The lights shone on the modest cowboy. His fitted black Wrangler jeans revealed legs, lean and agile. His aqua blue pearl button shirt coupled with a tightly tied orange scarf contrasted against the dark of the room. He wore a black cowboy hat atop his head that shaded his eyes and a handlebar mustache veiled his fast talking mouth. In his hand, he gripped a daunting black microphone. The microphone had a job to do: keep up with the talking cowboy and survive the action. The cowboy was a poet, one of the best of his kind. You could tell he had more than a few tricks up his sleeve—he jumped, he rolled, he quipped, he flipped. As he acted out his poems to the crowd, all eyes were fastened on him and laughter erupted from the souls of every cattlemen in the room. You see, the cowboy was Baxter Black, and he was telling our story, the agriculture story.
It was a year from December where I first had the opportunity to listen to Black, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled than to sit in my chair and roll with laughter as Baxter portrayed his adventures as a large animal veterinarian. As an aspiring speaker and writer myself, I knew I had to get an interview with the greatest cowboy poet in the world. Wrangling a cowboy poet isn’t as easy as it seems. This particular cowboy carries no cell phone and he doesn’t use a computer.
How was I possibly going to wrangle this cowboy for an interview with me? After all, I’m just a simple South Dakota farm kid. My love of agriculture started as a young girl where I grew up on a cow-calf operation, raising Limousin seedstock with my family. After a few chance opportunities changed my life, I was hoping to join the ranks of all the great individuals that served the industry as agriculture advocates. I wanted his secrets; I wanted to know all the answers to my many questions. First, I was going to get my interview.
After some persistent chasing, I scheduled an interview with Baxter through his secretary; we agreed to meet for breakfast in our downtown Denver hotel the next morning. As the new day awakened, I nervously waited for the cowboy poet. I was a mere five interviews into budding journalism career, and I was as green as a freshly weaned calf. He greeted me with the tip of his cowboy hat and a respectful bow. In true Southern gentlemen fashion, he pulled out my seat and sat across from me. I felt his eyes pore into me, sizing me up. He was probably wondering what in the world some college kid from South Dakota wanted with him.
As we looked over the menu, Baxter greeted the waiter in Spanish. We placed our orders, and while we waited, I interviewed the infamous Baxter Black.. He was feisty, he was spunky, and I could barely keep up with him. He joked, I laughed, and together we conquered the radio that day. I thanked my lucky stars! Over the course of two hours, Baxter shared a lot of stories with me, and he treated me as his equal. For over two hours, we discussed everything from immigration to veterinary medicine, from agriculture to our faith.
Bravely, I asked Baxter the secret to success. I yearned to learn everything I could from the self-proclaimed self-unemployed cowboy. I craved the independence and success that Baxter had found for himself, and I desired to serve as a voice for agriculture. I impatiently waited for his response.
With a twitch of his long, salt and pepper mustache and a twinkle in his sparkling eye, Baxter smiled at me as he told me the secret to life.
Hmm, Hmm the cowboy poet pondered. Well, I guess I will give you some advice. I worked for a man for ten years. He didn’t operate the normal way because he didn’t think of it that way. He taught me three things, although I didn’t realize it until years later. His lessons have served me quite well as a cowboy poet entrepreneur. He taught me: how to find the way when you don’t have a map, how to win the game when you don’t know the rules, and finally, when someone tells you it can’t be done, what they mean is—they can’t do it. Stick to your dreams young lady.
As he paid for my breakfast and we parted ways, I realized I had forgotten to get his autograph. Little did I know was that with his words, Baxter had given me the greatest gift of all.