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  • The Cowboy Code

    2010 - 10.22

    I have been reluctant to share the basis for the morals in which I have lead my life. I am an American and America was built on the backs of Cowboys. The Cowboy code is a long forgotten example of ethics which were the result of men and women trying to conquer a country and the things they had to do in order to live and survive a life that was both decent, moral and in the end satisfying when you closed your eyes for the last time. 

    But the Cowboys left behind a legacy that was truly American and unique for the times. The Code is very simple in it’s words but the wisdom and history still stands today. I have always loved Cowboys as a child. My Grandmother would read me stories of them and I always used to watch every Cowboy movie I could. As a young boy; I bailed hay, raised cattle, road the hills on a horse. But, I never got to truly experience the reality of being a Cowboy in the yet to be tamed west. It was over when I got here. But the old folks had stories and I would listen to them.

    There are still echoes of the cowboy code, you hear it in the voices of old farmers. But they too are now a vanishing breed.

    Here below is some paraphrased sayings I heard over and over as a child. Some of them are funny, some profound. The Cowboy’s weren’t always educated but they knew what enough of what was real.

    • Keep your fences tight and strong. Ride your fences every day, it checks on them and gives you time to remember how lucky you are to have land.
    • Keep the bankers and lawyers at a distance, remember a handshake and a square look in the eye is the best judge of a mans worth.
    • Life is simpler when you plow around the stump, but sometimes you must use dynamite to get it out of the way.

    Theres phrases are very evocitive of the early settler days. Ownership of land was often a measure of a mans worth. It was an indicator he was capable and strong enough to hold his own. This is where the ferocity of riding fences happened. Even in the widest most open areas of the west, various type of ranching and agriculture base econimies were already competing for resources.  When long trains of covered wagons headed west and the land was being opened up for settlement, An interesting mix of people ran left to escape their lives in the east. Some were good, upstanding people who merely wanted religious freedom. Some where criminal, famous and other wise. They were the Outlaws,  looking for one last chance, fresh hunting grounds, fresh meat. The Colt .45 revolver was considered the great equalizer during this pre-law era.Immediately after the early settlement ensued, ranchers took up ranching. Cattlemen raised cattle. There were already battle lines being drawn for the abundant resources that the west provided. Everyone with capital interests in farming or ranching began to fence in their land unleashing miles of fence wire to ensnare mother earth and tie her down to the submission of the great Manifest Destiny.


    • Words that soak into your ears and remembered are whispered…not yelled.
    • Meanness don’t just doesn’t  happen overnight it has to fester awhile. Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads and their aim.

    These last two pieces represent the time when a couple of things began to happen. Small towns opened up at railroad stops and famous wagon destinations. These permanent settlements had some sort of law and also one of the best side effects of the western railroad, the side effects of the trains was…..The women came west!!!  Some of the cowboys would at first leave their homes and families and go earn their fortune. After achieving this goal, they would send for their families. But the trains and the fact there have always been women with a sense of adventure, had something to do with the gentrification of the west. A cowboy could meet a special woman in town, maybe for a night, maybe for a lifetime. But it is certain anything she lovingly whispered, was never forgotten by that man as he rode the long, dusty trails.

    • Don’t corner something that would normally run from you, everything wants to stay alive and some will really fight for it.

    This line always sort’ reminded me of something my Grandmother would say. She would say. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew!”

    • It doesn’t take a very big person to carry a grudge. God forgives you, it’s only right you pass it along.
    • You cannot unsay a cruel word, they ring forever, especially in the ears of the ones you love the most.

    By the time towns, homesteads, railroadstops and such  had dug in , there was arrival of fashion, in the way the person from the west walked , talked, what they wore. It was standard reporting fodder for the newspapers and magazines back east to report what women were wearing out on the “Frontier”. This process brought gentrification to the cowboy and the relationship of a cowboy to his family became a very deep thing.

    • Every path has a few puddles, every big hill gets slick with mud when it rains.
    • When you have to work with pigs, expect to get smelly and dirty, a lot of people eat ham and bacon.
    • The best sermons are lived, not preached, the best example you can be is to be yourself.
    • Most of the stuff people worry about is never gonna happen anyway. In the end it’s a bunch of hootin’ and hollerin’ about nothing.
    • Don’t judge folks by their relatives, Everyone learns what to be and what not to be by them.
    •  Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer, speaking up first may get you branded as an impatient man.
    •  Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none, live your life and let others live theirs the best they can.
    •  Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance, So dance when you see the clouds, but never discount faith.
    • Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got, the ways of some men are full of trickery, watch out who gets yer’ money.
    • Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke, learn that somethings just can’t be fixed too. If something needs to die, let it.
    • Always drink upstream from the herd, and when in different pastures, watch where you step, there may be snakes.
    • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgments you first made, learn as you go.
    • If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
    • Live simply so that others may live, when you leave a campsite, make sure there is some wood for the next one who needs it.
    • Love generously, let the light you have be seen so your recognized as a righteous man.
    • Care deeply, if we didn’t care about each other there would be a lot more rattler bites.
    • Speak kindly of everything you see, be humble in the presence of strangers.
    • Love your woman with your life, if push comes to shove, give your life so that she may go on. Never hit a woman, even if she hits you first.
    • Listen to your woman, she has wisdom you will never know.Treat her children like the men and women you would want them to be when they grow up.
    • Remember you are an American and a Patriot, no matter what idiot is in the White house or who won the last war.
    • Be at peace with your actions, there will be plenty of time to think about what you did or didn’t do when you are old in a rocker on the porch 
    • When it’s time for you to go, remember; the pastures are green and there are no fences in Heaven.




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