The cowboy had a whole passel of unwritten codes and sayings about how to conduct themselves in the West. In fact, they’d probably fill an entire book. They were usually short and blunt because the cowboy was sparing of his words. But they were brimming with a lot of wisdom. Breaking one of these 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 doesn’t belong or it might get broken.
And the list goes on. The saying that sticks in my mind lately is this one—“Dance With The One That Brung You.”
It was considered 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 him. Abandoning her escort to dance with another was considered ill-advised, not to say unmannerly, and tantamount to throwing down the gauntlet. It was a spurning that could lead to serious consequences—and had sometimes been known to cause a case 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 etiquette fare much better than those who’ve thrown them away. Believe you me, I still cut a wide berth around someone who hawks up a big wad of phlegm and spits it on the sidewalk. That’s gross. And we sure haven’t done too good a job at taking care of the land. We’ve polluted and ravaged what once was so bountiful.
I remember my mama’s teachings and try to live accordingly. 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 tent. Here’s a picture of it and of me. This was my first experience with riding a horse. It took my parents a long time to recover from the Great Depression. They never had much to begin with and what little they had was lost when the Depression hit. They 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 only roof and the ground their bed. Not that they complained. There’s something to be said for doing what you can with what you have. I’m not ashamed of having lived in a tent for the early part of my life. Being poor is no reason to hang your head. I think if some of these spoiled Hollywood celebs had a lot less money and a more stable structure in their lives they wouldn’t get in so much trouble. Maybe instead of jail the judge should sentence them to live on a working ranch for a year or two? That’d do more good than a few weeks in rehab. That might help them learn to appreciate the wonderful gifts they’ve been given and keep their dadgum bloomers on. Sure couldn’t hurt. Nothing else seems to work.
I think people 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 the success or accomplishment that may come my way, I never want to forget for a single moment the place I came from—the sacrifice of loving parents who are already gone from this earth. They left a treasured legacy in that they gave their kids the very best they could. I know it makes me deeply satisfied to have been so lucky. Because of them I have a clear view of the world and how I fit in it.
I hope I never get too uppity or forget my raising. And I want to always remember to dance with the one who brought me.
Do you have memories of your growing-up years that still influence you today?