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Baxter Black: FAITH IN CHRISTMAS

It’s Christmas time, when we celebrate the birth of Christ. In the U.S., surveys show that more than 80% of us believe in God. That’s more people than have lawyers, drive foreign cars, believe DNA is absolute proof of a criminal act, own a home, have been divorced, or watch Oprah!

How can such a high percentage of a highly educated, well-read, technologically and scientifically knowledgeable people believe in an omnipotent being? Where inside of us is the biological process that allows faith to exist? Not just to exist but to flourish. How do you define the words soul, love, compassion, conscience, guilt or sorrow without going outside the parameters of scientific definition?

To choose to believe only what is scientifically provable is to assume, I guess, that all human behavior can be traced to the basic instincts of territoriality, reproduction of species, and survival. That a conscience is a highly refined sophisticated mechanism that somehow helps keep peace in the herd, insures that each member gets her share of the kill, and that each dog in the pack gets a place in the pecking order.

If Earth is truly just a long series of accidental chemical bondings and adaptation to the environment, and God has no hand in it, then those animal rights folks who say a rat is a dog is a baby, are right. Human existence on earth would have no significance, no more than dinosaurs, rocks, oxygen, stars, wars, or renal dialysis. As Bertrand Russell, an atheist, once said, “Unless one assumes a God, any discussion of life’s purpose is meaningless.”

One of the dilemmas that deep thinkers have, is the need to explain the biological, physical, neural or meteorological mechanisms that allow something to happen. Miracles are hard for them to swallow. There must be some earthly explanation that the Dead Sea parted, Lazarus rose from the dead, and Jesus turned water to wine.

It is necessary for them to write off Jesus feeding the multitude. To conclude the Bible is more fiction than fact. That Christmas is just a benign commercial day off.

But for the vast majority of Americans, Christmas is the recognition of something bigger than ourselves. It also strengthens our beliefs and reminds us that Jesus was born to change the world and that He has. Our entire concept of God exists by faith. It’s not complicated. When I’m asked if I believe Christ was born of a virgin, I say, of course! If I can believe in something so all mighty, all-powerful and unbelievable as God, I can surely believe Jesus was His son.

Merry Christmas, and God bless you.

 

Baxter Black: Team Ropin’ Conversation

“There’s only one thing worse than eating next to a left-handed person, and that’s heading for him. It’s like trying to screw the male end of a garden house into the matching threads on your stock tank drain,” so spoke Bob to Allen, two fair-to-middlin’ team ropers, both fives, in the prime of their addiction. The equivalent of two-pack-a-day ropers.

“Yeah, team ropin’s gone to hell,” answered Allen. “Used to be one guy had an arena and twelve guys came to his place to rope. You got in good practice, lots of pretty good ropers. It was a social occasion, too.

‘Nowdays, everybody’s got an arena and nobody comes. You have to rope with your wife and she’s learning to barrel race. Fair is fair, so now all my rope horses run barrels too. And of course, she isn’t interested in learning to heel, so you have to.”

“Right.” Said Bob, “Denny Gentry ruined everything. USTRC has made team ropin’ so popular every horseshoer, ex-vet and dairyman thinks he’s Alan Bach.”

“I know,” said Allen, “It’s also attracted so many social ropers with money that I’m embarrassed to buy a new trailer. Used to be the best ropers pulled to ropin’s in their 12-year old stock trailer with recaps and rust holes for ventilation. There wasn’t enough money in ropin’ to cover the cost of gas.

“At ropin’s today there’s so many duallies and three-horse slants with dressing rooms, it looks like a Arab horse show. And the guy can’t even through a rope!”

“I know what you mean,” said Bob, “I’ve got a motley hand full that come to my arena. I get to head but it’s a rare occasion they ever catch. I’m always havin’ to offer constructive criticism or advice. It’s like a continuing team ropin’ clinic for the ability deprived. There’s only one left-handed guy that goes through horses like an Amish trader. He still thinks it’s the horse’s fault! But I’m lucky I’ve still got a few traditional heelers that come by. You know, fresh divorced, ridin’ a house that’s for sale and pullin’ a ‘92 Hale two-horse rig. A real roper that gets there after you’ve wrapped the hons and drinks your beer. But at least I feel like I’m practicin’ ropin’ and not just practicin’ practicin’.”

“Yeah, they’re in demand,” sighed Allen.

Bob continued, “I’ve even fenced off an area in the arena for kids. Swing set, ropin’ dummy and park bench with some shade. Sort of day care whey they have the kids on weekends.”

“Day care…I like that,” mused Allen.

“Yup,” said Bob, “If you’re gonna have your own arena you gotta learn to compete.”

 

Baxter Black: All Natural Beef

It’s true that my steer is all-natural

I’ve dispensed with all vaccines and drugs

Not one pesticide is poured on his hide

He’d be lonesome without all the bugs!

The lice are his own peanut gallery

The ticks and the heel flies too.

He scratches all day while they nibble away

But it does give him something to do.

I’ve no use for antibiotics.

For those drenches and potions and pills.

He’s had a rough time, but now doin’ fine.

Though he’s pore as an ol’ whippoorwill.

He’s had rickets and double pneumonia.

He’s a veteran of all that I’ve learned.

Coccidiosis, Leptospirosis,

And the scours are waiting their turn.

So you see all you slavers of science

Who depend on hi tech for it all.

My steer is alive, weighs three twenty-five

But, he only turned seven last fall!

 

Baxter Black: Museum Faces

I took a trip to the museum of natural history. It was a fascinating place: a taxidermist’s showcase. A dog heaven, what with all the prehistoric bones. But as I walked through the halls and stared at the infinite variety of creatures that stalked the earth, I began to feel uneasy. I started seeing familiar faces looking back at me.

There stood the reincarnated remains of Stegosaurus. He was twenty-five feet long, had a hump in his back, big spikes on his tail and a skull about the size of a Spanish goat. The description said he wandered from place to place, grumbling about the mud and slashing his tail at his enemies. He had one brain the size of a walnut in his head that controlled his mouth. He had another in his rear end that controlled his tail. It is unlikely that the two brains communicated much. Thus, one end never knew what the other was doing so that if his mouth wasn’t getting’ him in trouble the other end was. He looked like every feedlot cowboy I’ve ever known.

Back in the corner was Brother Walrus, weighing in at 700 pounds. I could picture his rounding the corner of the loading chute, sittin’ behind the wheel of his 2003 Lincoln. Or hooking his tusks out the window as he drove up and down the feedlot alley, figgerin’ out how to shave two cents off the price. All he needed was a cheap cigar to look like yer typical, everyday packin’ house buyer.

Rearing up before me, seventeen feet tall, with a head the size of a front-end loader, was Tyrannosaurus rex. His hug mouth and armory of teeth reminded me of Carlsbad Caverns. Every creature have him wide berth. His front paws were very small, good for very little except, possibly, counting money. He ate everything he could catch and showed no mercy. The fiercest carnivore that ever lived … yer friendly Ag loan officer.

Then I came upon a pitiful sight. A Giant Sloth, mired in the Tar Pits. He was being attacked by two Saber toothed tigers (drug salesman), six hyenas (government bureaucrats), an alligator (the implement dealer), and a covey of buzzards (assorted veterinarians, consultants, county agents and commodity brokers). He was stuck in the tar. He couldn’t get out. Even if, by some miracle, he did manage to extricate himself from the tar, he’d still have to fight his way through the hungry predators. Strangely enough, it occurred to me that if the Giant Sloth finally went under, so would the predators. So it goes with the farmer and the rancher.

Baxter: The Chain Gang

Most would admit it was an unusual location to put a chain in the first place. Not that it didn’t look at home amongst the rotting posts and rusty headgate, but there it was.

Miles and his wife decided their little place could carry a few more cows. It was a good year on the Montana high line but bred heifers were high. So they agreed that buyin’ yearlin’ heifers would be the ticket. They could select a good sire, synchronize the heat cycle and breed them artificially. They bought forty head of light heifers. They secured the Synchromate B and scheduled a breeding date. Miles had intentions to reinforce and repair his corral. Maybe replace some posts in the workin’ alley and bend the chute handles so they worked smooth. But…he got busy with other things. So when the neighbors showed up to help implant the Synchromate, his workin’ facilities still looked like the deck of an abandoned trawler. Running forty head through the chute sounds like a fairly simple task. But, so does changin’ a flat, unless all you have is a crescent wrench and one glove.

They corralled the heifers and started ‘em up the crowdin’ alley toward the chute. Bein’ smallish heifers, a pair could stand side by side in the alley and still have six hooves on the ground. The crew actually managed to get twenty-four head loaded at one time before the inside wall broke and fell over with a thud.

The heifers trompled over the downed boards and escaped back in to the corral. Ingenious fellow that he was, Miles grabbed a chunk of tow chain from his pickup bed. With the neighbor’s help, he pushed the side of the alley upright and secured it across the top with the chain. It held while they ran the heifers back through and applied the Synchromate B implants.

Nine days later Miles enlisted the help of his long suffering wife Linda to remove the implant pellets. She was workin’ the headgate. He was often forced to get behind the heifers in the valley and push’em up. Linda, ever vigilant for his welfare, constantly reminded him about the chain. By the time they were down to the last two heifers, Linda was workin’ at the head end with a flashlight. Miles had meant to get the floodlight fixed too, but every time he thought of it, it was broad daylight.

The last heifer turned around in the chute and ran back over the top of Miles…for the second time. He ran after her cursing and chased her back up the alley screaming and whackin’ at her with a flat stick. He reared back with his arm at a full gallop, just as Linda said, “What out for the …!” Miles hit the chain just about pencil pocket high. His feet shot straight out! His chin hooked the chain. He stopped short of makin’ a complete counter-clockwise revolution when gravity overcame velocity, and he dropped from the air like a hog carcass from a C47. Whop! The heifer whirled and galloped over him like a footlog.

Two years have passed. Miles still has good intentions but a lot of cows have passed under that chain since then. And every time he thinks about fixin’ it, somethin’ else comes up.

 

Baxter Black: Team Ropin’ Conversation

“There’s only one thing worse than eating next to a left-handed person, and that’s heading for him. It’s like trying to screw the male end of a garden hose into the matching threads on your stock tank drain,” so spoke Bob to Allen, two fair-to-middlin’ team ropers, both fives, in the prime of their addiction. The equivalent of two-pack-a-day ropers.

“Yeah, team ropin’s gone to hell,” answered Allen. “Used to be one guy had an arena and twelve guys came to his place to rope. You got in good practice, lots of pretty good ropers. It was a social occasion, too.

‘Nowdays, everybody’s got an arena and nobody comes. You have to rope with your wife and she’s learning to barrel race. Fair is fair, so now all my rope horses run barrels too. And of course, she isn’t interested in learning to heel, so you have to.”

“Right,” said Bob, “Denny Gentry ruined everything. USTRC has made team ropin’ so popular every horseshoer, ex-vet and dairyman thinks he’s Alan Bach.”

“I know,” said Allen, “It’s also attracted so many social ropers with money that I’m embarrassed to buy a new trailer. Used to be the best ropers pulled to ropin’s in their 12-year old stock trailer with recaps and rust holes for ventilation. There wasn’t enough money in ropin’ to cover the cost of gas.

“At ropin’s today there’s so many duallies and three-horse slants with dressing rooms, it looks like a Arab horse show. And the guy can’t even throw a rope!”

“I know what you mean,” said Bob, “I’ve got a motley handful that come to my arena. I get to head but it’s a rare occasion they ever catch. I’m always havin’ to offer constructive criticism or advice. It’s like a continuing team ropin’ clinic for the ability deprived. There’s only one left-handed guy that goes through horses like an Amish trader. He still thinks it’s the horse’s fault! But I’m lucky I’ve still got a few traditional heelers that come by. You know, fresh divorced, ridin’ a horse that’s for sale and pullin’ a ‘92 Hale two-horse rig. A real roper that gets there after you’ve wrapped the hons and drinks your beer. But at least I feel like I’m practicin’ ropin’ and not just practicin’ practicin’.”

“Yeah, they’re in demand,” sighed Allen.

Bob continued, “I’ve even fenced off an area in the arena for kids. Swing set, ropin’ dummy and park bench with some shade. Sort of day care when they have the kids on weekends.”

“Day care…I like that,” mused Allen.

“Yup,” said Bob, “If you’re gonna have your own arena you gotta learn to compete.”

 

Baxter Black: All Ranch Rodeo

“Twas a matchup made in Elko for the cowboys in the know

Called the Rough and Ready Knock Down Finals All Ranch Rodeo.

Now the Texans entered up a team they thought could never lose

When they bet their reps against the Jordan Valley Buckaroos.

You could tell from where they hailed if you put ’em up for bids,

All the buckaroos wore fancy scarves and Amish lookin’ lids

While the Texans wore their jackets for the brush down in the draws

And them twenty dollar roll-yer-own, cheap Guatemalan straws.

It was Blucher versus Leddy, it was leggin’s versus chinks

It was rye versus tequila, it was leppies versus dinks,

It was sagebrush versus cactus, it was ear tick versus fly,

It was Poco Bueno versus sloggers raised on alkali.

The Texans took an early lead, at ropin’ showed their stuff,

But the buckin’ horse fandango showed the buckaroos were tough.

They branded in a dead heat, but in deference to the crowd

Each side was harshly penalized for cussin’ so dang loud.

So the teams were standin’ even when the final contest came,

UNTAMED UNGULATE EXTRACTION, wild cow milkin’, by name.

They loosed the beasts together, left their calves to bawl and mill

And the two teams fell upon ’em like hyenas on a kill.

The buckaroo a’horseback threw his forty-footer right.

He dallied just about the time the Texan’s rope came tight.

Their trajectories collided in a bawlin’, buckin’ wreck,

The ropes and cows got tangled and they wound up neck to neck.

In the meantime two big muggers plus two others brave and bold

Attacked the knot of thrashing hide and tried to get ahold

Of somethin’, hoof or horn or foot or spur or can of snoose.

Then, by accident some dummy turned the bawlin’ calves a’loose!

There was hair and teeth and eyeballs in the picture now and then,

There was moustache lips and swingin’ bags, some thought they saw a hen

Flashin’ briefly through the dust cloud. Wild images remain;

A painting done in cow manure, a mating sandhill crane.

To describe the cataclysm would create an overload,

But a photograph was taken and this is what it showed;

At the summit pointed skyward were the Texas mugger’s toes,

One arm around a buckaroo, his fingers up his nose,

Who, in turn was mounted sideways splayed acrost a bally black

Who was layin’ on a milker who was smashed flat on his back.

The braymer cow was balanced on her head amidst the jag,

While the Texan fought her baby for possession of the bag.

From the cyclone flew two milkers, bottles high for all to see

Like two winos at a party where the wine and cheese was free.

The buckaroo’s hind leg was draggin’ like he’d lost the farm.

But he kept his place by clingin’ to the Texan’s broken arm.

When they fell across the finish line and tumbled in the dirt

The judge declared the buckaroo the winner by a squirt.

Since the race looked pert near even, the judge said with a shrug,

“The winner is the cowboy with the most milk in his jug!”

“I object!” cried out the Texan, “Our ol’ cow just had three tits!”

“That’s a handicap,” the judge said, “I admit it’s sure the pits,

But in fairness to the buckaroo who dallys for his kicks

If you added all his fingers, he could barely count to six!”

 

Baxter Black: The Dreaded Blue Box

I had just finished loading 184 seven-foot steel T-posts, old ones, by the way, in my pickup and was unloading a mere 24 bales of hay from the front section of my gooseneck stock trailer. It was a hot, humid afternoon in early fall when the dead braches begin to stick out of the cottonwood greenery, and the garden starts goin’ to heck and no one cares. I could almost smell the cumin from Ramon’s #6 Combination Plate being distilled in my sweat from lunch earlier. Then I saw the blue box.

The dreaded blue box. It was still in the stock trailer. It needed to be moved.

The blue box is a metal toolbox I have had since I bought my first set of “made in America” sidecutters, thinking they would last longer. I have now realized that all sidecutters have the sharpness longevity of fresh fruit. They should be thrown out about as often as you empty the trash barrel in the shop.

Anyway, over the years, the blue box has become my chain holder. It will hold four or five good log chains. I have always said that a hundred pounds of salt weighs more than a hundred pounds of anything else. But a 10 by 10 by 18-inch metal tool box full of log chains is harder to carry than a sheet of plywood in a hurricane.

There are other things that can stimulate a similar sinking feeling, e.g., the same cow prolapsing for the third time, somebody commenting that my horse seems to be favoring his left front or the phone ringing in the deep of night.

I don’t know exactly what it is about the old blue tool box that I dread. I’ve heaved it, moved it, loaded it, dropped it, pushed it and cussed it through a lifetime succession of jobs and homes, horses, and kids, and ups and downs.

Maybe it’s not because it’s heavier than God’s own anvil, clumsier than an ostrich in a Porta Potty or uglier than a ’58 Buick. No, maybe it’s because I realize it’s gonna outlive me by a long time. By its earthly clock, I’m just a temporary passerby, while it will still be here when men are walking on Pluto.

I have thoughts of storing my chains in a gunny sack, takin’ the ole tool box to the dump and reestablishing the peckin’ order in my life. But everytime I get as far as step one, I see it layin’ there like a concrete loaf of bread, like a 200-pound rattlesnake, and the dread sweeps over me in a wave.

So, I let it lay or move it if I have to. I’ve come to realize there are some things you just can’t do anything about.

 

Baxter Black: Boot Camp

Do you ever give much thought to where your weaner steers and heifers go when you load’em on the truck or take’m to the sale?

You think maybe it’s like goin’ off to college? Stay in the dormitory, have a nice roommate who doesn’t bawl or stay up all night talking about the cute Charolais they met in the cafeteria.

Maybe join a fraternity or sorority, Milka Dama Cow. Play intramural head butting, horn wrestling or pin the tail on the Holstein? They can learn a foreign language like Corriente, Water Buffalo or Emu. And eventually graduate Phi Beta Moo and go on to Hi Concentrate Feedlot Graduate School eventually attaining a Ph D in Hi Choice. Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? Just like you imagine for your own kid going off to college. But the feedlot hands are reading this dreamy scenario like a drill sergeant listening to an Army recruiting ad; “Be all that you can be.”

A growing yard or feedlot is more like boot camp. No hallowed halls of ivy here. Does the name Powder River, WW or Bowman ring a bell? Indoctrination for recruits involves standing in line for hours, being shouted at and vaccinated for things you can’t pronounce. Sound familiar? The intimate dormitory sleeps 260.

Courses studied include Feed Ingredient Identification, Cowboy Outer Wear, Mud 101 and 102, and Hot Shot Evasion. Sports that are available for participation are Intramural Pneumonia, Find the Water Tank, Coughing Practice and Long Distance Diarrhea.

Within a month the successful recruits are moved up to a better class of grub from the mess hall kitchen and are left alone. So when you watch yer little weaners scamper on the truck with the untroubled mind of a high school graduate, remember their next few weeks are not gonna be easy.

But you can be comforted in the fact that almost all of them will get through boot camp and most of them will achieve knighthood; as in Sir Loin.

Whereas the most a weaner chicken can hope for is colonel.

 

Baxter Black: Deer Hunting Cow Lick

I’ve got a mule deer hangin’ on my wall from northern New Mexico so I could relate to Rafael’s story.

He had joined two of his cousins for a deer hunting trip near Cuba, NM where his uncle had a cabin. They arrived late and missed the first day because cousin Dee Dee was going through changes in her life. To be fair, Dee Dee was a good hunter so her ditsy behavior was unexpected.

Rafael had agreed to guide, cook and pack. He was up at 5 am getting the cook stove ready, the firewood gathered and making a racket. By 5:30 he could hear Dee Dee getting ready. A waft of something floral floated from her room. A sugary sweet lilac scent filled the cabin and made his coffee taste funny!

“What the heck are you doing?” he asked.

“Putting on lotion,” she answered. “Women of a certain age need to protect their skin.”

He knew she was recently divorced and maybe she was trying to be more desirable. That could explain her mood swings. He tried to be understanding.

They left the cabin at 6:30 am. Rafael knew the better hunting areas, so he led. In his backpack he stuck in a bottle of water, a skinning knife, twine and trail mix for himself. The rest of his backpack carried her essentials; Sugarless Gatorade, cookies, sardines, crackers, smoked oysters, aspirin, Alka-Seltzer, toothpaste, toothbrush, energy bars, peanut butter, hair brush, half a cantaloupe, matches, Steno, clean T-shirt and socks, binoculars, extra ammo, GPS, 2-way radio and TP. All this in spite of the fact that he had casually reminded her that they planned to be back to the cabin by Beer:30.

By 10 am they had picked a blind along a well-traveled trail. In a short time they heard a small herd of cows coming their way. They had been handled and were not spooked by the humans. Bringin’ up drag was a big red-brown Beef Master bull. He sniffed the air and cautiously walked toward our hunters. Dee Dee got itchy.

“Just don’t move,” whispered Rafael, “Don’t be aggressive and he won’t hurt you.”

They stood like Easter Island statues as Big Red walked up to Rafael and took a mighty whiff! Then he stepped to Dee Dee. “Hold still,” she heard Rafael say. She froze in fear, her eyeballs about to pop out. Big Red stretched out his huge neck, ran out his big ol’ slobbery tongue and licked Dee Dee across the mouth!

Epilogue: The bull ran over Rafael trying to escape Dee Dee’s screaming! Rafael went down, smashing the cantaloupe in his backpack trying to escape! And Dee Dee hung her pant leg upside down on a barb wire fence trying to get away! Finally they managed to evade a swarm of bees by dousing Dee Dee with toothpaste and the sugarless Gatorade mix. It came off like stucco.