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By Staff | Apr 10, 2009

A recent sojourn at the Central Plains Dairy Expo – one of the few events where it isn’t an insult to be called cheese breath – was entertaining and educational.

Much of the entertainment came on the opening evening, when Expo goers were treated to the dry drollery of the celebrated comedian and cowboy poet, Baxter Black.

Dr. Black – a large-animal veterinarian – spent most

of an hour regaling his audience with his homespun humor, most of which is based on his veterinarian experiences. For example, his poem about reinstalling a cow’s prolapsed uterus could be described as both hilarious and gross.

Following his performance, I joined the crowd that

gathered to greet Dr. Black. I asked if he would be available later to chat a bit and he said, yes, of course.

We found a pair of comfortable chairs and the good

doctor and I sat and yakked for a spell. Baxter struck me genuinely warm and kind. I noticed that whenever he shakes someone’s hand he places his free hand gently upon the other person’s shoulder.

It wasn’t long before our dialogue turned to shop talk.

We shared a few war stories, one columnist to another.

“I had worked as a veterinarian for 13 years when I was offered a job by an animal health company,” he said when asked how he got started in the biz. “They wanted me to hold informational meetings, complete with a slide show, about animal diseases and the drugs to treat them.

“I think that slide shows are about as much fun as

pushing an anvil around. I said I would do it, but without the slide show. Folks began to notice that my presentation was a lot more fun than others’. Pretty soon, people started to ask for me. The column and my poetry all grew from that.”

Ever have a reader take issue with one of your columns?

“Of course. As an old writer once said, it ain’t real

writing if you don’t make ’em squeal once in a while. I’ve also had people say to me ‘You know, I bet I could write a column!’ Well, sure. But could you write 52?”

Having written 52 columns a year for more than a decade, I knew exactly what he meant. As our visit drew to a pleasant close, I was glad I managed to avoid saying, “You know doc, our old dog has this weird bump on his side…”

Wandering the Dairy Expo the next day, I bumped into a guy named Keith who is from the Isle of Man. And no, I didn’t ask him if it’s located next to the Corridor of Women. But I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “You’re the first man I’ve met from Man!”

Keith is a farmer, so I asked about agriculture on the

Isle of Man.

“The island is only 32 miles by 13 miles,” he said. “And just a small portion of it is tillable. Many of our fields are these horrible little three-acre tracts, which are surrounded by stone fences. You could make half a round with an American combine and harvest an entire field!”

Keith told me the number of acres farmed on the Isle of Man, but I promptly forgot the sum. I do recall that it

wasn’t all that many and that I know several farmers who could easily farm the entire island.

Dang it! I also forgot to ask Keith to clear up this

conundrum: if no man is an island, how can an island be Man?

Asked if there was anything everyone should know about his home, Keith instantly replied “The TT Races.”

It’s not what I first thought. Keith informed me that

the Tourist Trophy Races are motorcycle races that have been held on the Isle of Man every year since 1907. Average course speeds exceed 120 mph and there are even races involving motorcycles with sidecars. And you thought sidecars were stodgy.

During the Expo I was afforded ample opportunities to

visit with dairy farmers. It felt like old home days for this former dairy farmer. Not that I’m prejudiced or anything, but I think that dairy farmers are simply some of the nicest folks on the planet.

For instance, even though milk prices are currently

lower than a salamander’s belly, some kind soul anonymously left a parcel for me. An attached note says “To Jerry’s relative serving our country. Thanks!”

A peek inside revealed that it held numerous packets of beef jerky. The giver was no doubt referring to our nephew Adam, who is currently in Baghdad. I will certainly forward the parcel, with deep gratitude to the unknown benefactor.

It’s the small, heartfelt gestures – a hand on a

shoulder, taking time to visit with a friend, an anonymous gift – that help make this region such a nice place to live.

I guess that’s why it’s called the Heartland.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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