A modest salute to Baxter Black

TV Hagenah

When I was first hired at this paper, my publisher said, “There are only two things you don’t change with this paper, the first is the mast, because the owners want it that way and I’ll fire you if you touch it, and the other is that Baxter Black runs every week. The readers will string you up if you touch that.”

There was little danger of me touching that piece of writing, because I have long enjoyed his column. I even interviewed the “former large animal veterinarian” one time a number of years ago.

I grew up in rural Colorado where just about the only educated person around who wasn’t a teacher was the local vet. So important was the vet to small rural communities that at graduation time, virtually everyone who got better than a “C” in science on his or her report card listed their desired profession as “veterinarian.” A good portion of those that got below “C” level also had that desire too, but we didn’t express it because we knew that the smart ones would laugh at us (but we secretly knew that the first time any of those “good” students had to pull calves or do a serious number of castrations they would drop out of the profession and go into something easy like…I don’t know, nuclear physics.

Anyway, that ex-vet Baxter Black speaks to us out here in the hinterlands. Readers get the impression that he was one of those guys that was at the roping last weekend, or the branding, or one of those guys who bet each other they could cross the Little Canadian without dropping it into four-wheel drive, maybe he was even the one who roped the trestle when his truck started drifting down the river (no that was one of the Smith boys, I think).

We all know that his horse and trailer probably look no better than any of ours and while his dog probably stays in the back of his pickup a bit better than ours, it is still dumb enough to disagree with a badger at 4 a.m. His house is probably a heck of a lot nicer than most of ours, but he probably deserves it. After all, he had the good sense to get out of serious ranching and farming and go into something intelligent (story telling?) to make a living. But he remembers what our houses look like because when he was a vet, I’m sure he was the kind of vet who would come out in the middle of the night and sit with us when our prize mare was about to foal. He was also probably the one who sat with our sister when she had to have her favorite cat put to sleep and helped her realize it was for the best.

When he writes, he takes on that aspect of a favorite (and just a little off-center) uncle who sees things just a bit more stangely than anyone else we know, but has the ability to communicate it to us and make us smile. And it isn’t just to those of us who know how to sit a horse in a rainstorm he talks, but anybody who can walk twenty minutes from his or her front door and be at the edge of town.

Baxter Black is currently having a push to get more newspapers to run his column and has asked editors of newspapers that take his column to write him a couple of sentences about his writing. He, in his unique manner, calls it, “fishing for a blurb.” I can only say positive things about this columnist. He is always entertaining.

I even find it entertaining when I run a computer spell check on his column and it gets so confused that it shuts down. Anything that can do that to a computer is fine by me.