<B>A cowboy's wry poke at the West</B>Many are familiar with Baxter Black's homespun humor from his frequent commentary on National Public Radio, where he's billed as a cowboy poet and former large animal veterinarian." Now Black's funny, folksy anecdotes can be enjoyed in his new book, <B>Horseshoes, Cowsocks ∧ Duckfeet.</B>This collection of columns from NPR and print sources lampoons and celebrates rural life with dry, understated humor. Among the many yarns Black spins are comical accounts of rodeo mishaps, amusing efforts to wake a tranquilized bull before an auction and the bemused reaction of cowboys to Western catalogs aimed at urban dwellers. In fact, the culture clash between urban folk and rugged range riders is a subject Black visits more than once. He also celebrates good dogs, good dances and good doctors, and wonders if the West is vanishing.
In the tradition of great American humorists like Mark Twain and Will Rogers, Black writes with great intelligence and warm wit, choosing his words tenderly, yet efficiently. He may poke fun at economists and impulsive cowhands, but his satire is gentle, not at all harsh. Still, all is not laughter like many essayists, Black turns sober attention to the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, finding comfort in the fact that American farmers were feeding Afghanistan even as our troops were missing Christmas due to the fighting.
If some of the stories ring a bell, the reader can consult a handy reference of NPR air dates in the back. Black also thoughtfully includes a glossary of cowhand terms. The text is sprinkled with illustrations that complement his descriptions of unruly horses and dignified farmers.
<B>Horseshoes, Cowsocks ∧ Duckfeet</B> is a book that all readers will enjoy, whether city dweller or ranch hand. Black's collection of wry anecdotes, essays and verse is thought-provoking, heartwarming and thoroughly entertaining. <I>Gregory Harris is a writer, editor and technology consultant in Indianapolis.</I>