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Entries in Baxter Black (1)


Cowboy Poetry & The Texas Two-Step

Just ask anyone wearing mustache wax at Elko's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and he (or she) will tell you: Cowboy poetry has the same rhythm as the Texas Two-Step.

Fast-fast, slow, slow. 
Fast-fast, slow, slow. 

The basic building block of the Texas Two-Step is a walk—forward if you’re a man, backward if your a woman:

Left-right, left, right.
Fast-fast, slow, slow. 

The dancing couple can then add any number of spins, turns, sashays and promenades, like two hearts beating together, then apart:

Fast-fast, slow, slow. Fast-fast, slow, slow.
Together, then apart. Together, then apart.

Here’s that same two-step rhythm coming through in the poem “Working For Wages,” by cowboy Baxter Black:

I’ve worked for wages all my life, watchin’ other people’s stock
And the outfits I hired on to, didn’t make you punch a clock.

Let you work until you finished! Like the feedlots in the fall,
When they roll them calves in on ya, they’d jis’ walk the fence and bawl. 

We’d check the pens and pull the sick and push and treat and ride
Then process new arrivals that kept comin’ like the tide.

And I’ve calved a lot of heifers, though it’s miserable sometime,
It’s somehtin’ that I’m good at, and it’s like she’s sorta mine. 

She knows I ain’t the owner, but we’re not into protocol.
She’s a cow and I’m a cowboy, and I guess that says it all... 

Got no truck with politicians who whine and criticize
‘Bout corporate agribusiness, I guess they don’t realize

Somebody’s gotta own ‘em that can pay the entry fee!
Why, who they think puts up the dough to hire ol’ boys like me? 

Oh, I bought a couple heifers once, maybe fifteen years ago.
I held ‘em through a calving, then I had to let them go

‘Cause all I did was worry ‘bout how to pay the bills.
Took the fun outta cow punchin’, I don’t need them kinda thrills.

Though I wouldn’t mind a-ownin’ me a little hideaway
So when some outfit laid me off, I’d have a place to stay. 

But I figger I’m jis’ lucky to be satisfied at heart
That I’m doin’ what I’m good at, and I’m playin’ a small part 

In a world that’s complicated where the bosses fight it out
With computers and consultants and their counterparts with clout. 

They’re so busy bein’ bosses, they’ve no time to spare somehow,
So they have to hire someone like me to go out and punch their cow.

From Lessons from a Desperado Poet, Baxter Black, TwoDot Globe Pequot Press, 2011.