These unwritten rules and code of conduct changed America, in a profound way. As we move into the digital datum sphere, pioneering a new era, remember where we came from. The sense of rugged individualism, our wit, our creativity, and attitude of progressive optimism. Together we can achieve any goal and soar to new heights.
Ramon Adams, a Western historian, explained it best in his 1969 book, The Cowman and His Code of Ethics, saying, in part:
“Back in the days when the cowman with his herds made a new frontier, there was no law on the range. Lack of written law made it necessary for him to frame some of his own, thus developing a rule of behavior which became known as the “Code of the West.” These home spun laws, being merely a gentleman’s agreement to certain rules of conduct for survival, were never written into statutes, but were respected everywhere on the range.
Don’t inquire into a person’s past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
Never steal another man’s horse. A horse thief pays with his life.
Defend yourself whenever necessary.
Look out for your own.
Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table.
Never order anything weaker than whiskey.
Don’t make a threat without expecting dire consequences.
Never pass anyone on the trail without saying “Howdy”.
When approaching someone from behind, give a loud greeting before you get within shooting range.
Don’t wave at a man on a horse, as it might spook the horse. A nod is the proper greeting.
After you pass someone on the trail, don’t look back at him. It implies you don’t trust him.
Riding another man’s horse without his permission is nearly as bad as making love to his wife. Never even bother another man’s horse.
A cowboy doesn’t talk much; he saves his breath for breathing.
No matter how weary and hungry you are after a long day in the saddle, always tend to your horse’s needs before your own, and get your horse some feed before you eat.
Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses and cows.
Complain about the cooking and you become the cook.
Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand, to show your friendly intentions.
Do not practice ingratitude.
A cowboy is pleasant even when out of sorts. Complaining is what quitters do, and cowboys hate quitters.
Always be courageous. Cowards aren’t tolerated in any outfit worth its salt.
A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
Be hospitable to strangers. Anyone who wanders in, including an enemy, is welcome at the dinner table. The same was true for riders who joined cowboys on the range.
Never wake another man by shaking or touching him, as he might wake suddenly and shoot you.
Real cowboys are modest. A braggart who is “all gurgle and no guts” is not tolerated.
Always fill your whiskey glass to the brim.
Be there for a friend when he needs you.
Drinking on duty is grounds for instant dismissal and black listing.
A cowboy is loyal to his “brand,” to his friends, and those he rides with.
Never shoot an unarmed or unwarned enemy. This was also known as “the rattlesnake code”: always warn before you strike. However, if a man was being stalked, this could be ignored.
Respect the land and the environment by not smoking in hazardous fire areas, disfiguring rocks, trees, or other natural areas.
Honesty is absolute – your word is your bond, a handshake is more binding than a contract.
Live by the Golden Rule.