Thank you, Baxter

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Baxter Black
Submitted photo.

I’d just settled down in my easy chair with a diet Dr. Pepper and half a dozen peanut butter cookies when the phone rang. Kent Newton, director of the Bear Creek Cowboy Poetry Night, offered me an invitation to participate with the cowboy poets at their annual event.  

After saying yes and putting the phone down, I felt like throwing up. I had never participated in an event like that. I almost called Kent back, but then I had an idea. The idea was a long shot, and something I never thought would happen.

I waited a day, put together some thoughts, and a plea for help and emailed Baxter Black. I didn’t know Baxter and assumed I’d never hear back from him. But, 2 minutes after sending the email, I received an answer from Baxter. He wanted my phone number so he could call me.

That day was the first time I experienced the measure of this man. Baxter didn’t know me. I was a total stranger, yet for the next full hour, he asked questions about my life to get to know me. I was pleased to hear him tell of his life becoming a veterinarian, then later an entertainer. 

His advice was stellar. “Never cuss in your poetry or when presenting orally. It makes you sound like you’re trying to be a tough guy.” 

He said, “Always be respectful to your audience whether it be a reader or face to face.” He went on to say, “If you accept an appointment to an event, no matter what, be there and be there early.”

He asked me, “Have you ever heard of Banjo Paterson?” I told him no and then he proceeded to tell me that Banjo Paterson was author of the poem, A Man from Snowy River. 

Baxter asked me to spend some time reading the poem and to notice the perfect rhythm and rhyme that Banjo had so eloquently written. He then challenged me to also use Banjo’s perfection of rhythm and rhyme in all my cowboy, country poems. I have tried ever since.

I will never forget the last few words he said to me that day. “So, you say you’ve never participated at a cowboy poetry event?” 

I answered, “Not one.” 

And then he said, “And you are fairly new to writing and publishing your work?” 

I had to answer, “Yup.” 

Chuckling, he came back with, “You’re already at the bottom. You’ve got no where to go but up.” 

I appreciated his humor. As we ended our telephone conversation he said, “Bryce, you can do this.”

I believed him.

Baxter, with the remote chance you might be listening, I just want to say, “Thank you for heading me in the right direction.” 

Baxter Black passed away June 10, 2022.

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Bryce Angell’s father was an outfitter and guide for 35 years, and Bryce was there to shoe and care for the horses and help him do the cooking. Bryce is from Idaho and still rides into the Tetons, Yellowstone and surrounding areas. His poems are mostly of personal experience.

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