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The Code of the West

Imagine traveling far from home, family, and any form of law and order. The world wide open before you would seem bright and optimistic, but it wouldn't take long to realize just how daunting the wilderness could be. In the days of the true pioneers and cowpoke's, there were never any written laws out on the range. With the coming of the silver screen cowboys, outsiders could sense or at least understood that even without the law these gritty people of the plains seemed to have a code to live by.

"A man has to have a code, a creed to live by." - John Wayne

Zane Grey, in his 1934 novel, The Code of the West chronicled this way of life relying on hospitality, justice, hard work, loyalty, and respect for the land. The code was woven into the very fabric of wild west society and woe betide the man who broke it. While they wouldn't be formally punished by the law, a man that broke the code would be outcast from society.

Now this may get a little confusing for you, I know it certainly was for me, but each man had his own version of the code. Yet, anyway they seemed to phrase it everyone understood that it was based upon faith, family, respect for other even your enemies, and respect for the wild land they called home.

In keeping with this understanding of the Code of the West, each silverscreen cowboy from Gene Autry to The Lone Ranger had their own code tailored at handing down those values to the youngsters of the nation at that time.

The most famous of these codes actually came into being in 2004, when Jim Owen wrote Cowboy Ethics: What Wallstreet Can Learn from the Code of the West. The ten principles he outlined as the Code of the West stuck a deep chord with a nation trying to preserve some sense of national identity and unified values.

Over the next several weeks I'm going to go into each one of these in more detail, I'm not sure yet if that's going to mean writing a short story for each one or if I will simply be sharing my own experiences with the code in the modern west. Let me know which one interests you more in the comments!

The Code of the West: 10 Principles to Live By

  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, say more.

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

  10. Know when to draw the line.

I'll leave you with this parting thought, I think we're all struggling to find the common chord that used to hold our nation together. We've certainly never been perfect, but I think it's true that we've seen better days. Handing down values to our children and grandchildren that will get them by in a difficult world is more important than ever and defining just what values to pass on is more grueling than ever before. May I humbly suggest that perhaps the Code of the West is a good baseline for reestablishing that common thread, because in the end it comes down to the most universal rule of them all: Do unto others, what you would have them do unto you!


Thank you, fellow adventurers! You can follow the lilmissbearpaw blog page on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @lilmissbearpaw for sneak peeks into upcoming posts and my adventures. This will also be a great place to share your own adventures!


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