On the edge of common sense by Baxter Black: Coffee shop experts in small towns | TSLN.com

On the edge of common sense by Baxter Black: Coffee shop experts in small towns

Visit any café or machine shop in any small town in rural America. The first topic of conversation is the weather. It has to be discussed, cussed, praised and pounded thoroughly before any other subject is taken up.

It is followed by the market; the price of soybeans, grain, cattle, hogs or the price of tea in China. Then, usually politics, sports and local gossip.

I’ve been in a million of these conversations. Everyone has an opinion and we’re quite willing to share it. It takes a little time to hear everybody out but it’s worth it as long as we can get in our two cents worth. But I’ve noticed that farmers and ranchers are a little like vets and lawyers when we get down to talkin’ about our own business. Or talkin’ about parting with some of our own money. It’s harder to get a straight answer. Suddenly our opinions are built on shifting sand.

“Doc, will this medicine work as well as you said at the meeting?”

“Uh, it should help.”


“Henry, you always said you believed in worming your stock.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know it cost that much.”

Strangely enough, when we’re discussing the neighbor’s problems in the comfort of the coffee shop, there’s no lack of helpful opinions forthcoming. Or when outlining some new wonder drug at the county cattlemen’s meeting, we speak with evangelistic conviction. But when we get down to makin’ the decisions involving our own operation, our confidence gets weak in the knees.

It’s easy to be an expert if you don’t have to stay and clean up the mess. Anyone can make recommendations if you don’t have to be responsible for the results. College professors, columnists and show ring judges start a lot of things other people have to finish.

But nobody is better at givin’ advice than a bunch of fellers sittin’ around a table drinkin’ coffee. We have opinions on how the neighbor should work his cows, how the president should run the country, how the widow should raise her kids and how the coach should handle the team. Yep, we have all the answers.

Too bad no one ever asks us.