Western Life

The Code of The West and The All American Cowboy

There a man’s work was to be done, and a man’s life to be lived, and when death was to be met, he met it like a man.” – Deadwood Dick

Mention the Wild West and you get visions of Clint Eastwood in the “Good the Bad and the Ugly” or Gene Autry and Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson in the “Magnificent Seven”. However, perhaps even more than that, it was Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane and other similarly colorful characters that became famous because of writers like JT Edson and Zane Gray, which led to not just the American love for the cowboy code, but its enduring popularity  all over the world.

Basically, the cowboys of the wild west were supposed to respect woman and doff their caps and refer to them as ma’am and even the bad guys were supposed to do the same. They were supposed to ‘shoot fast and shoot straight’ and if the cards did not pan right then they died ‘game’ coughing up blood in their ‘pardner’s’ arms like real men. Their epitaphs also reflected their lifestyles such as “Here lies John Smith, cuz he don’t shoot straight” or “Robert Rodney Junior III: Dead from a case of lead poisoning (bought on my three slugs from a .45 long colt).”

Some of the more popular points of this code include the following:

Wild Bill Hickok Deputy Marshal’s Code of Conduct

Unlike Captain Dusty Fog and the floating outfit as well as other characters popularized by fiction, Wild Bill was the real Macoy. He was an actual shooter from the wildest days of the American frontier and he died the way he lived – through the barrel of a gun. Shot in the head from behind in a barroom saloon while playing cards. This was his code:

  • I will be brave, but never careless
  • I will obey my parents. They DO know best
  • I will be neat and clean at all times
  • I will respect my flag and my country
  • I will be polite and courteous
  • I will protect the weak and help them (to the best of my abilities)
  • I will attend my place of worship regularly
  • I will study hard
  • I will be kind to animals and care for them

The Texas Rangers

However, he was not the only one to have a code, and few people can exemplify the genre as much as the Texas Rangers. There are currently 162 members in the Texas Rangers service. Their motto is “ One riot one ranger” and it does not show any frugality on behalf of the Rangers high command, but rather the fact that they are superbly capable people. The code of the Texas Rangers of the wild west was very simple:

  • Be Alert
  • Be Obedient
  • Never Take Unfair Advantage
  • Defend the Weak
  • Never Desert a Friend
  • Be Neat
  • Have Faith in God
  • Be Truthful
  • Uphold Justice
  • Live Cleanly

These individuals fired up the imagination of generations to come and are a source of inspiration to this day.

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