Cowboy Ethics: The Code of the West

I found myself scraping the bottom of the barrel this morning for a feature article for today. Seems that everybody has shut down, probably because of the holidays. But then something told me (probably the plethora of articles on the ongoing war in the streets of America) that a re-run just might be “what the Dr. ordered.” You should be proud to be called “cowboy” for more reasons than just your knowledge of cattle. — jtl, 419

The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other MisfitsThe following is taken from Chapter 23 of Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume’s book: The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfits.

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. – Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

As I wrote in an earlier chapter, there are a number of definitions of what it takes to be a “real” cowboy but most of them do not come close to capturing the essence of the word.

The American Western Frontier was nowhere near as violent as Hollywood has portrayed it. In fact, it was a more peaceful place before the arrival of “law and order” than it is today. Just as anarcho-capitalist libertarians would predict from a free society, institutions sprang up spontaneously in response to special needs—grazing rights, water rights, dealing with the Indians, etc. – and then, unlike “government” today, the organization was dissolved once it no longer filled a useful purpose.

Most traditional Westerners have strong cultural ties to the old South because many of the early settlers were either fleeing the War of Yankee Aggression or reconstruction. They brought with them a certain rebelliousness and love of liberty and individual independence. Superimposed on top of that, the harshness of survival on the Western Frontier resulted in the development of the philosophy of life we know as the “Cowboy Way.”

“Cowboy” is much more than a livelihood. The ethical principles of libertarianism provide the foundation for peaceful societies. The Cowboy Way is a philosophy for living one’s individual, personal life in a peaceable fashion. The two are totally compatible. Neither advocates the initiation of force or violence against any human being, the operative word there being “initiation.”

Cowboys are independent and like to be left alone. They are heroes not just because they do a dangerous job, but because they stand for something. Principles like honor, loyalty and courage are at the core of the Cowboy Way.

Cowboys are generally peaceable men but will defend themselves and their honor without hesitation. They are honest, hard working and believe that no one should be awarded a day’s pay without turning in an honest day’s work. As Michael Martin Murphey sings in the lyrics of Cowboy Logic:

If it’s a job, do it. Put your back in to it. ‘Cause a little bit of dirt’s gonna wash off in the rain.

If it’s a horse, ride it. If it hurts, hide it. Dust yourself off and get back on again.

Their book, Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn From The Code Of The West by retired Wall Street investor James P. Owen and David R. Stoecklein (2005) focuses on the values that are part of our heritage, “values all Americans can share, no matter what our politics, our religion, or our station in life.”

They explain the “Code of the West” as being ten principles:

  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; and
  10. Know where to draw the line.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list but it certainly provides good examples of “natural law principles” by which to live.

As a young child, I remember listening to The Lone Ranger (and his faithful companion, Tonto) on an old battery powered radio. Later, after moving to the conveniences of town life, I recall watching Sky King, Roy Rogers (and his loyal partner Dale Evans) on an old snowy, 17 inch, black and white TV. What a wonderful role model these people were for American children of my generation.

Early in the book, I mentioned that legendary film star and humorist Gene Autry (1907-1998) was a partner in the Lightening C Rodeo Company. I saw him and his horse Champion (a beautiful blazed faced, stocking legged sorrel) perform many times at the Colburn Bowl in Dublin, TX.

He was a wildly popular recording, movie, and television cowboy superstar of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. He recorded more than 600 songs, wrote or co-wrote more than 250, had a successful weekly radio show for 16 years (Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch), starred in over 90 movies, and 91 half-hour television episodes of The Gene Autry Show. He toured extensively for public performances with his horse Champion. He is the only entertainer to have five stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (one each for radio, recording, motion pictures, television and live performance).

Mr. Autry was a man of high moral character that stood for everything good, decent, and fair. He promoted his own “Cowboy Code” which reflected his character on and off the stage:

1. The cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.

2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.

3. He must always tell the truth.

4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.

5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.

6. He must help people in distress.

7. He must be a good worker.

8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.

9. He must respect women and his parents.

10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

Today, as I write this, America is no longer great because she is no longer good. America needs the cowboy today more than ever. But there is a problem.

Principles like truth, honor, loyalty, courage, hard work, trust and respect render the ruling elite’s agenda “unsustainable.” They are not compatible with radical environmentalism, diversity, sustainability, redistributionist statism, economic socialism, industrial fascism, radical feminism, hate crime, hurtful words and animal rights.

The cowboy (because of his philosophy) is a misfit and must be destroyed.

The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfits. by Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume. Click here to buy the paperback version from Land & Livestock International’s aStore.

Digital media products such as Kindle can only be purchased on Click Here to buy the Kendall Version on

About Land & Livestock Interntional, Inc.

Land and Livestock International, Inc. is a leading agribusiness management firm providing a complete line of services to the range livestock industry. We believe that private property is the foundation of America. Private property and free markets go hand in hand—without property there is no freedom. We also believe that free markets, not government intervention, hold the key to natural resource conservation and environmental preservation. No government bureaucrat can (or will) understand and treat the land with as much respect as its owner. The bureaucrat simply does not have the same motives as does the owner of a capital interest in the property. Our specialty is the working livestock ranch simply because there are so many very good reasons for owning such a property. We provide educational, management and consulting services with a focus on ecologically and financially sustainable land management that will enhance natural processes (water and mineral cycles, energy flow and community dynamics) while enhancing profits and steadily building wealth.
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3 Responses to Cowboy Ethics: The Code of the West

  1. p says:

    Thank you for sharing Jimmy, you reminded me what book is next on my list. We do need to see the cowboy way reinstalled in America. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! )

    Liked by 1 person

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