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Black, Baxter 1945-

BLACK, Baxter 1945-

PERSONAL: Born January 10, 1945; son of Robert (dean of agriculture at New Mexico State University) and Theodora Black; married; wife's name, Cindy Lou; children: Jennifer, Guy. Education: Graduated from Colorado State University with a veterinary degree, 1969.

ADDRESSES: Office—Coyote Cowboy Company, P. O. Box 2190, Benson, AZ 85602. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Veterinarian, 1969-82; cowboy, cattle feeder, poet, fiction writer, and columnist. Coyote Cowboy Company (publisher), Benson, AZ, founder; National Public Radio (NPR) commentator.

WRITINGS:

The Cowboy and His Dog; or, Go Git in the Pickup!, illustrated by Don Gill, Record Stockman (Benson, AZ), 1980.

A Rider, a Roper, and a Heck 'Uva Windmill Man, illustrated by Don Gill, Coyote Cowboy/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1982.

On the Edge of Common Sense (poetry and stories), illustrated by Don Gill, Dick Spencer, Jerry Palen, Herb Mignery, Lex Graham, and Bob Black, Coyote Cowboy/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1983.

Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky? (novel), Crown (New York, NY), 1994.

Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy: Commentary by NPR's Cowboy Poet and Former Large Animal Vet, Crown (New York, NY), 1997.

Loose Cow Party, Coyote Cowboy Company (Benson, AZ), 1998.

A Cowful of Cowboy Poetry, Coyote Cowboy Company (Benson, AZ), 1999.

Horseshoes, Cowsocks & Duckfeet: More Commentary by NPR's Cowboy Poet and Former Large Animal Veterinarian, Crown (New York, NY), 2002.

POETRY

Doc, While Yer Here, illustrated by Don Gill and Black, Coyote Cowboy/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1984.

Buckaroo History, illustrated by Don Gill, Cowboy Coyote/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1985.

Coyote Cowboy Poetry, illustrated by Don Gill, Black, and others, Coyote Cowboy/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1986.

Croutons on a Cow Pie, illustrated by Don Gill and Black, Coyote Cowboy/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1988.

The Buckskin Mare, illustrated by Dave Holl, Coyote Cowboy/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1989.

Cowboy Standard Time, illustrated by Don Gill and Black, Coyote Cowboy/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1990.

Croutons on a Cow Pie, Volume II, illustrated by Don Gill, Black, Dave Holl, and Charlie Marsh, Coyote Cowboy/Record Stockman Press (Benson, AZ), 1992.

Dunny and the Duck, illustrated by Don Gill, Black, and Charlie Marsh, Coyote Cowboy Company (Benson, AZ), 1994.

Also author of a weekly column, "On the Edge of Common Sense," syndicated in more than one hundred agricultural publications.

SIDELIGHTS: Baxter Black's humorous commentary, poetry, and fiction, drawn from his varied experiences of rural America, have helped him carve out a unique niche in the entertainment world. The former veterinarian grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico. A high achiever in his youth, Black was president of the Future Farmers of America and of his high school's senior class. After working for more than a decade as a large-animal veterinarian, he found another calling. "The company I was working for as a tech veterinarian changed hands and let me go," he recalled in a Grit interview with Peggy Mooney. "I was doing speaking engagements on the side and people just kept calling. So, here I am."

Black is frequently dubbed "a cowboy poet" by reviewers and his work is compared to that of Will Rogers for its home-spun, commonsensical quality. In the Christian Science Monitor, M. S. Mason remarked that Baxter's "humor tends to pick up on quirks in human nature—those little self-deceptions and flights of fantasy that reveal character." Some critics have singled out Black's voice for its rarity in contemporary America. "Unlike so many other comics, Black keeps his work free of meanness," Mason commented. "His affection for those he skewers is felt."

Black's novel, Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?, shares with the author's nonfiction works a cast of rural eccentrics who are the object of fun as well as sympathy. Set on the rodeo circuit in the early 1980s, Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky? is the picaresque tale of two riders who find love, danger, and adventure on their way to the final competition in Oklahoma City. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews characterized Black's prose as "a rhapsody to tall tales and the serial comma." While noting that the narrative has a number of plot strands which remain undeveloped, the reviewer conceded that "[Black] gives the reader an absorbing education in rodeo." The Kirkus Reviews contributor concluded that, despite the novel's flaws, it offers "receptive readers a satisfying escape and some vulgar good yuks."

A favorite on the speaker's circuit—Mooney said that "he seems to be able to make people laugh just by standing there and being himself"—Black is also a popular presenter for the Morning Edition show on National Public Radio (NPR). He parlayed that success into two books, Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy: Commentary by NPR's Cowboy Poet and Former Large Animal Vet, and Horseshoes, Cowsocks & Duckfeet: More Commentary by NPR's Cowboy Poet and Former Large Animal Veterinarian. Cactus Tracks explores the life of the rancher and the farmer, delving into a world that the author says is "different from the world of most public radio contributors." A Publishers Weekly critic characterized the volume of essays as "slightly irreverent, sometimes poignant and always imbued with respect and admiration" for Black's subjects.

Cactus Tracks sold 60,000 copies, leading to the follow-up, Horseshoes, Cowsocks & Duckfeet, published in 2002. This volume includes lists like "Fifty Ways to Fool Yer Banker" and such musings as "Do fish ever get tired of eating seafood?" In the essay "Dear Animal Planet," Black castigates the cable-television channel for "ignoring domestic livestock 'destined for the food chain,'" as a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted. "There's an occasional semi-serious piece on the gentrification of the West or the war against terrorism," observed a contributor from Kirkus Reviews, but overall "the comical dialect is constant" in Horseshoes, Cowsocks & Duckfeet.

According to his Web site, Baxter, who lives in Arizona, doesn't own a television, fax machine, or cell phone. "In spite of all the computerized, digitized, high innovations now available to mankind," he was quoted in Grit, "there will always be a need for someone who can think up stuff." He added that he wishes to be remembered as "someone who doesn't embarrass his friends."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Aethlon, fall, 1995, review of Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?, p. 137.

Atlantic Monthly, January, 1998, review of Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy: Commentary by NPR's Cowboy Poet and Former Large Animal Vet, p. 106.

Booklist, September 1, 1997, Ray Olson, review of Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy, p. 51; August, 2002, Michelle Kaske, review of Horseshoes, Cowsocks & Duckfeet: More Commentary by NPR's Cowboy Poet and Former Large Animal Vet, p. 1910.

Christian Science Monitor, February 19, 1991, p. 13.

Grit, December 9, 2001, Peggy Mooney, "On the Trail with Baxter Black," p. 36.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1994, review of Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?, p. 787; July 1, 1997, review of Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy, p. 995; July 1, 2002, review of Horseshoes, Cowsocks & Duckfeet, p. 926.

Library Journal, March 15, 1995, review of Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?, p. 40.

New York Times, November 11, 1997, James Brooke, "Words That Bring Mist to the Snow Shovelers' Eyes," p. B2.

Publishers Weekly, August 18, 1997, review of Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy, p. 83; July 29, 2002, review of Horseshoes, Cowsocks & Duck-feet, p. 65.

School Library Journal, February, 1998, Judy Sokoll, review of Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy, p. 141.

ONLINE

Baxter Black Home Page,http://www.baxterblack.com/ (October 12, 2002).*

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