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Baxter Black

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


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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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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