Baxter Black: Master of none

Baxter Black, DVM

It helps to know a little about a lot of things. It gives you a broad perspective. It also allows you to make a fool of yourself in many different areas! In my column readers may notice that I appear to have an opinion on almost everything in agriculture. It might impress some, but real authorities in certain areas can easily see how thin my expertise is spread.

For instance, I worked in a sheep Parasitology Lab during ag school. I tell people casually that I helped work out the life cycles of Thysanosoma actinoides, Stephanofilaria tylisi, and Elophora schneideri. What I really did was hold the sheep, recover their intestinal contents at the slaughter house, and butcher the controls for the Home of the Good Shepherd orphanage.

I can dazzle people with my savvy of the anatomy of the hippopotamus, rhinoceros, blue whale, giraffe and elephant. I spent many weeks preparing my senior Vet School thesis titled, The Anatomy of Five Non-Domestic Mammals. I charged on regardless of the threat by the Board of Faculty Clinicians that if I chose such a frivolous subject they would give me a D. At that stage of my vet school education, I was no longer afraid of a D!

I started working in the feedlots as a summer vet student. Over three years and three different feedlots, I must have necropsied 300 head of dead beasts in my search for knowledge. Two of the summers I lived in poor accommodations, one with no running water. Apparently, I exuded the aroma of a rendering plant. At the Wednesday night church service, the bar after work, and the rare lunch invitation, I was treated like a wet dog! I always thought it was my accent, or my odd habit of describing infected lungs, abscessed livers or acidotic rumen contents.

Early in my veterinary career, I had occasion to amputate the hind leg of a 500-pound steer. With help, I got him down and restrained. I draped the area, scrubbed it, put on my latex gloves and made a bold incision. Simultaneously, the cowboy crew ran 40 head of 1,200-pound fat steers down the alley just across the fence from my surgical theater! It looked like pictures of western Kansas during the Dust Bowl! I lay down over the operation site as the thundering herd passed less than 4 feet from my head!

My horse training knowledge can be summed up by my method of preventing my heeling horse from swinging out too far to the right as I turn to throw my heel loop. My horse is on the right side of the steer’s hip because I am left-handed. Which, according to most team ropers, is a sign of the devil. I thought by covering my horse’s right eye, it would prevent his turning out. For months I used this method. However, to some it appeared foolish. See, to cover that eye, I used one half of a bikini top!

I have long experience with constipated Dachshunds, wounded cowboys, bad musical instruments, voracious squeeze chutes, ungracious bartenders, Indian bucking horses, poopy baby calves, Holstein cows that won’t breed back, biting dogs, yowling cats, split rims that do bite back, Boone & Crockett Mule Deer bucks that escape, and University faculty boards that try to intimidate me with a D.

Yes, it helps to know a little about a lot of things… sometimes.