Baxter Black: On the Edge of Common Sense 1-30-12
Cowboy poetry is one of my efforts. I do my best but sometimes when I am in the corn belt or entertaining the Western Pistachio Growers, I’m asked why I don’t do more farmer poetry? I try to explain to them that cowboy poetry is about wrecks – horse wrecks, cow wrecks, sheep wrecks, dog wrecks, financial wrecks, Tyrannosaurus wrecks, the never-ending wrecks.
For instance, when someone tells a story about a horse buckin’ over the haystack and dumping the cowboy into the pig pen, or a rancher missing a cow in the chute then getting run over while he’s trying to check her teeth, or the vet wrapping the calving chain over his wrist then looping the other end over the nearly-born calf’s feet followed by the inevitable escape, or the mama cow chasing the cowboy around the pickup and through the cab whilst he tries to ear tag said calf … everybody listening is laughing their heads off!
For some reason a cowboy getting bucked off or run over, plowed down, drug through the cattails, trampled, stomped or butted, is funny! I’m not sure why. I can think of two possible explanations; No. 1: The Cowboy Mentality and No. 2: the Cow herself.
The Cowboy Mentality is an attitude, a view of life, an ability to focus so intently on one thing that other parts of the picture are blocked out. Like he’s standing on a railroad track at night, concentrating on the headlamp so hard he does not see the locomotive behind it!
This tunnel vision Cowboy Mentality makes it feasible for cowboys to step right into an obvious trap that others would normally avoid. It often starts with the cowboy saying, “Whataya mean I can’t ride that horse?” or “Go ahead and let off on the squeeze, I think I can hold her!” or “Don’t worry, dogs really like me.”
Then you mix this mentality with No. 2, the Humble Cow. There is a fine line between the “Fight or Flight” behavioral mechanism in the bovine. But the cowboy always seems to be straddling the divide with a leg on either side when the cow makes her decision, Fight or Flight? Either way the cowboy gets run over so it all works out.
Thus, it’s the idea that one of God’s dumbest creatures seems to regularly outwit our cowboy Hero, and that makes it funny!
On the other hand, farmer wrecks are always about machinery. Hanging your Carhartt coverall sleeve in the PTO and being stripped naked in a nanosecond or getting run down by a robotic controlled chemical spraying drone, doesn’t really illicit large guffaws. So that’s why I don’t write more farmer poetry. Of course, there’s always the one about the farmer’s daughter!