Jan. 10, 1945 – June 10, 2022
On June 10, Baxter Ashby Black, large animal veterinarian, cowboy poet and philosopher, husband, father and papa rode his old horse on home. Just before sunrise on that day, Jesus signed on one more ol’ cowboy to ride the Golden Fields across the Jordan.
The iconic cowboy poet and storyteller had humble beginnings. He was born to Robert and Teddie Black at the Brooklyn Naval Hospital just before the end of World War II. He was the first of four brothers: Baxter, Bob, John and Stephen. The family traveled through West Virginia, Texas and ended up in Las Cruces, New Mexico where Baxter would call home. When Baxter was 15 his life changed dramatically as his father passed away unexpectedly and he became the man of the house. All while doing his part for the family, he continued to play the guitar among many other things but he always went to church on Sunday.
He made his first attempt at writing in high school where , as he would recall, “I wrote something religious I think…” His teacher’s encouragement, after marking an F the size of Texas in red on the paper, was, “Baxter, write about what you know.”
At college his decision to apply for veterinary school came when he realized that no matter what came about he could always “fix your cow.” Baxter graduated from veterinary school in 1969 and eventually ended up in Idaho working as the company vet for the J.R. Simplot company. It was while out there driving around and talking to the old cowboys that his storytelling started to take root. He found that he could take a cowboy’s story, write a poem about it, tell it back to them and they loved it. In 1980 he ended up in Denver as the troubleshooting vet for a pharmaceutical company. Baxter’s reputation as an entertainer spread, and the requests for his brand of poignant and humorous programs allowed him to transition from part-time cowboy poet to full-time cowboy entertainer.
Shortly after forming the Coyote Cowboy Company, he married Cindy Lou and they had a daughter Jennifer, and a decade later a son Guy. They moved to Arizona.
Over his 40-year career, Baxter wrote about what he knew: cowboys, cowgirls, rodeo, cattle, horses and ranch life. He wrote with a flair that still captures the imaginations of everyone who reads his stories today. He spoke throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. His column was printed in over 130 newspapers, including the Malheur Enterprise, and his radio program was on 150 stations through the years. He sold over 2 million copies of his books, CDs and DVDs. He was a regular commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition for 20 years.
He lived his life guided by a simple faith in Jesus and his admonishment to, “Love God, practice forgiveness and mercy to all who offend, and to care for the least of these.” No one was a stranger to Baxter, whether you sat next to him on the airplane for 30 minutes or knew him for decades.
Something that Baxter would always say after getting home from one of his frequent trips seems profoundly fitting for his journey through this life. Should Jesus look at him and say, “How’d it go?” it is easy to imagine Baxter, with a beaming smile shining out from under his mustache saying, “Lord, I made ‘em laugh, and that’s all that matters.”
Baxter is survived by his wife of 39 years, Cindy Lou Black; daughter Jennifer (Will) Cubbage and children William and Savannah; son Guy (Jessica) Black and children Gwendolyn and Magnolia; brothers, Bob and Steve; and his dogs, Solomon and Rudy.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the J. F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center, 26284 Oso Road, San Juan Capistrano, California 92675; Canine Companions, 2965 Dutton Ave, Santa Rosa, California 95407 or to a favorite charity of your choice.