Baxter Black: Another Good Man Gone
I had just finished bein’ on an Extension program in the Herington, KS sale barn. I was standin’ in the auction ring afterwards tryin’ to answer a few questions and shake hands with the local stockman. My veterinary lecture, as usual, had been more humorous than informative.
One older gentleman waited ‘til the last question had been asked then he approached me and offered his hand. I didn’t catch his name. He was wearin’ thick glasses. He reached into his shirt pocket and handed me a Polaroid snapshot of a cowdog settin’ in the back of an ol’ Chevy pickup. “Go git in the pickup!” he said, an obvious reference to one of my stories. He laughed and wandered off.
A while later I wrote of meetin’ him and of the snapshot. I was tryin’ to explain why I enjoy makin’ up poems and columns about people in our way of life. That ol’ man, I said, was the reason I did it.
One day I got a letter from a lady who had read my story and she said that ol’ man was her dad. He and I struck up a friendship. We wrote occasional letters. He’d send me photos of his horse and grandkids. We’d visit on the phone. He’d talk about the old days. He’d cowboy’d all his life and still helped on local gathers or checked pastures sometimes. He was in his 80’s.
His health started slippin’, so I went to see him. We had a good visit. Before I left he gave me a photo of Bill Pickett doggin’ a steer. He took it off his kitchen wall. He claimed he’d seen Bill do his stuff. His wife gave me a wooden hot pad. She picked it right off the kitchen table and gave it to me.
His wife died. He sorta lost interest in things. We talked on the phone infrequently. He went into a nursing home. The last time I called him, he was in and out of reality. He was ready, he said. He missed his wife terribly. He became incoherent.
“Call my daughter,” he said, “She’ll tell ya how I am.” I told him I’d rather talk to him if I could.
“I’m not doin’ good in the last stages,” he said. Then his voice got strong as a bell and he said, “One of these days I’ll be lookin’ for that ol’ black dog up in the white clouds.” Then the nurse came on and said he couldn’t talk anymore.
He died two days later. A good man. Just one of us who rode good horses, loved a good women and was true to his friends.
Too bad he can’t send me a snapshot from Heaven. ‘Course, I guess I don’t need one. He already told me what it would be like.