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Baxter Black

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


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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Russ normally would not have kept the heifer he called “The Pirate,” but he did. It was one of those chilly 5:30 spring mornings in southeast Idaho.

He decided to make a quick heifer check before he got his youngest kid on the school bus at 6:30. Russ slipped into his handy fashion farmwear (sweatpants, heavy long-sleeved T-shirt and slip-on boots) and drove down to the calving pasture.

Dang! Sure enough, there was a heifer down in a low spot, on her back and bloated. Russ stopped the truck and walked over to her.

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Back in Timber’s youth he got a job helpin’ gather wild cattle out of the fields of an Arizona cotton farmer.

He and his pardner, Jessie, tried roping them but were unsuccessful. One, the cows only came into the field at night along with the native deer. Two, the horses were not nocturnally trained and wouldn’t get within a rope’s length of the stealthy beasts.

Plan Two involved the use of a tranquilizer gun. The second night our boys arrived ‘loaded for bear,’ as they say, and began stalking their prey.

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I was visiting with Bill in Alabama. He’s a cattleman, a bit of a philosopher and a constant worrier. I mentioned that one of my friends had sold a set of 520-pound feeder cattle for $1.99 a pound! That’s more than $1,000 a head!

“I know,” said Bill, “I’ve sold some myself but … ” then he paused and added, “I’m wondering if the price is getting too high?”

I cast a skeptical eye but he was serious. “Whattaya mean?” I asked.

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Normally when I get a letter or email from someone who has “seen themselves” in my column, I write back, apologize, swear I’ll try to do better and promise, as a penance, to bathe their Pekingese.

This does not include animal rights loonies, the Association for Political Correctness or the ACLU drum bangers.

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