LEGACY OF THE RODEO MAN
by Baxter Black
There’s a hundred years of history and a hundred before that
All gathered in the thinkin’ goin’ on beneath his hat.
And back behind his eyeballs and pumpin’ through his veins
Is the ghost of every cowboy that ever held the reins.
Every coil in his lasso’s been thrown a million times
His quiet concentration’s been distilled through ancient minds.
It’s evolution workin’ when the silver scratches hide
And a ghostly cowboy chorus fills his head and says, “Let’s ride.”
The famous and the rowdy, the savage and the sane
The bluebloods and the hotbloods and the corriente strain
All knew his mother’s mothers or was his daddy’s kin
‘Til he’s nearly purely cowboy, born to ride and bred to win.
He’s got Buffalo Bill Cody and Goodnight’s jigger boss
And all the brave blue soldiers that General Custer lost
The ghost of Pancho Villa, Sittin’ Bull and Jessie James
All gathered by his campfire keepin’ score and takin’ names.
There’s every Royal Mountie that ever got his man
And every day-work cowboy that ever made a hand
Each man that’s rode before him, yup, every mother’s son
Is in his corner, rootin’, when he nods to make his run.
Freckles Brown might pull his bull rope, Casey Tibbs might jerk the
Bill Picket might be hazin’ when he starts to turn the crank.
Plus Remington and Russell lookin’ down his buckhorn sight
All watchin’ through the window of this cowboy’s eyes tonight.
And standin’ in the catch pen or in chute number nine
Is the offspring of a mountain that’s come down from olden time
A volcano waitin’ quiet, ’til they climb upon his back
Rumblin’ like the engine of a freight train on the track.
A cross between a she bear and a bad four wheel drive
With the fury of an eagle when it makes a power dive
A snake who’s lost its caution or a badger gone berserk
He’s a screamin’, stompin’, clawin’, rabid, mad dog piece o’ work.
From the rollers in his nostrils to the foam upon his lips
From the hooves as hard as granite to the horns with dagger tips
From the flat black starin’ shark’s eye that’s the mirror of his soul
Shines the challenge to each cowboy like the devil callin’ roll
In the seconds that tick slowly ’til he climbs upon his back
Each rider faces down the fear that makes his mouth go slack
And cuts his guts to ribbons and gives his tongue a coat
He swallows back the panic gorge that’s risin’ in his throat.
The smell of hot blue copper fills the air around his head
Then a single, solid, shiver shakes away the doubt and dread
The cold flame burns within him ’til his skin’s as cold as ice
And the dues he paid to get here are worth every sacrifice
All the miles spent sleepy drivin’, all the money down the drain
All the “if I’s” and the “nearly’s,” all the bandages and pain
All the female tears left dryin’, all the fever and the fight
Are just a small downpayment on the ride he makes tonight.
And his pardner in this madness that the cowboys call a game
Is a ton of buckin’ thunder bent on provin’ why he came
But the cowboy never wavers he intends to do his best
And of that widow maker he expects of him no less.
There’s a solemn silent moment that every rider knows
When time stops on a heartbeat like the earth itself was froze
Then all the ancient instinct fills the space between his ears
“Til the whispers of his phantoms are the only thing he hears
When you get down to the cuttin’ and the leather touches hide
And there’s nothin’ left to think about, he nods and says, “Outside!”
Then frozen for an instant against the open gate
Is hist’ry turned to flesh and blood, a warrior incarnate.
And while they pose like statues in that flicker of an eye
There’s somethin’ almost sacred, you can see it if you try.
It’s guts and love and glory—one mortal’s chance at fame
His legacy is rodeo and cowboy is his name.
“Turn ‘im out”
© 1986, Baxter Black
This often-requested poem was featured in the 1994 movie 8 Seconds, about the legendary Lane Frost (1963–1989). Frost was named PRCA World Champion Bull Rider at age 24 in 1987. In 1989 he died in the arena at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.
In the movie, the poem is called “Cowboy is His Name.” A site, which is no longer active, tells, “Near the end of the movie “8 Seconds,” Lane, Tuff and Cody are flying over the Cheyenne arena, and Cody reads a poem entitled ‘Cowboy is His Name.’ That poem is really a shortened version of the poem ‘Legacy of a Rodeo Man’ by Baxter Black.”
View an archived version of the site with the poems here.
Find articles here devoted to the life of Lane Frost, which were written on the 25th anniversary of his death in 2014.
Baxter Black’s official bio describes him as “a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses.” In the introduction to his recent book, Poems Worth Saving, which includes “Legacy of the Rodeo Man,” Baxter Black comments, “I have been blessed by the good Lord to live in the company of folks I admire and care about. People of the land, I give you my hand, you’re the salt of the Earth, Amen.”
This message comes from Baxter’s office, a policy announcement: “Since Baxter Black is no longer doing live performances, there are inquiries about others using his material in their performances. His policy is that anyone is welcome use his material in appropriate occasions, including non-profit or paid-for performances. He requests that the poems or stories be performed the way they are written, allowing for editing of length if needed. Please give the author credit.”
His office adds that no one, for any reason, has permission to include his work “on cds, books, or dvds…or to try to sell it in any manner, including online.”
This image, titled “Baxter Ahorseback,” by Vaughn Wilson, is courtesy of Baxter Black.
(Please respect copyright. You can share this poem with this post, but request permission for any other use—except recitation.)