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Dairy Expo delights

Agriculture.com Staff 04/07/2009 @ 10:04am

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 3-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.

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