As a youngster, there was never any doubt in my mind that I was supposed to grow up to be a cowboy. I watched Spin and Marty on TV along with the Cisco Kid and Pancho, Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Roy was my favorite of all because, among other things, he had an incredibly cool cowboy hat. Roy and Dale even had a German Shepherd in the family just as we did. Roy’s dog was named Bullet and, from watching various episodes, one would be led to believe that that dog could run just as fast as Trigger, Roy’s trusty palomino. Ours was a female named Queenie. The only time I remember Queenie running much was when I called her for dinner.
Oaters were everywhere on the television dial back in those days (all three channels). Our family watched them all: The Rifleman; Have Gun Will Travel; Wagon Train; Maverick; The Virginian; Gunsmoke; Wild Bill Hickock (I was always amazed at how Wild Bill could ride his horse at thirty miles an hour in that opening sequence and never lose his hat); and Bonanza, my Dad’s favorite, to name a few. And, if my memory serves (you know the chances of that), the first novel I ever read as a boy was a cowboy story printed in paperback. All I remember is that there were lots of mesas involved.
George W. Bush, during his tenure as the 43rd president, had been accused by our nation’s enemies and certain allies of being a “cowboy.” Really? I mean, c’mon. Regardless of your politics, he’s a Texan, for cryin’ out loud. And besides, since when do Americans need Europeans, Middle Eastern sheiks and terrorists of one kind or another to help us be on the lookout for cowboys? They meant it derisively, of course, but, had they been referring to me, I would have considered it a compliment, as I am sure President Bush did.
Anyway, I was inspired to write this piece upon stumbling across a website that tells us precisely what the American cowboy “way” is and what a cowboy stands for. And the lore on that site is testament to why mothers should not discourage their children from growing up to be cowboys and cowgirls, despite advice to the contrary from Willie and Waylon. (Nevertheless, the lyrics of that song might be good warning to keep our little cowgirls away from at least those two dudes, in particular). The site, which is entitled Vaquero Enterprises (the word “vaquero” is, more or less, Spanish for “cowboy”) is supported by Ernie Morris and Ralph Pavey of Wilton, California, and I highly recommend it. It includes several variations of the Code of West, as proffered by the most popular cowboy characters of that era. It also includes some sage (pun intended) cowboy advice for us all, as follows:
An Old Cowboy’s Advice
• Keep your fences horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
• Keep skunks and bankers and lawyers at a distance.
• Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
• A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
• Words that soak into your ears are whispered…not yelled.
• Meanness don’t jes’ happen overnight
• Forgive your enemies. It messes up their heads.
• Don’t corner something that would normally run from you.
• It doesn’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
• You cannot un-say a cruel word.
• Every path has a few puddles.
• When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.
• The best sermons are lived, not preached.
• Most of the stuff people worry about is never gonna happen anyway.
• Don’t judge folks by their relatives.
• Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
• Don’t interfere with somethin’ that ain’t botherin’ you none.
• Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
• Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got.
• Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.
• Always drink upstream from the herd.
• Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
• If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
• Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.
A cowboy, indeed…