Baxter Black

Thanks to Baxter Black for the dance and the laughs.

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Once, long ago, family refrigerators were the place for newspaper clippings. From photos of school award assemblies, to particularly funny comics that made your dad laugh, to columnists that spoke to your family’s values and experiences.

They were the Facebook memes and Pinterest pins of their era.

There were always two writers represented on that refrigerator door—Erma Bombeck and Baxter Black.

Is it any wonder, then, I grew up to be a writer?

There’s an expression I’ve seen that says to surround yourself with the things, people, thoughts and deeds that you admire, and you’ll in turn attract those into your own life. I can attest, it does indeed work.

This past week I got to tell Baxter Black in person what he meant to me, and how he shaped my writer’s voice while I was in San Antonio for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association convention. I’m sure I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to tell him those same things. But, it’s important to tell folks what they mean when you can. That dear sweet man was so gracious—I even got a quick polka dance out of it! Bless his heart.

Now, for Baxter and Erma, I’m sure, writing was just a part of their daily lives, like breathing. I’m pretty sure neither of them set at their writing desks with the express thought that they would shape a young Kansas farm girl’s world views and sense of humor. If not for two writers of vastly different backgrounds I would be a different communicator.

The world is full of people, though, doing their daily tasks without much fanfare, and they too are heroes to someone. You and I might not have the platforms of nationally syndicated American treasures, but there’s someone watching what we do, from how we treat livestock and employees on the farm, to how we conduct business deals with clients, and more. There’s always little eyes watching and choosing to mimic, as my dad would say.

So, are we filling our heroes’ shoes well? Do we fulfill the legacy they leave behind?

Doing right when no one is watching is easy. Doing right by our principles and the lessons from our mentors when it goes against the larger group is incredibly tough.

Just as we follow in the footsteps of our mentors, someone is following ours. So we need to make sure that the path we leave is something we want followed by the little eyes watching us.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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