Pages Navigation Menu

Another Cowboy Rides Away

“A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by, no matter his job.” ~JOHN WAYNE

We sat through a well-attended memorial service this week for one of our ranching neighbors who  passed away suddenly in a tragic accident. The service was delayed for several minutes because of a wreck that blocked one of the main roads into this small Texas Panhandle town. The Minister had heard that several people were stuck on the road behind the turned over tanker, so we waited; home town courtesy at its best. Whines of a fiddle and the strums of a guitar pulsed through a typically silent Church sanctuary. On this afternoon, we were treated to toe-tapping, old-time country music before the celebration of life began.

While my husband and I hadn’t known Jim that many years, I have since learned him to be a hardworking family man who professed a great love for his land, a good roping horse, and an almighty God. Many recalled the quiet presence of a tall cowboy in times of trouble, with a calloused hand gently placed on their shoulder, and a prayer, soft and sincere. “Jim put his big ‘ole hand on my arm and prayed like he would talk to you or me,” the Minister said. “He talked to God like they were best friends.”

J. I. “Jim” Williams supported and volunteered for many mission trips, and was a familiar face at countless summer camps for both kids and special needs adults. Our oldest son was fortunate enough to attend one of those cowboy summer camps and Jim made a huge impression through his lessons for a class on Cowboy etiquette.

Here is a portion of that cowboy wisdom as shared by J. I. “Jim” Williams:

  • 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, my son tells me that Jim says the key to being a top hand:

    “ride up, hold up, and shut up.”

rope branding 16 077

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).