Adios Bax

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Gordon Baxter upon the celebration of his 80th birthday last year in Beaumont, Texas

I heard on the local news this evening that Gordon Baxter died at the age of 81. Probably a whole lot of people don’t know “Bax” outside of Southeast Texas, except for maybe those who read “Flying” magazine which carried his “Bax Seat” column for many years.

Bax was a local writer and what they call these days a “radio personality.” He was a deejay and a newsman and read ad copy on stations such as KLVI-AM in Beaumont for “Sears dears” as well as many other sponsors. But most of all Bax was a genuine media character in an area that didn’t really have such between the time the Big Bopper got killed along with Buddy Holly, and the time Janis Joplin showed up for her high school reunion in Port Arthur after she made the big time.

At some point in time Bax would piss off a local sponsor or his station manager and get fired from his radio job, then he would write books. He never was a huge success outside of this area. But he had a loyal core of fans and I count myself among them.

After I heard he died, I went to find my copy of “The Best of Bax,” which was published in the late 1960s and surely wasn’t the best. One of my favorite Bax columns of all times was one he did in 1965 about his being drawn to this magnificent fountain at a bank in Groves, Texas, on one of the scorching days we have here.

“I was wearing my speech-making suit, my best one, my Mohair Sam suit and I walked by and I thought: ‘No.’ … But there was nothing I could do about it. I just walked right up, through the spray, thinking, ‘I won’t,’ and I climbed up on the lip and when I sunk my first pants leg and shoe in the cool water, I thought ‘Ahhhh!'”

He went on to tell how he went back inside the bank and squished around on the carpets and asked the people who worked there if they ever had the urge to do the same.

“And they said: ‘Why yeah!’ And I said, then why didn’t you?”

I had few literary heroes to follow as a kid who was attracted to journalism, for some strange reason, for most of his life. I would count Bax among them. I had planned more than one time to try to seek him out and talk to him. It wouldn’t have been that difficult. But it was just one of those things I wished I had done and didn’t. It’s kind of like some of those bank employees he wrote about who were enthralled on those hot days by the fountain but never indulged.

Sometimes you just got to follow your intentions, good, bad or otherwise.

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