Brushes with fame
Baxter Black, DVM
Over the years I have gotten to know, or meet or hang out with, what I call “famous people.” From movie stars, politicians, world champions, athletes, writers and moguls. Often it was just circumstance. Other times it was an intentional connection. Like being invited to be on ABC’s first Dolly Parton Show. What I remember is how small she was in person and how she could play guitar with such long fingernails. She was also very kind to Little Richard, who couldn’t get his song right after 25 takes!
Or when I sent the manuscript of my first novel, “Hey Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?” to five authors I most admired’ Tom Robbins, Thomas McGuane, Hunter S. Thompson, Dan Jenkins and John Nichols. I didn’t realize the disposition of unsolicited manuscripts… the trash can! But… Tom Robbins (“Even Cowgirls Get The Blues”) wrote me back, quoted me to myself and gave me his agent!
I took a shot in the dark and gave the Sunbeam Clipper salesman a cassette of songs I’d written because he claimed he knew Lynn Anderson. Months later, Red Steagall… the real Red Steagall, called me and said he liked one of my songs. He didn’t know about Lynn Anderson but he said the Sunbeam clipper salesman gave it to him. Red has become one of my best friends. He introduced me to Reba McEntire when she was driving a Chevy van with a pick-up band. They did a show together in the Fort Worth Stockyard. I held her horse. Jack, Red’s bus driver, got to hold Red’s horse. Jack claimed to be the cowboy in Gordon Snidow’s Coors painting. Gordon denied it.
Ed Bruce (wrote “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys”), took pity on me. He got me on the Ralph Emery Show. After the show we went to dinner. They asked if there’s anything else that could make it better. I said it would be nice if somebody famous would record one of my songs. His wife said, “Every poet thinks he’s a songwriter, every songwriter thinks he’s a singer, every singer thinks he’s an actor… why can’t you just be happy with what you’re good at?”
I walked into a restaurant in Denver, and saw Denny Gentry, the man who literally made team roping the most popular rodeo sport in the world! He drew out his plan for the USTRC on an envelope. “Whattya think?” he asked. I said that I didn’t think any two team ropers could ever agree on something that good and walked off. He sold it for multiple millions 20 years later.
So… when Patrick Gottsch (inventor of the RFDtv empire) called me up and described his vision for an all agriculture/rural television network, I listened. He told me what he needed from me. I asked if this was a payin’ job. He said, “No, but it will be good for your career!” I said, “Sign me up.” RFDtv has changed agricultural marketing and become the “party line” for ag neighbors across the country and I’m a part of it!
Walt Garrison, Dallas Cowboy professional football player and rodeo champion, does my poetry. According to his daughter, Slim Pickens reads my column, Ty Murray did one of my poems at Freckles Brown’s funeral, former Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., read one into the Congressional Record, former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., asked me to do public service spots after the blizzard of ’97.
I’ve changed John Malone’s tire on his ranch in Raton, N.Mex. He’s the biggest landholder in the U.S., I made Johnny Carson laugh, roped with Fred Whitfield (he laughed!), I get my blood sugar evaluations from Wilfred Brimley, I’ve traded horses with Larry Mahan, been recorded by Ian Tyson, been quoted by Sandra Day O’Connor, Paul Harvey and Charles Krauthamer (in his last book) and shared a champagne glass with Casey Tibbs sittin’ by a campfire at two o’clock in the morning… just me and him.
Thos of you who have watched the movie “Forrest Gump” remember him as a just a regular guy who seemed to pop up in photos with presidents, performers and kings at hangings, earthquakes and county fairs. I really liked that movie, I can relate to ol’ Forrest. ❖