Baxter Black: The Man, The Myth, The Witty

The Arizona Beef Council is excited to present to you a blog series about the one and only Baxter Black. Baxter is a celebrity in his own right, but those of us here in Arizona consider him a state treasure and are proud to say he chose this piece of the southwest to make his home. Many thanks are owed to his beautiful wife, Cindy, for dragging him back to the best state in the Union. While we realize our writing will leave much to be desired in the wake of the true poet’s work, we hope you enjoy reading anyways.

In a house tucked in the hills of the outskirts of Benson, lives a man, or might we say “legend,” and his wife. Here they peddle books of poems written by this man to places near and far. Guests are welcome with open arms and are given a great opportunity to hear prose in real time while talking about the past, present, and future. Upon stepping out the front door of their ranch-style home, you are greeted by an impressive wall constructed of many different types and styles of stone. These stones, bricks, and even a concrete Texas (which was accidentally placed upside down in the wall) make an impressive sight and are made even more significant when talking with Baxter about each individual piece’s origin.

These stones, bricks, and the concrete Texas are all mementos from Baxter’s travels over the years.

In case you don’t know who Baxter Black is (we won’t judge too hard), let us explain. Baxter is a cowboy poet who has performed for cattlemen, cattlewomen, dairymen, ranchers, cowboys, cowgirls, and even made a few appearances on the Johnny Carson show. But he’s not just any cowboy poet. He’s a cowboy poet who has made a living entertaining people with his witty poems based on real-life situations, mostly from personal experience. Some of our favorites, and we would venture to say classics, include The Vegetarian’s Nightmare, The Oyster, along with his continuing column seen in many publications across the country properly titled “On the Edge of Common Sense.”

Baxter performing The Vegetarian’s Nightmare on the Johnny Carson Show.

But Baxter didn’t start off his professional career as the cowboy on stage dressed in hand-embroidered western shirts. He comes with a history, just like most successful people. His started out with work on a feed yard, went to veterinarian school and then, as life has a way of doing, turned him on his head and pushed him in another direction. He shared with us his meaning behind the saying “down to no keys,” when life has taken everything from you to the point where you end up with no keys: nowhere to call your own and nothing to drive. But, in true Baxter style, he didn’t let this setback stop him.

He continued on and ended up managing the veterinarian work for a large feed yard. During his time at the feed yard, he began speaking and entertaining people with his wit and poems. One of the biggest blessings in his life was ending up in the same place as his wife. She was playing the fiddle in the band at the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association Annual Convention and he noticed. The rest really is history!

In true Baxter style, he keeps life fun!

One of the many things we learned from Baxter on our visit was his philosophy on shooting arrows. You can’t do something unless you keep asking and doing and that’s exactly what Baxter did. A fun fact about Baxter is that he was featured on NPR for 20-years! NPR wasn’t looking for someone like Baxter, but he made himself known and kept reminding them that he might have something else to offer. Finally, when Yellowstone was burning up in ’84, they took notice. No one on NPR was reporting on this huge fire and Baxter told them they should be. He wrote a poem about it, sent it to the station and then they called him. They kept calling him after that asking for more, so he gave it to them. When asked why it worked, Baxter says, “I was the oddity. That’s why it worked.”

Now that you have some history on this guy (or character?), get ready for some serious life advice from this wise man in next week’s Arizona Beef Blog post.

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