Cowboy poet and humorist Baxter Black has passed away.
Cowboy poet, humorist, columnist, songwriter, speaker, author,
and comic strip writer.
Baxter Black, the veterinarian turned cowboy poet, storyteller and philosopher of rural life in America, died Friday, June 10, at the age of 77.
In January of this year a Facebook posting by his wife Cindy Lou revealed Baxter was suffering from blood leukemia and a form of dementia. He had been in hospice care at his home in Benson, Ariz.
It was in the 1980s when Baxter began entertaining audiences with his poetry and storytelling. His descriptive prose and self-deprecating humor made it obvious to all that he was a genuine cowboy who had survived many of the jackpots he described.
Baxter wrote over 30 books of poetry, fiction—both novels and children’s literature—and commentary, selling over two million books, CDs, and DVDs. He made appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and was a Morning Edition commentator on NPR for more than 20 years.
Baxter Black could rightfully claim to be America’s unofficial cowboy poet laureate, but he’s not the kind of person to seek titles even though he’s had decades of speaking engagements, NPR commentary, newspaper columns, magazine articles, television shows, and book sales.
Baxter’s last column just published on the final page of the January issue of “Western Horseman” magazine. For years readers could find his column on the last page as if they needed a final piece of cowboy wit and wisdom before closing the magazine and turning out the light.
The same column appeared in Baxter’s childhood hometown newspaper, the Las Cruces (N.M.) Bulletin, with a headline that told it like it is: “Baxter Black’s Final Column.”
Baxter is noted here because he partnered with his brother, cartoonist Bob Black, to create the weekly comic strip Ag Man, which ran from 1997 to 2000 (as far as I can determine). Since none of the recent tributes have mentioned the comic strip it is left to us.
Depending on the newspaper the strip ran with Baxter’s column or independently
(usually, but not always, as a sponsored comic strip in either case).
In my life there are people with talents I admire: horse trainers, good ropers, cattle traders, backyard mechanics, welders, guitar players. AI technicians, farriers, purebred breeders and rough stock riders, for instance. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that you can’t be good at everything, so, even though I admire these talents I don’t envy them.
However, there is one gifted group that I come close to envying … cartoonists. I am lucky to be friends with many of this wacky persuasion. I’m partial to cowboy cartoonists. I can relate closely with their dead pan looney observations or bug-eyed, cinch bustin’ cow catastrophes that they spread across a slice-of-bread-size scene like bumpy blackberry jam…