The newspaper photo showed them leaning into the harmony like four caroling coyotes! The caption named the pickers and said they were members of a new country singing group. It announced that they would be playing at the Dairy Queen on Thursday. The owner explained that the Troubadours would be appearing at the restaurant for a while, playing for hamburgers and exposure.

It ain’t easy to get into show business! It’s a long way from Monte Vista, Yreba or Blue Earth to Nashville.

Music has always been a part of my life. My family emigrated to Oklahoma from Texas. Grandpa played old-time fiddle. He taught his kids. I’ve been seconding good musicians as long as I can remember.

And it’s still goin’ on! I married into a nest of Okies who play the same good music I grew up on. They sing and play and let me hammer and pound along behind ‘em. I’ve never really minded playin’ second fiddle. You can’t be good at everything. But there was a time when I shined!

Workin’ cows in the fall is somethin’ I’ve always enjoyed. Some of these ranches I worked were a hundred miles from a K-Mart! It might take several days to preg check 2,000 head so when I showed up I’d take my guitar. There weren’t VCR’s and satellite dishes in the old days. I was a welcome diversion.

After a day’s work we’d clean up, have supper and then make music and tell stories in the cookhouse. Sometimes there’d be a cowboy who could sing or a day work uranium miner who’d played the mandolin. We had a high ol’ time every night!

Now days I’ve gotten to know folks like Ed Bruce, Red Steagall, Michael Martin Murphy, Charlie Daniels, Reba McEntire, Larry Gatlin, Riders in the Sky, Mo Bandy, Vince Gill, Chris LeDoux and other, not quite so famous but just as talented. I admire their ability but I don’t envy it. Even if I’d had a portion of their gift and ambition, I suspect I’d still be playin’ at the Starlite Inn in Idaho Falls six nights a week.

I’d have spent my life chasin’ fame instead of chasin’ cows. And I’d have missed all those nights singin’ in the cookhouse to a bunch of cowboys starved for entertainment.

I’d probably belong to a group that hadn’t named ourselves yet. One seeking a new identity at every engagement. A side man, at the Trailer Court Christmas Concerto. Strummin’ rhythm guitar with Pinto and the Play for Food Band.

Baxter Black is a cowboy poet, former large animal veterinarian and entertainer of the agricultural masses. As he puts it, “he has a narrow following, but it’s deep!” He resides in Benson, Arizona. Additional information about him can be found at baxterblack.com.