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On the Edge of Common Sense: Pick it out

Contributed by Baxter Black Published on 24 April 2017

The newspaper photo showed them leaning into the harmony like four caroling coyotes. The caption named the pickers and said they were members of a new country singing group. It announced that they would be playing at the Dairy Queen on Thursday.

The owner explained that the Troubadours would be appearing at the restaurant for a while, playing for hamburgers and exposure.

It ain’t easy to get into show business. It’s a long way from Monte Vista, Yreba or Blue Earth to Nashville.

Music has always been a part of my life. My family immigrated to Oklahoma from Texas. Grandpa played old-time fiddle. He taught his kids. I’ve been seconding good musicians as long as I can remember.

And it’s still goin’ on. I married into a nest of Okies who play the same good music I grew up on. They sing and play and let me hammer and pound along behind ’em. I’ve never really minded playin’ second fiddle. You can’t be good at everything. But there was a time when I shined.

Workin’ cows in the fall is somethin’ I’ve always enjoyed. Some of these ranches I worked were 100 miles from a Kmart. It might take several days to preg check 2,000 head, so when I showed up I’d take my guitar. There weren’t VCRs and satellite dishes in the old days. I was a welcome diversion.

After a day’s work, we’d clean up, have supper and then make music and tell stories in the cookhouse. Sometimes there’d be a cowboy who could sing or a day-work uranium miner who’d played the mandolin. We had a high ol’ time every night.

Nowadays, I’ve gotten to know folks like Ed Bruce, Red Steagall, Michael Martin Murphy, Charlie Daniels, Reba McEntire, Larry Gatlin, Riders in the Sky, Mo Bandy, Vince Gill, Chris LeDoux and others, not quite so famous but just as talented.

I admire their ability, but I don’t envy it. Even if I’d had a portion of their gift and ambition, I suspect I’d still be playin’ at the Starlite Inn in Idaho Falls six nights a week.

I’d have spent my life chasin’ fame instead of chasin’ cows. And I’d have missed all those nights singin’ in the cookhouse to a bunch of cowboys starved for entertainment.

I’d probably belong to a group that hadn’t named ourselves yet. One seeking a new identity at every engagement. A side man at the Trailer Court Christmas Concerto. Strummin’ rhythm guitar with Pinto and the Play for Food Band.  end mark