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THE COWBOY WAY: Alive and Well

A brief review on cowboy etiquette.

One of my husband’s life-long friends from Arkansas visited the ranch during fall gathering. This is the time of year all of the herd mommas and their now 600+ pound babies are driven from each pasture to Ranch Headquarters. The cows are ran through the chute for a preg test by a Veterinarian and vaccinated. The certified natural, grass fed Angus calves are loaded and shipped to market. The work wouldn’t be possible without the help of a group of highly-skilled professional, day-work cowboys. Our friend told one of the day-workers, “They really appreciate the hard work and all of the extras you do.”

“It’s the cowboy way,” he said.

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What Is the Cowboy Way?

The cowboy way is a set of values and code of ethics that have been passed down for generations. You’ll discover that many families in the Texas Panhandle, and surrounding areas, hold true to these values, even if they’re not directly involved in the cowboy culture. Kindness, respect, and good ‘ole manners still rule.

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Our son attended a Cowboy Church Camp last summer. They learned the age old skills of riding and roping, in addition to Bible study, and they learned about the cowboy way. One of the classes my son still talks about covered cowboy etiquette, taught by a long-time roper and cattle rancher.

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Here’s a run-down of a portion of Jim’s cowboy wisdom that he shared with the younger generation:

  • Do not continuously holler at the cows. It just annoys everyone. Instead, you can slap your legs or wave your arms. (A flag at the end of a sorting whip works just as well.)
  • Do not steer your horse in front of somebody, or cut somebody off. This is considered the ultimate in rude. If it can’t be helped, polite cowboys always say, “Excuse me.”
  • The youngest cowboy or cowgirl in the group is usually the one who gets off their horse, opens the gate, waits until everyone is through, and then shuts the gate. As the others ride through the gate, they stop and wait until the cowboy on the ground can remount. Otherwise, the riderless horse will follow the other horses and leave the gate-opener a foot.
  • If you’re opening the gate from your horse, ride on through and then get out of the way. The herd will follow the guy on horseback through the gate.
  • Keep your ropes on your saddle. Do not mess around with your rope.
  • Do not rope a cow unless the owner or cow boss says it’s okay.
  • Don’t rope anything that weighs more than your horse.
  • “Cowboy up” with loyalty to the brand you’re riding for, no complaining, and always give 100%. No lollygagging!
  • A man’s word and a handshake seals the deal.
  • Finally, Jim’s shared the best piece of cowboy wisdom I’ve ever heard, which can be applied to most any life situation:

Ride up. Hold up. Shut up.


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Photos by: N. Bright, Sanford Ranch

Natalie Cline Bright is a blogger and author of the fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades, the RESCUE ANIMAL eBook series, and is currently working on an action-packed novel for young adults, WOLF’S WAR. Read about Natalie’s grandmother and her cherry salad recipe, recently selected for “THE WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom” (TwoDot Publishing, June 2017).

The Rescue Animal Series of picture books; heartwarming stories about second chances! Click the link and read it now Amazon Kindle.