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More Commentary by NPR’s Cowboy Poet and Former Large Animal Veterinarian

by Baxter Black

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-609-61090-2
Publisher: Crown

Cowboy poet, former large-animal vet, NPR pundit, and essayist Black (Cactus Tracks and Cowboy Philosophy, 1997, etc.) is back, fooling with the kinds of large animals that wear blue jeans and can read.

There’s an occasional semi-serious piece on the gentrification of the West or the war against terrorism, but in most of these ten dozen really short tall tales the comical dialect is constant, the patois thick, and the glossary no more use than cow patties at an urban weddin’. The horsing around zips past like juniper berries in a Texas cyclone, so if the yarn about the bull in the chicken house doesn’t suit, perhaps the story of the heifer in the fishing line will. What about the cowboy who lost his dally and spilled into the arroyo: Ain’t that funny? Well, maybe it depends on the telling. It does seem that working at the rear end of a cow gives a feller a certain humorous worldview as well as a way with words. Bax describes, for example, a duster that “weighed more than a wet hallway carpet,” or being so broke he was “down to no keys.” Most of the pieces exist in a cowboy time that seems to be as independent as cowboy ways. (There is a reference to “ten-year-old copies of Look magazine,” though that journal died more than 30 years ago.) With frequent allusions to pickup trucks, skittish bovines, old dogs, and abrupt physical injury, the text seems designed primarily for those who affect knowledge in the use of a rope, a saddle, or a toolbox, but Bax is clearly also aware of readers “from outside the real world,” or as he terms them, “gentiles.” Punching cows for punch lines and throwing a 700-pound Bramer bull with aplomb may not be Noël Coward, but it’s fair day’s work for a cowpoke, after all.

Not consistently hilarious, but quite pleasant and harmless. (16 line drawings)