The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 29, 2012

Lee Duran: Story from between bull’s horns a great gift

JOPLIN, Mo. — Sooner or later, we book lovers have to face the fact that we may not live long enough to get through all the books on our TBR -- to be read -- stack. I know I won’t, so I’m sorting through books trying to talk myself into “sharing” a few from my mountain of books.

The hardest part: Every book I pick up I have to open. And often the page upon which my gaze falls is intriguing enough that I can’t possibly part with that particular book.

For example, I’d forgotten about the only book I ever read that has the point of view of a bucking rodeo bull named Kamikaze. To wit: Kamikaze recognized those cowboys who had tried to ride him -- (cowboy) Manley’s aura was as recognizable to Kamikaze as his driver’s license photo would be to you or me. The more Manley concentrated, the stronger Kamikaze could feel his presence. Him again, mused the bull. Learn slow.

Love that bull! The book is “Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky?” by Baxter Black, and I am absolutely certain that the man knows how bulls think. Probably cows, too. The man was a large animal veterinarian before he began his writing and speaking career.

This is his first novel, copyrighted in 1994, which is when I got it. I even love the dedication: “Harley May, World Champion Steer Wrestler of 1952, 1956, and 1965, and president of the Rodeo Cowboys Association 1957-1960. When Baxter asked Harley how today’s rodeo cowboys differed from rodeo cowboys in his day, Harley replied wistfully, ‘Nobody robs a bank anymore.’”

Is that a great dedication and setup for a funny book or what? The story doesn’t disappoint, with cowboys Lick and Cody trying to qualify for the rodeo national finals. As the back cover blurb states, they encounter “a smattering of sex, violence, intrigue and the occasional philosophical rumination.”

Looming in the background is Kamikaze, who not only hates people but is equally scornful of horses. He ranks them beneath sheep, which is pretty low.

Already in a bad mood, the never-ridden bull is ready when he meets up with one of our heroes for the third time: “Bull rider ... bucked off twice ... escaped. That’s right, cowboy,” telepathed Kamikaze, cool as a cucumber. “Yer dead meat.”

I’m completely taken by that bull, and also by the cattle dog, Belfry, who reviews his guarding options from the Official Cowdog Ranch Security Handbook: Close eyes and pretend to be sleeping, sneak around and get a closer look at the potential intruder, bark and wake everyone up, or attack.

Being a smart dog, he barks his head off.

Lick and Cody are actually as funny as the livestock. They’re just a couple of good ole boys doing what they want to do and having a heck of a good time. The author calls it “a walk on the wild side of rodeo,” and it sure is.

Baxter has a website up that says he can be followed nationwide through his column, National Public Radio, public appearances, television and also through his books, albums, videos and commercial radio.

I haven’t run into him in any of those venues, but I wish I had. He’s a character himself. In this day and age, he still doesn't own a television or a cellphone, and his idea of a modern convenience is Velcro chaps.

If you have a sense of humor, I think you’ll love this book -- laughing out loud love it. It would also be a terrific gift for the cowboy or wannabe cowboy on your Christmas list.

Although the book was published years ago, it’s readily available online, which is wonderful. Nothing goes out of print now. I spent years lusting after books I couldn’t have because they were old or out of print. No more.

This means I don’t have to hold onto every single book forever, right? Well, maybe just this one.

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