Baxter Slept Here
Author’s Note: I am rerunning this column in honor of my dear friend, Baxter Black, who has retired due to health issues. This was written 34 years ago, and I’m glad to say through the years which followed Baxter became my soulmate, psychiatrist, critic and one of my very best friends. Thanks for the memories, Baxter.
“Guess who’s coming to dinner?” I told my wife excitedly. “My idol, Baxter Black.”
We cleaned out the goldfish bowl, scooped up after the dog, mowed the lawn and changed the top sheet on the extra bed in preparation for our famous house guest.
The day Baxter came to visit, he came off the plane wearing a gaudy, violet scarf and an American flag for a shirt. There were white stars in a field of blue around his shoulders and red and white stripes running lengthwise up and down his skinny body. The people at the airport stood in salute as he walked off the plane.
I was in awe. This was my hero, the man who had written those great American classics; “Loony Lucy’s Spa and Health Food Coop,” “Prewitt’s Cow,” “Vegetarian Nightmare,” “How the Angel Got on Top of the Christmas Tree” and my wife’s all-time favorite: “Bentley, the Born Again Bull.”
As we headed home, I didn’t know what to say to this man I considered a god. He’d actually been on “The Tonight Show.”
When we got home, I offered my guest a drink, but all we had in the house was a cheap bottle of wine. I offered Baxter a glass, but he grabbed the bottle and we went off to feed the cows.
I discovered Baxter is a rider, a roper, a windmill fixer and a helluva gate opener.
We drove around in search of cows with Baxter surfing on the top of the load of hay. He had the bottle of cheap wine in one hand all the while pontificating about surfing in California. I was embarrassed we couldn’t find the cows, but Baxter just threw the hay off in a convenient spot. I showed him my horse Gentleman and he asked, “Why would anybody in their right mind leave him a stud?”
Trying to be the perfect hosts, we took Baxter to our favorite restaurant. I knew I’d made a mistake when in front of my entire community he started reciting, “Runnin’ Wild Horses” in his American flag shirt.
Baxter drank tequila and ate oysters. Not Hereford oysters, the real slimy kind. Soon he was doing a free floor show and was autographing copies of his latest book.
He met so many people – he signed one to Allan and Margaret. Unfortunately, they were not a pair. He became despondent over ruining a good book. I told him I would take the mistake off his hands. His face lit up and underneath “To Allan and Margaret” he wrote, “close personal friends of the Pitts.”
When we got home, I discovered a malfunction in our plumbing. Our toilet always goes on the blink when we have company. I gave Baxter the bad news, “You can use the toilet only once.”
I was totally embarrassed. I told my wife, “Here I am trying to make him feel at home and our toilet breaks.”
She said, “If he had wanted to be treated like he was at home, he wouldn’t leave home and Cindy and Boller all the time.”
I kept trying to go to bed, but Baxter wanted to talk. We stayed up until 2:30 a.m. admiring each other’s work.
The dog barked all night because Baxter was sleeping in her room. Four hours after we had gone to bed, I heard this terrible caterwauling from the living room. Baxter was playing the piano resplendent in his newly recharged American flag shirt. Baxter looked a little full in the face and was in an awful hurry to leave the next morning.
I got a nice note about a week later from Baxter. It said in part, “Sorry we went to bed so early, I hope you got the toilet fixed. I waited till I got to the airport. I barely made it.”
And he wasn’t talking about the plane.
Because I was still so embarrassed, I never replied, but I take this opportunity to do so now.
“Dear Baxter, we got the toilet fixed and everybody in town wants to know when my crazy friend in the patriotic shirt is coming back for a visit?”