The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Karl Terry
Local columnist 

Remembering cowboy poet, Western philosopher Baxter Black

 

Last updated 7/23/2022 at 12:08pm



Cowboy poetry isn’t every person’s cup of tea and I didn’t know I was a fan until I became acquainted with Baxter Black.

Sadly, we lost the retired large animal vet and Western philosopher recently, and a bit too soon.

My first exposure to Baxter Black was through his weekly columns in the Quay County Sun back in the 1980s. He hadn’t yet hit the big time in cowboy poetry or maybe he had and the literary form just hadn’t seen its day yet.

Either way, his columns didn’t cost the paper too much and he was maybe even more popular than my own column.

I don’t think I was responsible for bringing him on board at the Sun but I did eventually have the job of editing his work. Not that editing a syndicated column took much work but I did get to write a headline.

I believe he probably made courtesy calls from time to time so I think I talked to him on the phone once or twice in those days. But it was the year that I was serving as Chamber vice president that I really got to know him. We had designs on making our annual banquet really big that year and Black was just starting to promote himself as a speaker on the rubber chicken circuit.

Besides the fact that we carried his column in the local paper, we had another community connection -- he was a former student of Tucumcari resident Lynn Moncus’ English class at New Mexico State University. I edited her columns too but they were more work and it was strangely satisfying to rewrite an English professor’s work.

I don’t think it took a connection to get Baxter Black at our banquet. It just took the right amount of money — a lot more money than we had been used to doling out for a speaker in those days. The deal was struck and we began selling tickets like our lives depended on it. Turns out they were pretty easy to sell at that time because he was just starting to make it big with appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Leading up to the event I decided to do a personal interview over the phone for an advance story in the Sun. It’s still the only phone interview I ever did that left me rolling on my own office floor for nearly an hour.

Better yet, when the event rolled around the others on the board abdicated the honor of introducing the man to me. He did not disappoint. He was animated and funny and gave us our money’s worth and we had the largest crowd ever, by double.

Fast-forward about 20 years and I’m interviewing for the job of Chamber executive director job in Portales. I featured that success with bringing Baxter Black heavily in my interview with the board.

I found out later Portales had brought him in for its banquet a few years earlier. I guess Ol’ Bax had become a lot more successful and a lot more pricey by then. The Chamber had not covered the expenses on the event and my unknowingly opening that old wound didn’t do me any favors.

Wonders never cease, I got the job and Baxter Black went on to a long association with NPR Radio of all organizations. Strange bedfellows can often work out.

Rest in peace Baxter Black.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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