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Across the fence: Honor

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattle Published on 26 July 2022

I just heard the news: Baxter Black passed away. By the time this goes to print, the news will have spread. I never had the chance to meet the man personally, but I valued him and his work.

His ability to make people laugh about the realities of agriculture is unparalleled. Even kids like his writing.

Our kids went to elementary school at a small country school. At the end of every year, the school had a declamation contest. Every student from kindergarten to eighth grade participated. Our kids picked Baxter Black poems. The community understood the ranching lifestyle and found the poems funny. They laughed when our son got up in his Wranglers and shared “Vegetarian’s Nightmare.” They applauded our daughter when she recited “The Dog and the Rabbit.”

What we love about all his poems is that we can see them happening, even if they haven’t happened directly to us. We can feel the angst and the humor. While agricultural folks tend to be a somewhat united crowd, his work brought many people together. We may not agree on the best breed of cattle, which pour-on to use or grazing rotations, but we could all sit in a crowd and laugh about the daily life foibles and follies that he wrote and spoke about.

His death got me thinking about honor.

We tend to honor people after they’ve passed, and rightly so. It is good to pay tribute to folks and how they impacted those around them, especially their families. I’ve written about legacy before and how the legacy we leave isn’t in the things we leave to others, although that can be nice. It’s about how we affected those around us.

So, what does honor look like in the day to day?

As parents, we teach our kids to honor the adults in their lives: yes, us as parents, but also grandparents, teachers, employers, etc.

When our kids were little, we were at a graduation party. We were sitting next to an elderly couple, munching food off paper plates. One of our daughters was about 3 and she was having a conversation with the older gentleman – a family friend from church who always made a point to visit with our kids, which I loved. Our daughter all of a sudden stopped eating, looked straight at him, pointed her finger (which we tried to teach not to do), and said, “You’re soooo old.”

Obviously, I can’t be inside my daughter’s head, but the way she said it was so profound, as if to say, “Wow, congrats on those wrinkles.”

We tried to rush in and say, “We don’t say that,” or something to correct the situation, but the gentleman started laughing. Deep belly laughs. He said it was the best thing he’d heard all day, like a compliment. He didn’t want us to get after her. He said he loved her honesty.

He has since passed away, but I can still hear his voice and picture his shining eyes and laugh lines.

Sometimes honoring someone is more than being polite. It’s being honest. It’s sharing life. And that’s the kind of honor most of us in the agriculture life want, I imagine. How do we do that?

Here are some thoughts:

  • Pay compliments
  • Don’t compete
  • Ask questions
  • Value viewpoints
  • Forgive
  • Celebrate others’ accomplishments
  • Cheer others on
  • Listen
  • Encourage
  • Appreciate differences

I heard a pastor say this week that our culture has forgotten what it means to honor. He was speaking in regards to honoring God, our parents and those who teach us. Maybe he’s right, but I think those of us in ranching may see honor daily in:

  • The natural life cycle
  • Mamas caring for their babies
  • The work we do
  • How we treat our horses and cattle
  • Our conversations with our neighbors

We aren’t perfect – that’s for sure. And by golly, there are some words said in the corral when tensions are high that we’d all rather forget. But overall, I am proud of the ag community. Thank you all for all you do on the daily.

I’m not much of a poet, but a few weeks ago, I got a rumbling in my brain to start a cowboy wife poem. And while it isn’t anything close to Baxter’s work, I can’t help but appreciate him when a rhyme starts to float in my mind.

A Cowboy’s Wife

A cowboy’s wife has a good life,
’Cept for moments of heightened concern.
When his hat goes sky high, and the dust starts to fly,
She suffers from a little heartburn.

“It’s okay,”he will say,
As if he hasn’t got a care:
“That horse won’t buck.” “My truck’s not stuck.”
And up goes a cowboy wife’s prayer.

I’m honored to be a cowboy wife and honored to connect with all of you. Happy trails.   end mark

Getty Images.

Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can follow her on her blog (Cowboy Wife).