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Cowboy songster Andy Hedges of Lubbock interviewed Baxter Black in 2020 at Baxter’s ranch in Benson, Ariz.

Beloved cowboy poet Baxter Black passed away Friday, June 10, 2022.

An acclaimed storyteller, Black wrote more than 30 books of poetry and fiction and sold more than 2 million books, CDs, and DVDs.

Black grew up in Los Cruces, New Mexico, and was dedicated to agricultural life from an early age. He was an FFA president, rode bulls, and completed veterinary school at Colorado State University. He was a practicing veterinarian for nearly 20 years before turning his talents toward storytelling and becoming an author, poet, TV and radio host, and public speaker.

Black had an uncanny way of connecting with everyone around him through his unique brand of humor and wit. Regardless of whether they came from an agricultural background or lived in the middle of a city, Black’s musings on rural life deeply resonated with his audience.

Recently, Ranch Record editor Sue Jones profiled Black. The following article appears in the Winter 2022 issue of Ranch Record. 

Making Cowboys Laugh

By Sue Hancock Jones

Baxter Black could rightfully claim to be America’s unofficial cowboy poet laureate, but he’s not the kind of person to seek titles even though he’s had decades of speaking engagements, NPR commentary, newspaper columns, magazine articles, television shows, and book sales.

Baxter’s last column just published on the final page of the January issue of “Western Horseman” magazine. For years readers could find his column on the last page as if they needed a final piece of cowboy wit and wisdom before closing the magazine and turning out the light.

The same column appeared in Baxter’s childhood hometown newspaper, the Las Cruces (N.M.) Bulletin, with a headline that told it like it is: “Baxter Black’s Final Column.”

As this article is being written, the 77-year-old cowboy poet and former veterinarian is in retirement at his home in Benson, Ariz., with home health care coming several times a week.

Although Baxter has always described himself as funny but not particularly smart, the Dean’s List at New Mexico State University and a veterinary science degree from Colorado State University might argue that point. The fact that his writings include both wit and wisdom also tell a different story. They reveal an author who is a deep thinker (despite his denials) and knows by experience that the secret to life is knowing how to take a fall and how to find your way when you don’t have a map.

As the oldest of four boys, Baxter was still in public school when his father died at an early age and his mother had no job. His father had been a relatively new dean of the College of Agriculture at New Mexico State University after spending two years as a department head at Texas Tech University.

“When your mother loses the biggest thing in her life, it’s difficult for everybody,” Baxter remembers. “But mother, who is my hero, somehow survived and put herself back together.”

The college faculty and staff took up a collection for the family and the Navy had a widows and orphans fund to help his mother with the children until each boy turned 18. After his father’s death, Baxter always worked but was still able to be FFA president, senior class president, a wrestler, and a rodeo bull rider while he was in high school.

Baxter wrote a column about his father on Father’s Day 2021: “Did I get anything from my father? I should say so. Agriculture, for lack of a more glamorous word…the whole encompassing gift of the world of soil and sky and grass and animals and manual labor.”

It’s not hard to understand that the last line of the last column Baxter wrote for a national audience was “I like living a life where a horse matters.” Baxter knew from the very beginning that something in agriculture was what he was going to do. “I knew which direction I was going,” he explained. “It was always there—like believing in God. I’ve never not believed in God. That’s never a question in my life…. I just do, and it’s the same thing for agriculture.”

Despite his exceptional reputation in the cowboy poet world, Baxter’s first exposure to poetry did not predict future success. “I was a freshman in college in advanced English at New Mexico State,” he said. “We were instructed to write a poem, so I wrote a poem and turned it in. It had a religious sort of thing in it. When I got the paperback, the teacher had drawn a big red circle with an ‘F’ in it and the words, ‘Write about something you know.’”

“And that’s exactly what I do,” he said. “And that was 10 or 12 years before I started writing poetry.” Today anyone can look at the FAQ section of his website and receive the same sage advice. “What would be your advice to someone interested in writing?” Answer: “Write about what you know.”

In the introduction to his book Poems Worth Saving, Baxter wrote: “It would be fair to say that I didn’t find cowboy poetry. It found me. I was a busy, contented hardworking large animal vet when cowboy poetry hijacked my career.

“I had made an immaturish attempt at writing songs as a young man, and I’ve always been good at telling stories. As I traveled the countryside treating animals, I would hear stories and jokes, ‘Baxterize’ them and tell them at the next rancher feedlot that I went to. Then one day I decided to put the story to rhyme, and it worked—meaning the cowboys loved it.”

Until the end of 2021, Baxter wrote one column a week for more than 40 years. For the most part, he kept the columns in his world of agriculture because that was who liked him and who bought his books. Almost all his columns start with a story.

“Every week I write these columns coming home from all these shows, so for the most part I wrote them in airports,” he said. Baxter believes—in fact, insists—that the first line is one of the keys to writing a good poem, book or column. To illustrate, he lowers his voice and ominously recites, “Nobody rides the mountain top when Winter’s locked her jaws.”

Much of the information in this article was obtained during a 2020 podcast interview Western entertainer Andy Hedges had with Baxter Black at the cowboy poet’s ranch home in Arizona. The two-part podcast can be accessed online at