowboys Lick and
Cody, from his earlier popular novel, Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky? 

  Horseshoes, Cowsocks, and Duckfeet
"A hilarious new roundup of essays, commentaries and campfire verse..."

  Baxter Black's 1st DVD
"This combination of two distinctively different videos, Baxter Black's 1st Video and Baxter Black Ridin' High, is perfect for the long time Baxter fan as well as new converts..."

Click for Amazon A Cowful of Cowboy Poetry    
"...cowboy poetry, stories and philosophical observations..."

Click to order from Amazon  Cactus Tracks & Cowboy Philosophy
"...first compilation of the stories, humor, and cowboy poetry you've heard Baxter do on National Public Radio, with the unforgettable flavor of Baxter's own brand of cowboy philosophy...

  Croutons on a Cow Pie, Volume II
Includes Croutons On A Cow Pie, Cowboy Standard Time and The Buckskin Mare, and 45 new pieces

  Coyote Cowboy Poetry
"A winning combination of Baxter's first three softcover books, plus a pile of additional material..."

Click to order from Amazon Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky  
"Baxter's first novel. "Hey, Cowboy" is a story about two rodeo cowboys and their adventures on the way to the National Finals Rodeo...."

  Ag-Man, the Comic Book
"...Written at an adult level but aimed at teens, storylines pit Ag Man and his able assistants, farm boy and corn silk, against a series of animal rights lunatics, media trouble makers, self serving ecodestructionists, locusts, market manipulators, and bioterrorists.
.."

 

See Baxter's web site for his books, recordings, e-cards, and more.

 

 

www.cowboypoetry.com

 

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