Faithful fans of Baxter Black have a chance of finding two books under the tree this year. The prolific purveyor of farm-and-ranch fiascoes released not one, but two, in 2011. Written in prose, the first is for pondering: "Lessons from a Desperado Poet: How to Find Your Way When You Don't Have a Map, How to Win the Game When You Don't Know the Rules, and When Someone Says it Can't be Done, What They Mean is They Can't Do It." Written in rhyme, "Rudolph's Night Off," is for the pure fun of it. Both are worthy of the most festive gift wrap.
Personally, I anticipated the release of Lessons from a Desperado Poet (TwoDot, 232 pages, hardback, ISBN-13: 9780762769971) more than any of Baxter's previous titles. It seemed like an eternity between the time he told me he was working on a self-help book and the day it arrived in the mail. The far-reaching subtitle was the subject of a speech Black gave, after which people kept asking him to write down the points. And so he did, expanding his remarks to encompass 118 life lessons that are part memoir, part how-to, and completely entertaining.
Before multiple appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, a book deal with Random House, and a presence on National Public Radio, Black navigated a road fraught with setbacks. Lessons is filled with personal photos and accounts of his challenges, successes, and failures. Black is surprisingly frank in sharing entrepreneurial and life lessons learned since he took his first job with Bumper's Grocery at age 14.
It's not a get-rich-quick story but rather a strategy of making the most of what you have, thinking creatively, developing dogged persistence, doing the right thing, and winning against seemingly hopeless odds. Known by millions for dispensing cowboy lore and logic, Black travels the world making his living speaking at agricultural banquets, writing a weekly column, and selling books and CDs.
I purchased a half dozen copies and gave them away already. The recipients were unanimous in their delight at receiving it and their praise after having read it. Lessons from a Desperado Poet retails for $22.95.
Baxter hit a grand slam with this fall's release of Rudolph's Night Off (Coyote Cowboy Company, 32 pages, DVD, hardback, ISBN-13: 9780939343546). It will be familiar to those who follow the former large-animal veterinarian. Written as a holiday poem for his weekly column, the tale of a goat-turned-hero appears in Cowboy Standard Time, published in 1990. What won't be so familiar are the illustrations done for the book by Bill Patterson, an artist whose skills with paint and brush are equal to Black's imagination and verbal wizardry.
Rudolph is best read aloud - gaining altitude and velocity with each page - and sounding ever so much like a Dr. Seuss story. While not written exclusively for children, the book was most certainly designed with them in mind. The glossy cover, durable pages, and binding were selected to withstand years of tough love inflicted by adoring hands. Adults won't mind (too much) repeated readings of the clever romp with unlimited opportunities for vocal embellishment. It's destined to be a family favorite, enjoyed by all ages.
The book includes two bonuses: a sweet poem entitled "A Christmas Tree," and a DVD of Baxter reciting "Rudolph's Night Off," with a use-what's-handy stunt double standing in for the famous four-toed ruminant. Rudolph's Night Off retails for $19.95.
Baxter Black's books and CDs are available in feed stores, western shops, bookstores and online. Stock up on Lessons and Rudolph at http://baxterblack.com, where they are offering a buy-two-get-one-free special.