Cowboy humorist Baxter Black is known for his jokes, and so when he puts them in a poem, the crowds laugh twice as hard. “The Oyster” is one of his favorites, and he describes the poem as “a rubbing of cultural tectonic plates.”
“It is country versus city,” Black chuckles. “‘The Oyster’ is about a misunderstanding. And as in all of my poems, the cowboy ends up being the butt of the joke, and the girl wins.”
The sign upon the café wall said OYSTER: fifty cents.
“How quaint,” the blue-eyed sweetheart said with some bewildermence,
“I didn’t know they served such fare out here upon the plain.”
“Oh, sure,” her cowboy date replied, “We’re really quite urbane.”
“I would guess they’re Chesapeake or Blue Point, don’t you think?”
“No ma’am, they’re mostly Hereford cross . . . and usually they’re pink
But I’ve been cold, so cold myself, what you say could be true
And if a man looked close enough, their points could sure be blue!”
She said, “I gather them myself out on the bay alone.
I pluck them from the murky depths and smash them with a stone!”
The cowboy winced, imaging a calf with her beneath,
“Me, I use a pocket knife and yank em with my teeth.”
“Oh my,” she said, “You’re an animal! How crude and unrefined!
Your masculine assertiveness sends a shiver down my spine!
But I prefer a butcher knife too dull to really cut.
I wedge it in on either side and crack it like a nut!
I pry them out. If they resist, sometimes I use the pliers
Or even Grandpa’s pruning shears if that’s what it requires!”
The hair stood on the cowboy’s neck. His stomach did a whirl.
He’d never heard such grisly talk, especially from a girl!
“I like them fresh,” the sweetheart said and laid her menu down
Then ordered oysters for them both when the waiter came around.
The cowboy smiled gamely, though her words stuck in his craw
But he finally fainted dead away when she said, “I’ll have mine raw!”
Copyright © 1992. Reprinted from Crutons on a Cow-Pie Volume II with permission from the author.