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Baxter Black

Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, author, vaquero philosophizer, left-handed roper and former large animal veterinarian.

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I’ve had occasion to rub shoulders with influential people in the cattle business at all levels. I see them at state cattlemen’s meetings or serving on the Beef Board, at bull sales, giving speeches, expounding on political, economic or international subjects and people are listening to them!

They may be elected by their peers, sought after for fiscal contributions, knowledge or heritage, or honored for their service to the industry. Their opinion matters.

I have watched these influential men and women operate. They make decisions that ripple through our industry and affect many thousands of us.

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Grandpa Tommy was reminiscing, “It’s a shame everybody couldn’t go through the Great Depression.”

I know what he meant – I think. He didn’t mean it like, “It’s a shame everybody hadn’t been in a concentration camp or had polio.” He was remarking that most of us baby boomers and younger are unable to appreciate how technology has pampered us.

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Readers send me stories and ideas for the column. Sometimes they are so good they deserve retellin’ in their own words. This is Barry’s tale about a “real cowboy” named Otis.

Otis wore his long-sleeved shirt and long-handled underwear winter and summer. It worked like a thermos, he claimed: cold in the summer and warm in the winter.

His old Blanchard spurs left tracks in the dirt when he walked because the heels were so wore down on his boots.

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You don’t have to hang around the cattle business long to realize how many women are running their own farms or ranches.

Often they are widows who have taken over the operation with the help of their children and made it work.

More recently, these women-farmers are daughters who have come home after schooling and become part of the family team. And there are occasions when women decide on the occupation and buy their own place.

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I was talking to Okie. He’s the farm dog. He doesn’t care to go out on the range with the cow dogs. His job is mostly guarding, barking and putting up a big front.

He does it well. I found him under one of the trucks. He’d dug a little bed in the dirt. It was in the shade. He seemed to be pondering.

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Jerry had what was called a suspect herd. His next-door neighbors had Brucellosis problems and since Jerry shared a common fence, he too, was required to be tested.

The neighbors sold out and let the land set the requisite time. Meanwhile Jerry brought in 20 half-Gertrudis heifers to his place. He evaluated them and concluded two out of three had no brain.

The government showed up to test them. They insisted on using their clanging, banging, government-issue head catch instead of what the cattle were used to.

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