Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Code of the West - Part 1

     Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is credited with one of my favorite quotes on political power: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t. ” So it is, I think, about being a westerner. If you have to wear woolly chaps and spurs to go get the mail, you’re just a pilgrim in a Gene Autry costume. My own community is a serial offender when it comes to this principle. Every year during the last full week in July, bank presidents and financial planners who couldn’t saddle a horse to save their soul don their starched Wranglers (almost always an inch or more too short) and the same pair of cheap boots they’ve had since 1978 to play cowboy. It’s fun for them and funny for the rest of us. We’re all romantics when it comes to the West.
     The romance of the West has been a draw almost from the beginning. Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill were the heroes of dime novels more than a century ago, each espousing values neither ever practiced. More recently, there’s been talk about the “Code of the West”. It's not a new idea. Zane Grey wrote a book about it. John Wayne talked about it. Some recovering Wall Streeter named James P. Owen exploited it. And legislatures across the West have adopted resolutions endorsing vague value statements that have little or nothing to do with the real Code of the West. The truth is, I doubt there is a real one. If there is one, it's one that varies a bit from family to family and individual to individual. But living here for six generations counts for something. Starting today, and for the next few days, we’ll touch on a few items that are important in our own family's Code of the West.

Principle #1 – Work hard, and do your share.

     The highest form of praise that can be lavished on anyone in our family comes from Grandma. And if Grandma says “He (or she) is a workin’ machine,” no higher accolade can ever come your way. As the original “workin’ machine” she ought to know. She came here, the product of a thousand generations of German-Swiss women, not one of whom made an inch of room in their family for laziness. Ranger and the Apprentice always scramble for the front passenger seat in my pickup (assuming Grandma isn't in it) because
they consider that the co-pilot’s seat. But with that seat comes the responsibility of getting out and opening and closing any gates. And when the truck comes to a halt, that passenger side door better be already opening. Why? Not because I'll be grouchy at them if it's not. These guys never required more than a raised eyebrow on the worst day they ever had. They open and close the gates because it's their responsibility. And it says so right here, in the Code of the West.


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