Baxter Black, DVM
It could only happen to a cowboy.
Thurman had established himself as a figure of some note in the Corriente Association. The association had developed over the years into a successful representative of livestock people dedicated to breeding and supplying roping steers. The Corriente breeders in the northwest were gearing up for their big regional meeting in Prineville, Ore. Being a national officer, Thurman was asked to attend and was given dignitary status.
In preparation for the auction fundraiser to be held at the gala on the final night, members brought items to sell.
Jim, a California Corriente man, brought a big painting. As he scanned the other auction items he began to doubt the worthiness of his contribution. He asked Thurman’s opinion.
Thurman looked at the tall 3 foot by 2 foot drawing. It was framed with simple, yet sturdy 1×2 lathe. A large paint horse was bucking against a desert and mountain backdrop. With no criticism implied, it was obvious that anatomy had not been the artist’s college major. ‘Course that didn’t make Picasso all bad either. Onboard the bucker sat a big-hatted, moustachioed cowboy, chaps flying, spurs flashing and a nose that cleaved the air like an ice breaker in Hudson Bay. The saddle and gear was intricately carved. The curled rattlesnake was detailed down to the papilla on his flickering tongue.
Thurman stood back… overwhelmed, as Jim explained it had been drawn by an inmate at the state prison. “All done in ballpoint,” offered Jim hopefully.
“Jim,” said Thurman, “I’m no art critic, but it’s beautiful. I’d love to have it myself, but I’ll bet it’ll top the sale!” Jim beamed.
At the auction that night things were sellin’ wildly. A cassette brought $180. A little statue brought $350. Thurman was helping at the auction table. He personally carried Jim’s picture to the front.
“Friends,” he said, “This spectacular hand-done original drawing in ballpoint donated by Jim is gonna be the catch of the day. It’s a treasure worthy of great museums, historic bar walls and unfinished tackrooms. Look at the detail, the contrast, the poetry in motion harkening back to our forefathers and their foremothers before them. It will be the purchase of a lifetime!”
The crowd looked at Thurman in a new light.
“Matter of fact,” he continued, “I’m gonna start the bidding at $125.”
Jim was overcome. Admiration for Thurman swelled within him. He rose and walked to the front.
“Ladies and gentlemen, our friend Thurman has done so much for us and although there is no way we can properly repay him, I suggest we stop the bidding right here and let Thurman have it!”
A standing ovation followed. Thurman smiled like a sick dog and rapidly inventoried his airplane ticket home and the $132 in his pocket.
(P.S. It cost him $5 to package it for the plane ride home. He had coffee and a Twinkie and spent that night at the airport parking lot in his rent car. The picture now hangs on Thurman’s wall as a reminder.) ❖