by Baxter Black
They don’t call it Death Valley for nuthin’
And coyotes don’t make a good pet
But livin’ out here with the griz and the deer
you pretty much take what you get
And the Rockies have shoulders like granite
They’re big and they make their own rules
So take what you need but you better pay heed
‘Cause the mountain don’t tolerate fools
And the wind is the moan of the prairie
That haunts and bedevils the plains
The soul stealin’ kind that can fray a man’s mind
Till only his whimper remains
You can stand in the canyon’s cathedral
Where water and sky never rest
And you know in your bones that the meek, on their own
Will never inherit the West
It’s wild and it’s wide and it’s lonesome
Where the dream of first blood still survives
And it beckons to those who can bid adios
To the comfort of 8 to 5 lives
So come all you brave caballeros
Cinch up and reach down inside
Till you feel the heat, then take a deep seat
‘Cause the West, boys, she ain’t broke to ride
© Baxter Black, used with permission
We could think of no better poet to launch the 18th annual Cowboy Poetry Week with than Baxter Black, who put cowboy poetry on the map.
In his official bio, where he is described as “a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses,” he comments, “My audience is my inspiration. Every cowboy, rancher, vet, farmer, feed salesman, ag teacher, cowman and rodeo hand has a story to tell, and they tell it to me. I Baxterize it and tell it back to ‘em! It doesn’t seem fair, does it?”
He recites Bruce Kiskaddon’s “They Can Take It” on the new MASTERS: VOLUME THREE CD from CowboyPoetry.com.
Find more about Cowboy Poetry Week here.
Last year, Baxter asked us to relay this message, 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 version of “The West” comes from Poems Worth Saving, Baxter Black’s 2013 collection of 164 poems and stories.
This photograph 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. You can share this photo with this post, but any other use requires permission.)