Wyoming Sets Trend For Country To Return To Cowboy Ethics

It’s time we return to the ways of the West.

We’ve long thought that, and when the state of Wyoming recently adopted their Cowboy Ethics, we were reminded of how cowboys have always had their set values, and they’re forever for the betterment of their livestock, their land, their country and their fellow man.


So we delved into our dusty, yellowing files and pulled out the philosophies of some of our cowboy heroes and friends. Although long and significant, the list is shy of many sayings we’ve heard, failed to record and have since forgotten.

We are sad for that, but it is refreshing to hear that some people feel the importance of strong values. Likewise, it is heart-warming to review cowboy philosophies and how they all are a bit different, but strive for betterment of mankind.

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal signed legislation adopting an official Wyoming state code based on the tenets known in the West as “Cowboy Ethics.”

Although the historic Code of the West was unwritten, cowboys, trappers, hunters and others in the U.S.frontier knew it was about maintaining honesty, integrity and courage in a wide-open region where the affects of government barely reached and laws were not always enforced.

More recently, the Ten Principles were outlined in a popular 2004 book, Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, by retired Wall Street investor James Owen.

He developed the concept several years ago after being dismayed by a rash of corporate scandals and growing societal discord. Owen wanted to strengthen the foundation of shared values in America.

Owen said Americans have a lot to learn from Western concepts of right and wrong.

“I grew up with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, and they were my heroes,” Owen noted. “Today, my hero is the working cowboy. And it’s that optimism, the courage, the hard work that built this country. We’ve gotten away from these common-sense core values.”

Owen’s work also has been adapted to be taught in schools to give youth a standard by which to live. The program is a four-week unit to help high school students build the personal characteristics needed to achieve success in life. It focuses on inspiring
students to decide which values and traits they should believe in.

The Wyoming measure’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Anderson, emphasized that Owen’s book captured his interest, and inspired him to introduce the bill after seeing the December premier of a related video project, “The Code of the West: Alive and Well in Wyoming.”

Here are the Ten  Principles of Cowboy Ethics:

1. Live each day with courage.

2. Take pride in your work.

3. Always finish what you start.

4. Do what has to be done.

5. Be tough, but fair.

6. When you make a promise, keep it.

7. Ride for the brand.

8. Talk less and say more.

9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale.

10. Know where to draw the line.

Even though the bill is merely a symbolic gesture, carries no criminal penalties and is not meant to replace any civil codes, most agree it reflects a pretty valuable ideology.

One commentator questioned, “Is anyone going to share this with Congress?

Perhaps Capitol Hill should adopt something similar. And adhere to it.”

Another added, “Cowboys may be irrelevant, but their ethics matter.”

Alhough better known as a movie star cowboy, politician, philosopher and writer, Will Rogers was a true cowboy who grew up at Claremore, Oklahoma. We’ve been to the homestead where Rogers was raised, and we portrayed him in a community skit.

But we still can’t begin to spin a rope like Will did as he was riding his show horse, Soapsuds, or while presenting his on-stage oracles throughout the world. His life’s philosophies are well worth repeating here as well.

Will Rogers’ Cowboy Code

1. Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.

2. Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

3. There are two theories to arguing with a woman…neither works.

4. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

5. Always drink upstream from the herd.

6. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

7. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your
pocket. 8. There are three kinds of men:  The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation.  The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.

9. Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

10. If you’re riding’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.

11. Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier’n puttin’ it back.

12. AND FINALLY:  After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring.  He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him . . . The moral:  When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

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