Hayden Hundreds of fairgoers in Hayden were bent over in gut-busting laughter Thursday night as cowboy poet Baxter Black danced about the stage at the fairgrounds, reciting clever quips that cut to the heart of life in Routt County.
"I was in rodeo and used to ride bulls 'til my brains came in," he told the audience. "My bull-riding buddy told me I had to practice to be any good and I said, 'practice?' Oh that makes a lot of sense. I'm going to get in a train wreck tomorrow so I better practice today to make sure I wreck tomorrow."
"This is really wonderful," Steamboat's Dave Schulz chuckled. "He's great I've been reading his poetry for years but it really comes alive when he's in front of you moving around."
In addition to rhyming his way through some of agriculture's most painful and humorous shared experiences, Black acted out his words of a cow driving a truck, a groom passing out at his wedding and audience members will never forget this one a veterinarian fixing a bovine's uterine prolapse. The lattermost scenario had ranchers and their families stamping their feet, holding their aching sides and laughing and breathing in fits and starts.
Fourth-generation Steamboat Springs native Wayne More said you really need to have some kind of agricultural background to appreciate Black's jokes, but as Black said, it's the truth in his humor that makes the stories funny, and there wasn't a single unsmiling mouth in the grandstands.
"I knew there'd be a lot of people here," More said. "I've been reading Baxter Black's poetry for years, and as soon as I heard he was coming here I thought, 'I'm there!'"
Black's antics and stories weren't all meant to be funny. When he shared his thoughts on marriage between an "otherwise sensitive, intelligent and normal woman" to "people like us" (i.e. cowboys), couples of all ages throughout the bleachers glanced knowingly at each other, or quickly kissed and squeezed hands.
Black also asked the audience to indulge him as he shared a poem about wildfires spreading through the West, which he dedicated to all the firefighters who battle the flames, now and in the past.
"The fair allows urban people to be a part of us and get a glimpse of our lives," he said, thoughtfully reflecting on the barn-animal music reaching the ears of the audience. "They're good people without a grandpa's farm to go visit. And that's sad. This gives us a chance to put our best foot forward. However, I give you this word of warning, every now and then when I'm talking to one of those city folk, their eyes glaze over and they begin to drift. It's because I've started using cowboy language and the cowboy meaning of a word differs from the normal meaning of word, which can get a fellow into trouble I'll give you the example of the word 'oyster'"
But Black's mastery of double meanings, his laughable lingo and play on language didn't get him in any trouble last night they got him a standing ovation and long lines of autograph-hungry fairgoers.
To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org