Baxter Black: A Letter from Alf
On the Edge of Common Sense
Dear Carol and Grahame,
I’m writing in behalf of a mutual friend, Alf, who spoke highly of you. You know him as a banker, land baron and intellectual. I knew him in college as a struggling, cynical, stubborn hayseed who was very thrifty. He would go home on the holidays to get his clothes washed. He only owned two pair of jeans and would wear the same shirt all week, then patch it on weekends. He was constantly borrowing my truck, my frying pan, my overshoes and my typewriter. I didn’t mind. He was a friend, though I didn’t know at the time how good a friend he thought I was. To his credit he was a hard worker and became a good roper. Of course, he borrowed my horse, my saddle, my rope and my trailer which he pulled to ropings with my truck which he often kept in his driveway.
Years went by and we stayed in touch. He became a successful businessman lending money to desperate paupers and charging usurious interest rates. He also had a towing company preying on highway breakdowns and prided himself in learning words like treatise, vacuity and salubrious. Then you came into his life. You took him in, fed him, bedded him down and treated him like a C+ student. He had never felt your kind of kindness, generosity and faith. He began to stick a tiptoe into feeding the hungry, contributing to cancer drives and filling up the tank after he’d borrowed your car. So when I invited him to my ranch to help us gather calves, he accepted. And unlike years past, he did not require I have an EMT ambulance on the scene, pay gas and transportation for his round trip or someone to saddle the horse I lent him. He still insisted on roping any slick calves we might find.
As I said, he was a fairly good roper and was helpful bringing in the cows. There was one slick in the bunch, a bramer-lookin’ red calf weighing 250 lbs. He needed bandin’ and cuttin’, I took Alf aside and told him this red calf is kinda bravo…spooky little booger and ran like a deer.
He looked at me with disdain, “I can do this, you know.” I shrugged, “Okay.”
Unfortunately he had lost his 60’ rope somewhere in the 12-section piece of mesquite and Lowell Lovegrass. I lent him a rope. He eased in the bunch. In a world of black cattle, the red calf stuck out. Now like I said, he used to be a good roper but he missed the first three tries. Then the second three tries. Then he dropped his rope. We thought for a minute he would pass the turn to one of the other cowboys. But he didn’t. It was only after seven more attempts, each accompanied by increasingly colorful language, that he dismounted and on foot began to stalk the red calf.
To his misfortune, he caught it! A figure eight around the neck and left leg. Alf took a quick wrap around his waist and braced himself. The calf was doing 35 mph when the slack ran out! Alf was airborne long enough to blow his hat off and lose one spur! To our amazement, after a sled run around the pen, the calf tangled in the line and crashed! The crew fell on the calf, subduing it while Alf spit, shook and scraped off the shrapnel that had attached itself to the shirt I had lent him. It…was…a…glorious…moment! We gave him a standing ovation, congratulating him on his skills and perseverance. He was glowing with pride.
That’s when he asked me if I’d write and tell you how much he loves you and maybe mention his cowboy prowess. So, Carol and Grahame, I can say, “Alfie loves you and every cowboy in the corral who watched him survive that splendid performance would agree, “By gosh, he’s still got what it takes!”