The Code of the West: A Cowboy’s Law

Larry Payne

We are nearing the end of the National Day of the Cowboy blogathon,  and I thought I it was fitting to include the Code of the West.  Joining us today sharing that Code is, Larry Payne, A new found western author of the Ride The Savage Lands. Welcome Larry and thank you for stopping by for this weeks blogathon.

The Code Of The West

John Wayne once said, “A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.”

Back in the day, when men were working on settling the west, a lack of written law made it necessary to make some of their own, rules of behavior, if you will. This “Code Of The West” was a gentleman’s agreement, of sorts, as rules to live by. They were never written, but always respected. They might break every written law of the territory or government, but took pride in upholding their code.

The Code

* Don’t inquire into a person’s past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
• Never steal another man’s horse. A horse thief pays with his life.
• Defend yourself whenever necessary.
• Look out for your own.
• Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table.
• Never order anything weaker than whiskey.
• Don’t make a threat without expecting the consequences.
• Never pass anyone on the trail without saying “Howdy”.
• When approaching someone from behind, give a loud greeting before you get into shooting range.
• Don’t wave at a man on a horse, as it might spook the horse. A nod is the proper greeting.
• After you pass someone on the trail, don’t look back at him. It implies you don’t trust him.
• Riding another man’s horse without permission is nearly as bas as making love to his wife. Never even bother another man’s horse.
• Always fill your whiskey glass to the brim.
• A cowboy doesn’t talk much, he saves his breath for breathing.
• No matter how weary and hungry you are after a long day in the saddle, always tend to your horse’s needs before your own and get your horse some feed before you eat.
• Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses and cows.
• Complain about the cooking and you become the cook.
• Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand to show your friendly intentions.
• Do not practice ingratitude.
• A cowboy is pleasant even when out of sorts. Complaining is what quitters do. Cowboys hate quitters.
• Always be courageous. Cowards aren’t tolerated in any outfit worth its salt.
• A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
• Never try on another man’s hat.
• Be hospitable to strangers. Anyone who wanders in, including an enemy, is welcome at the dinner table. Same was true for anyone who joined the cowboys on the range.
• Give your enemy a fighting chance.
• Never wake another man by shaking or touching him. He might wake suddenly and shoot you.
• Real cowboys are modest. A braggert is not tolerated.
• Be there fro a friend when he needs you.
• Drinking on duty is grounds for instant dismissal and blacklisting.
• A cowboy is loyal to his brand, to his friends and those he rides with.
• Never shoot an unarmed or unwarned enemy. This was also known as “the rattlesnake code”. Always warn before you strike. But, it could be ignored if you were being stalked.
• Never shoot a woman no matter what.
• Consideration for others is central to the code.
• Respect the land and the environment by not smoking in hazardous fire areas, disfiguring rocks, trees, or other natural areas.
• Honesty is absolute. Your word is your bond. A handshake is more binding than a contract.
• Live by the Golden Rule.

The National Day Of The Cowboy is long overdue.  Men that helped a scarred nation recover from a war that pitted brother against brother and father against son. From moving thousands of cattle along the trails from The Chisholm to the Oregon, to exploring unknown ranges for the railroads, they opened up a new land from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. And through my stories I salute the men, and sometimes women, who braved a harsh and brutal environment in their quest for a better life for themselves and those who would follow.

   The National Day Of The Cowboy, a fitting way to say…”Thanks fer getting’ ‘er done, boys.”

Ride the Savage Land

Bio: Larry Payne grew up in East Chicago, IN and now resides in Apache Junction, AZ with his wife, Susan, and their two cats, Molly and Emily.
He is a US Navy veteran where he served as a Hospital Corpsman and is employed at Banner Heart Hospital, in Mesa, AZ, as a Cardiac Monitor Technician.
His novella, Ride The Savage Land, will be published as an e-book by Wild Child Publishing. The release date is yet to be determined.

You can find out more about Larry’s short stories on his Amazon author page: Author Central

Larry’s website:
Larry’s Blog:
Tweet him: @LarryPayne
Visit Him On Facebook: Facebook

Categories: Cowboy Code, Current Events, NDOC, Western, Writing, Writing Technique | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Post navigation

4 thoughts on “The Code of the West: A Cowboy’s Law

  1. Dear Ritchie, Larry and all you talented Western writers,

    I have been following your posts all week and can feel the excitement, pride and camaraderie of The National Day of the Cowboy through your heartfelt words. I confess that I figured the cowboy was a remnant of the past,brought alive through shoot’em up movies of a time gone by. But you have all shown me that the cowboy is alive and well today and thank God for that. We should all be living by the Cowboy Code. I’m happy to feature you, Ritchie on my memoir blog next week as you “Share the Heart of a Cowboy.”

    I feel enlightened and inspired. Thank you all!


    • Larry Payne

      Hi Kathleen, Thanks for stopping by. Living in Arizona, the cowboy is alive and well everywhere you look. I’m a relatively new western author and being asked by Ritchie to be here on this blogathon with the likes of Steven Law, J.R. Sanders, D.B. Jackson and the rest is pretty surreal. I thank him for that!
      So, excuse the “deer in the headlights” look on my face. This has been a great experience for me!

  2. Thanks, Larry. Seems to me you can sum up the whole code in that last statement, “Live by the Golden Rule.”

    • Larry Payne

      Hi Ron, I guess if we lived by the Code all the cowboys live by, the world would be a better place. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: