The American cowboy had a whole passel of unwritten codes and sayings about how to conduct himself in the West. In fact, a list of those would probably fill an entire book. They were usually short, blunt, and to the point because the cowboy was sparing of his words. They always brimmed with a whole lot of wisdom though. And breaking one of their rules might land you in a heap of trouble.
Love and protect your family.
Be gentle and kind to your horse.
Respect yourself and others.
Treat the land well and it’ll be good to you.
Don’t spit on the sidewalk.
Keep a lid on your can of cuss words in the company of womenfolk.
Don’t stick your nose in where it don’t belong or it might get broken.
And the list goes on. The saying that sticks in my mind lately though is this one–“Dance with the One That Brung You.”
It was proper etiquette for a lady to always remember who brought her to the dance and to show her appreciation by nothing less than dancing with that person. Abandoning her escort to dance with another was considered unmannerly, not to say ill-advised, and tantamount to throwing down the gauntlet. The spurning could lead to serious consequences–and had sometimes been known to cause a case or two of lead poisoning.
Grant you, society today is very different from the way it was a hundred or so years ago. But, most of us who remember the unwritten rules of conduct fare much better than those who’ve tossed them in the trash. I still cut a wide berth around someone who hawks up a big wad of phlegm and spits it on the sidewalk. Yuck! And we sure haven’t done too good a job at taking care of the land. We’ve polluted and ravaged what was once so bountiful.
I remember my mama’s teachings and try to live accordingly, not only to make her proud of me, but because I want to make myself the very best I can be. So far, her wisdom has steered me in the right direction. When I was born in the late 1940’s, my parents, two sisters, a brother, and me lived in a one-room tent. The picture at the right shows a little of what it looked like. (And it was the first time I rode a horse. Seems I started early. Even if the horse was borrowed.) It took my parents a long time to recover from the Great Depression. They never had too much to begin with and what precious little they had was lost when the Depression hit. My folks were long on pride and short on money. The tent was a blessed, prized possession. They’d seen plenty of times when the sky was their roof and the ground their bed. Even then they gave thanks for that. There’s much to be said for doing what you can with what the good Lord gives you. I’m not ashamed for having lived in a tent for the early part of my life. Being poor is no reason to hang your head. I think if the young, spoiled movie stars today had a lot less money and a more stable structure to their lives they wouldn’t be in the revolving doors of rehab and jail. Maybe instead of a cell the judge should sentence them to living on a working ranch for a few years? That might help them learn to appreciate the wonderful gifts they’ve been given. And to keep their dadgum bloomers on! It sure couldn’t hurt. Nothing else seems to work.
I think everyone should always remember where they came from, how they got where they are, and who brought them to this dance called life. I’m proud of my humble beginnings. No matter what success or accomplishment may come way I never want to forget for a single moment the place I came from and the sacrifice of loving parents who worked their fingers to the bone. They’ve already gone from this earth but they left a treasured legacy in trying to give their kids the very best they could. I know I’m deeply satisfied to have been so lucky. Because of them I have a clear view (most of the time anyway) of the world and how I fit in it. At least I keep my bloomers on!
Do you have memories of your growing-up years that still influence you today? Or maybe you still practice some of the codes of the west?