Code of the West


I have lived up, down, in the middle, and on both sides of the USA, but I was raised in the West. I’m not a farmer or rancher, but as I was growing up I had a chance to spend some time “learning the ropes” from my relatives who were. You had to be hardy, smart, and tough to make it in either place. Savvy skill-craft was prized, and so was an even disposition. You had to hold up your end of the bargain or you were sent packin’.

There was also a code, an unwritten agreement that bracketed your conduct. Lying, cheating or stealing were absolute no-fly zones, and you had to offer the other guy a “fair chance” in just about everything you did. I know some people will pass off my code recollections as myth, but I was not hanging out in Hollywood with A. Ladd, G. Cooper or J. Wayne—just with real people living real lives. In fact, responsible conduct was a major contributing factor to their sense of community and stewardship of the land.

In light of the recent news of a major failure of institutional leadership that is dominating today’s headlines, I thought it might be timely to share a few relevant “rules of the trail” that I know have been valuable to myself and others who aspired to become respectable, responsible citizens and leaders in their own right:

Be kind to kids and your horse.
Don’t take any wooden nickels.
Own a sharp knife and a sharper set of eyes.
Doing the right thing ain’t courage, it’s just doing the right thing.
If your best dog bites you more than once, it ain’t your best dog.
A “howdy” and a smile cost you nothin’; don’t make nobody pay to get one.
Don’t make friends with rattlers—them that ain’t got feet or them that do.
If you rodeo, eight seconds can change your life and if you don’t, they still can.
An honest day’s work for an honest day’s dollar means a lot, but your honest word means more.