Wednesday, June 22, 2022

America's 'cowboy poet' Baxter Black dies at 77

Baxter Black performs in 2010 (Getty Images)
"Baxter Black, the nationally popular cowboy poet, storyteller, and philosopher of rural life in America," died June 10 at age 77 at his home in Benson, Ariz., Terri Jo Neff reports for the Arizona Daily Independent. The family didn't specify the cause of death, but a January Facebook post from his wife Cindy Lou said he had blood leukemia and dementia.

Black was born in Brooklyn, but grew up in Las Cruces, N.M. He competed in rodeo through high school and college, and graduated from veterinary school in 1969. He was a practicing vet through the mid-1980s as he honed his skills as a poet and public speaker at Future Farmers of America functions, Neff reports.

"Black's first column was published in Colorado's Record Stockman in 1980. Several years later, he made his way to public radio," Rachel Treisman reports for NPR. In the mid-1980s, NPR played a recording he sent in of his poem about wildfires in Yellowstone National Park. Listeners loved the poem, and Black went on to offer commentary for "Morning Edition" for the next two decades. 

"When he wasn't on the air, Black spoke at conventions and events across the country, appeared on television programs including "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson," wrote a weekly column and published and recorded audiobooks — of which Ag Daily says he sold more than a million," Treisman reports. "His column, "On the Edge of Common Sense," was published by more than 100 newspapers across the U.S. and Canada over the years."

Black retired at the end of 2021 due to health problems. "In his undated website FAQ, Black dodged a question about his top three accomplishments, saying, 'I haven't accomplished them yet'," Treisman reports. "But he did reflect on how he'd like to be remembered: 'As someone who didn't embarrass his friends.'"

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