The Cowboy Code

by cowboylands

It’s difficult to be perfect, and when I was young that’s what I thought Roy Rogers and his singing cowboy comrades were. Too clean, too prissy, and too good. Now I love these Nudie cowboys, although personally I’ll take a grim James Stewart with a holster any day. Universal Pictures/Photofest

Now where was I? Oh yes, Roy Rogers and perfection. How could he not be as perfect as the Roy Rogers Club motto?

1. Be neat and clean. Wear Nudie. 

2. Be courteous and polite. Easy when you have a six-gun in your hand. 

3. Always obey your parents. OK, but what if they don’t want you to Go West Young Man? 

4. Protect the weak and help them. Take notice all you yahoos who think you’re cowboys. 

5. Be brave but never take chances. I would quibble with this one. Maybe he means don’t act with reckless abandon? How can one not take chances in life? Bravery is hot, though, always. 

6. Study hard and learn all you can. This moves beyond the obedient rows of fifties-style children into being curious, filled with wonder, ambitious, striving. Some people will be astrophysicists, some people become president, and some people clean houses. But you always learn. That’s my emotional moment of the day. You always learn! P.S. I have cleaned houses, and I’m not sure an astrophysicist can do it well….

7. Be kind to animals and take care of them. Especially your horse, but I’m glad he includes all animals. Does he mean cockroaches? is my question. 

8. Eat all your food and never waste any. If he were writing this now, he’s say “Eat smaller portions.”

9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly. Ouch. Having gone to Sunday school regularly I know I can’t point at that institution as the reason I have a reverence for the world and sometimes, for people. Even for a reverence for a Something Else–although not a bearded man gazing down from on high. I’d point to my father, who was torn between becoming a Catholic priest or a scientist (guess you know what he chose), and who could imbue the sight of common dirt with wonder at the dynamic forces at work in its creation. 

Damn, I’m getting misty. I think these cowboy codes really work! I’ll try to be a better person, Roy, I promise! But I will not go to Sunday school!

Today the Cowboy Code is alive and well, even after the anniversary of Roy Roger’s Happy Trail into the sky. Noted in the Gilroy Dispatch, from Gilroy CA, a posse of “equestrians, cowboys, therapists, and five Santa Clara County students” recently rode into the mountains for a weekend of outdoor life. (full article here) It’s part of a longer program for students are socially or developmentally disabled, that stresses character development, wilderness skills, and–a worthy initiative–getting them away from the TV and computer into a rich interaction with life.  They have to do things that aren’t within their normal ken or comfort zone, the epitome of having to “cowboy up.” One of the students nicely sums up what they learn, the cowboy “morals” as he calls them: honesty, or being truthful; being respectful to your buddies; and taking care of your horse. That’s it, in a nutshell. 

And on the video you’ll see aother aspect of the Cowboy Code: Yes, damn it. It’s okay for the cowboy to cry. 



Still to Come: The Lone Ranger’s Creed.


Leave a Comment to “The Cowboy Code”

  1. A REAL cowboy would NEVER:

    Sleep on a waterbed
    use anything but his saddle for a pillow.
    Fail to tip his hat to a lady
    Eat Yogurt
    smoke anything except hand rolled cigarettes
    (pipes & cigars are OK)
    Drive a jeep with a pet name
    Go swimming without his horse
    build a bonfire
    (Unless it’s to cremate his partner or burn a house)
    Lose a spur (unless he’s leaving a clue)
    leave home without his lariat
    Live anywhere without a cool place name
    Have coffee at Starbucks
    Drink coffee that a horseshoe will not stand straight up in
    mistreat his horse
    tousle the head of that cute indian boy
    Operate a computer that isn’t a mac

  2. My favorite is leaving the thought of a jeep with a pet name and a cowboy leaving a clue. I would definitely agree about Mac and Starbucks. Although when you’re coming out the sagebrush with a weary horse, I would go a Starbucks for coffee over a Dunkin’ Donuts.

    Can a cowboy sleep on any mattress at all?
    Would a cowboy let a lady open a door for him?
    Does a cowboy eat anything but overcooked starchy food that is bad for him?
    Not smoke?
    Drive any car that isn’t American-made?
    Swim butterfly?
    use a backpacking cookstove?
    have a half-skim, half-almond mochacicharechialatte?
    drink soy milk?
    drive an ATV? (yes–which is why I keep inserting that into posts and stories)
    tousle the head of that cute indian girl?
    operate a computer?

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