What Defines a Cowboy?

I needed another photo and thought we could use a picture of a good looking cowboy.

Webster’s defines a cowboy this way. (1) one who tends cattle or horses (2) a rodeo performer (3) one having qualities (such as recklessness, aggressiveness, or independence) popularly associated with cowboys: such as aa reckless driver ba business or businessperson operating in an uncontrolled or unregulated manner. The first two are obvious and I agree, but the last definition? Who wrote that? Aggressive? Reckless driver? Maybe they’re confusing cowboy with renegade? I don’t know. But they don’t see the same “qualities” I see in a cowboy. And I refuse to even discuss the businessman one. The only part that definition has right is independent. In my opinion, Merriam-Webster blew it by failing to see what else makes a cowboy.

First, being aggressive makes me think of a bully. When I think of a cowboy, I think of John Wayne in movies where his character stood up for those who needed a champion. Big Jake and The Cowboys come to mind as examples. He stands up for what’s right, does what needs to be done no matter what the personal cost, and he certainly isn’t a reckless driver. See me shaking my head over this one yet again. He may take a risk, but he’s not reckless or as Webster says, “acting without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.”

A cowboy possesses what some today call old-fashioned manners and values. They’re willing to work hard and can be counted on to finish the job. The words “yes, ma’am” are part of their vocabulary, and more importantly, used. No matter what their age, they call their parents’ friends Mr. and Mrs. to show respect. When I wrote my first novel with a cowboy hero Big City Cowboy, (which happened to be the only idea of that type I had at the time), the inciting incident forced my hero to go to New York to model. However, I wanted a reason other than to save his ranch. I asked myself what a cowboy loved more than his ranch or his horse. The answer his mom popped into my head. For me, that’s the kind of values a cowboy possesses. He values hard work, family, his heritage, and respects women.

But I write non-traditional cowboy heroes. Not all of them live or even grew up on a ranch. I think my expanded definition of a cowboy resulted from my son going to Texas A&M University. While there he became more “western,” more cowboy-like. Though looking back, I see glimpses when in high school he worked at the Heritage Farmstead, a historical farm and museum, and drove a tractor. But I started seeing the “cowboy” in him more when he attended A&M. Mainly because the culture at the university and in College Station, Texas, has a lot in common with cowboy values. It’s why my Wishing, Texas series has cowboy in the title despite not all those heroes living or growing up on a ranch.

So, back to good old Merriam-Webster. What are your thoughts on a cowboy? Does he have to be someone who owns a ranch, grew up on one, or competes in rodeos?  What do you think makes a man a cowboy?

That last thing I’ll say is, the trick is how to weed out a nontraditional cowboy from those who are all hat and no cattle. But I’ll save that discussion for another day.

 

Rodeo Cowboys–Competitors, Friends, and Even Family

Today we welcome Danica Favorite to the Petticoats and Pistols corral.

One of my favorite parts of the rodeo is the bronc riding. It’s such a great combo of talent, skill and a little bit of luck. The announcer at a rodeo series I often watch has always been good about sharing some of the inside stories of the cowboys, and one of the things I fell in love with was how many times he’d talk about how cowboys competing against each other were often close friends and traveling buddies. You think about rodeos as competitions, but it reminded me of my life growing up in the rodeo scene. The people do become like family, even if you spend all season vying for the top spots.

So when I came up with this series, I thought a lot about that sense of family, not just in my Shepherd’s Creek community, but also among these rodeo cowboys. That became the heart of The Bronc Rider’s Twins. What do you do when someone in that found family dies, leaving behind a mess? For Wyatt Nelson, that meant stepping up and being the husband and father his best friend couldn’t be.

Family is equally important to Laura Fisher. For those who read the first book in the series, Journey to Forgiveness, you know that the Shepherd’s Creek family is working through a very painful past. You don’t have to have read it to read The Bronc Rider’s Twins, but for me, this series isn’t just about each of the family members, but about the way they’ve found their way back to each other after being estranged for so long.

Though there is, of course, a happy ending, what I love about this book, and this series, is that we see how messy families can be, and how sometimes working through these issues can take a lot of time, patience, and love. And, even though we have a picture in our heads of what a family is supposed to look like, the family in this series isn’t your traditional family. But together, they find healing and hope.

About The Bronc Rider’s Twins:
A family he doesn’t expect…

But will protect at all costs.

Convinced he caused his best friend’s death, rodeo cowboy Wyatt Nelson will do whatever it takes to look after widow Laura Fisher and her infant twins—even propose to her. A marriage of convenience is the perfect solution to keep custody from Laura’s overbearing in-laws. But as Wyatt begins to fall for the little family, will he let guilt get in the way of his heart?

About Danica Favorite:
Danica Favorite has spent her life in love with good books.  Never did she imagine that the people who took her to far away places would someday be the same folks she now calls friends.

A mountain girl at heart, she lives in the Denver area with her family and ever-changing menagerie of animals.

Put it all together, and you find an adventurous writer who likes to explore what it means to be human and follow people on the journey to happily ever after.

Giveaway:
Danica will be giving away a copy of The Bronc Rider’s Twins. To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment about someone you’re not technically related to, but you consider family, and how has that person helped you in your life?

 

Cowboy Sayings

One of the things I collect is cowboy sayings (come on, you already knew I was weird). Here are a few of my faves.

 
 
  • Small as a bump on a pickle
  • That horse is the hind legs of destruction
  • I ate so many armadillos when I was young, I roll up when I hear a dog bark.
 
 
 
  • Texas is the silver buckle of the bible belt
  • There’s two theories about arguin’ with a woman. Neither works.
  • Speak your mind, but ride a fast horse.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
 
 
  • Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly
  • Never ask a man the size of his spread.
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up.
  • Never smack a man chewing tobacco.
  • He’s crazy as an acre of snakes.
  • I was so poor growing up, I had a tumbleweed as a pet.
  • And probably the most famous – don’t squat with your spurs on.

I even have cowGIRL ones!

  • High steppers give bumpy ride.
  • You can’t get ahead of anyone you’re trying to get even with.
  • If you wake up and find yourself a success, you ain’t been asleep.

  • Cryin’ about a bad past is a waste of good tears.
  • Nobody’s credit is better than their money.
  • Half your troubles come from wanting your own way. The other half come from getting it.
 
What’s your favorite cowboy/country saying?

A Cowboy Song in My Heart!

This is the real life cowboy who inspired the first novel I sold.

I hate to admit this, but as a child, I wasn’t a fan of the country music my mother played music. But since I sold my first contemporary western romance in 2011, I’ve come to love it. The other day I thought about how many great songs have cowboy in the title. The first one that popped into my mind was “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” by Willie Nelson. For fun, I ran a searched to find others.

The first site on my search was http://www.myweddingsongs.com. The irony is the day before I wrote this post, I turned in revisions on To Marry A Texas Cowboy which comes out in September. In that book, my hero temporarily manages his grandmother’s wedding planning business! When I went to the website, I discovered the fourth Saturday in July is the Day of the Cowboy. If I’d known, July 25th would’ve found me in my recliner watching cowboy movies. Then I would’ve sat on the patio with a cool drink and listened to cowboy songs.

Since I missed this year’s day, I’m compiling my Day of the Cowboy playlist for Saturday July 24, 2021. Here’s my list so far.

Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell

Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys by Waylon and Willie

Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? by Paula Cole

Should’ve Been a Cowboy by Toby Keith

Cowboys and Angels by Garth Brooks

Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) by Big and Rich

Cowboy Casanova by Carried Underwood

Cowboy Take Me Away by The Chicks

The Cowboy Rides Away by George Strait

Don’t Call Him Cowboy by Conway Twitty

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys by Willie Nelson

The Cowboy in Me by Tim McGraw

Whatcha Gonna Do With a Cowboy by Chris LeDoux

Cowboy Love by John Michael Montgomery

Asphalt Cowboy by Jason Aldean

The Cowboy’s Hat by Chris LeDoux

Cowboy’s Back in Town by Trace Adkins

100% Cowboy by Jason Meadows

Cowboys and Angels by Garth Brooks

My Cowboy by Jessie James

Cowboys Like Us by George Strait

All Around Cowboy by Waylon Jennings

Cowboy Logic by The Charlie Daniels Band

Cowboys Are My Weakness by Trisha Yearwood (Oh, yes! Mine too!)

I Want a Cowboy by Reba McEntire

I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore by George Strait

Broken Down Cowboy

And two non-country music entries…

Put the Boy Back in Cowboy by Bon Jovi

I Wannt Be a Cowboy by Boys Don’t Cry

(This has a great video if you love watching Jon Bon Jovi!)

Since I was having a great time and in a wonderful mood after listening to many of the above, I searched for best songs about cowboys, and I had to include these.

Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi

Desperado by The Eagles

The songs that spoke to me as I compiled my list were “Cowboy Logic” by The Charlie Daniels Band, “I Want a Cowboy” by Reba McEntire, and “100% Cowboy” by Jason Meadows. To listen to those, click on the song title. Now I have another way to brighten the day when I’m feeling blue–listen to songs with cowboy in the title!

To be entered in the random drawing for the brand wine glass, the wine cover and a copy of Home on the Range: Colorado Rescue, leave a comment stating your favorite song with cowboy in the title and why you like it.

 

Catching the Cowboy

 

The past few months, I’ve been working on a brand-new sweet western romance series set in a modern-day town that only exists in my head. 

I can’t speak for other authors, but I have the absolute best time dreaming up towns, businesses, and oddball characters. 

I first started thinking about a series set near Burns, Oregon, years ago. At that time, I jotted down a few notes, tucked them away, and thought about the characters and stories I wanted to write but just never had time to work into my schedule. Last summer, I began thinking of ideas for another ranch series, one with Summer in the title (inspired by a ranch sign I saw on the way to church one Sunday when I ventured along a back road). Finally, I landed on the idea of combining the two series into one and naming it Summer Creek. Of course, I came up with that idea ten minutes into a three-hour road trip with Captain Cavedweller. So the entire trip he was trapped in the pickup with me as I brainstormed ideas. Lucky for me, he’s great at brainstorming and tossing around “what ifs” so it was quite a trip! 

By the time we got home, I had the basics outlined for the first three books with oodles of notes for more in the series. 

I like to have a cover in finished before I start writing the book, or at least something in mind. And I knew I wanted the covers for this series to be different — original. After searching for hours (days!) online, I ended up asking a local photographer if she’d sell me three images from engagement sessions. She specializes in western photography and I fell in love with this image.

It was so incredibly perfect for the story I wanted to write and in fact, I wrote this image into the last scene of the book. 

I had such a great time creating not just the characters and story, but the town of Summer Creek. It’s an old town that’s been around for more than a century, but it’s fallen on hard times and when the heroine arrives, she boosts the population up to 497. Did I mention it’s a really small town? One where a goat named Ethel roams around eating grocery bags and tube socks. Where the mayor is also the barber and locksmith, and… you get the idea. 

Catching the Cowboy is the first book in the series and it will release June 9. I can hardly wait to share it with everyone. 

 

She’s fresh out of jail . . .

  He’s fresh out of luck.

 Spoiled heiress Emery Brighton indulges in one mimosa too many, attempts to steal a horse, and winds up in jail. A sentence of community service leaves her at the mercy of strangers on a remote ranch near a small town in Oregon. Adjusting to country life is hard enough, but she has no idea how to handle her growing affection for a surly cowboy and his adorable daughter.

 Steady and dependable as the day is long, rancher Hudson Cole just wants to raise his little girl and be left alone. When his grandmother invites a lawbreaker dressed in Louis Vuitton to Summer Creek Ranch, Hud is convinced Grammy has lost her ever-loving mind. Determined to detest Emery, he instead finds himself doing the one thing he vowed would never happen again: falling in love.  

With one foot out the door, will love be enough to convince Emery to stay?

 This sweet romance offers a funny, delightful happily ever after adventure in a quirky small town. Discover a meandering goat named Ethel, meddling matchmakers, and a community that feels like home in a story filled with heart, humor, and hope.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

“Sit by me,” Cricket said, snagging Emery’s hand and pulling on it.

Jossy feigned a pout. “I’ve been displaced as the favored seatmate.”

Emery glanced from Jossy to Hud. “I don’t want to steal anyone’s seat.”

“You’re fine,” Jossy said, giving Emery a warm smile then settling into the chair on the other side of Hud. “This looks and smells fantastic, Grammy. Thank you for making my muffins.”

“Of course, sweetie. It’s a treat to have you join us,” Nell said, lifting Jossy’s and Cricket’s hand in hers. “Let’s hold hands while I offer a word of thanks for this food and beautiful day.”

Hud would rather pet a rabid porcupine than hold Emery’s hand in his, but to appease his grandmother, he reached out and clasped it. Unprepared for the wild jolt of electricity that zipped from the point of contact up his arm, he would have dropped her hand and left the room if it wouldn’t have created a flurry of questions from his grandmother and Jossy.

Instead, he forced himself to sit still and listen to his grandmother say grace. As soon as he uttered “amen,” he released Emery’s hand, although his skin continued to tingle. He picked up the mug of coffee in front of him and took a long, bracing drink. He did his best to ignore the way it burned all the way down his throat as he picked up the platter of sausages. When he held it for Emery before passing it on to Jossy, he caught the woman eyeing him, as though she was equally disturbed by the unsettling, unexpected feeling that continued to linger in the air.

This …  whatever this energy was that pulsated between them, was not something he wanted to explore or even acknowledge. He’d vowed years ago he would never be stupid enough to let another woman into his heart and life, and he intended to stick with that decision.

 

You can pre-order Catching the Cowboy for just $1.99. After it releases, the price will increase to $5.99 for digital copies. It will also be available in paperback. 

To find out more, please visit my website, or order your copy today.

 

Addled With April & Quotes to Remember

Addled with April…

I have never forgotten that phrase, as quoted by Sr. Mariel, SSJ, in Nazareth Academy first year honors English.

Addled with April.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s “The Yearling” one of the most thought-provoking and beautiful books I’ve ever read.

I’ve always had a kinship with words and animals. Maybe that’s why The Yearling and Where the Red Fern Grows and Girl of the Limberlost and Old Yeller got to me.

Coming of age stories touch not just our hearts but our souls. They touch that spot inside us that feels vulnerable and awful and good. They speak to the rise of hormones and the worry of school, of change, of time passing. Beautiful girls, handsome boys and things spinning out of our control.

Of course life does that. It does it fairly often, but not generally to everyone. If a hurricane roars through Louisiana or Texas or Florida, we dip into our pockets and help out.

If an earthquake rumbles buildings loose in Indonesia, we dip into our pockets and help out.

If a stricken child wants to go to Disneyworld and it’s their Make-a-Wish dream, we dip into our pockets and help out.

But this pandemic isn’t nearly that selective. It’s hit global nations, and quiet neighborhoods. It’s brought the city that never sleeps to its knees and woken up indigenous tribes who had the virus brought to them by miners.

It has killed and maimed and it has been contained and stifled by a brand new term we’ve all come to know and love to hate: Social distancing.

It means no hugging, no visiting around a table, no potlucks, no hoe-downs, no square dances, no dances of any kind, no parties, no festive Easter celebrations and … yes, who would have ever thought this????

No church.

No church in America.

And when that sinks in and we realize we can’t eat out, but we better learn how to eat in…. and clean and wash hands (really, men, all y’all knew how to wash hands, you just didn’t do it, don’t try to fool us women) and there is no stopping for coffee or even playing on playgrounds in many places, the reality comes into sharp focus. We sacrificed to save others.

Now that’s Cowboy Code right there. The kind of code that puts the horse up comfortably before he comes in the house to drop his boots and grab a bite. The kind of code that has a mom staying up half the night making a costume for an eight-year-old because she was busy warming three lambs who got born on an ice-cold field just hours before. The kind of code that has a mom refuse dessert because there’s just enough for the other four people… because she’s way too full to eat another bite.

Yeah.

That kind of code.

It’s tough. It’s weird. And when this all first started and experts were arguing ten ways to Sunday about doing this, that or the other thing, one expert stood out to me…

Like that “Addled with April” alliterative quote I’ve never forgotten.

And he said “If we don’t do this and a million people die we’re going to have to deal with the choice we made the rest of our lives. And if we do do close things down to avoid the cross-contamination and exponential numbers, we’re going to look at the mere thousands of deaths and wonder why we ruined an economy for that many people. And that’s when we’ll know the strategy worked.”

So here’s to you. All of you. All of you who cried on Easter when you couldn’t go to church or hug a baby or visit a parent or stop by a nursing home and give Gran a hug.

To all of you who’ve put meeting newborns on hold, and couldn’t fight your way into a hospital to tell a loved one goodbye.

To all of you who swiped and wiped and cleaned and sewed masks and donated and acted like the very best human beings on the planet:

Thank you.

Because of you…

Because of us…

It’s thousands, not millions.

And that’s something we can all be proud of.

Sending God’s most ardent blessings to the world as we keep on keepin’ on.

We’ve got this, my friends.

We’ve got this.

 

Bareback Riders and Rodeo Romance

I love a good rodeo. It’s true.

In fact, I love rodeos so much, I have a whole series of books that’s about… you guessed it – Rodeo! 

In my latest release, the hero in the story is a bareback rider. 

If you aren’t familiar with the sport, bareback riding is much like it sounds. There’s no saddle. No pad. 

 

The cowboy is basically trying to stay on the back of thousand-pound wildly bucking horse holding onto his leather rigging. The rigging greatly resembles a suitcase handle attached to a strap, which is placed on top of the horse’s withers and secured with a cinch.

Some say bareback riding is equivalent to attempting to ride a jackhammer with one hand. Bareback riders endure more physical abuse, suffer more injuries, and sustain more long-term damage than all other rodeo cowboys.

 

To compete, when the horse and rider bust out of the chute, the cowboy’s spurs must be touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse’s feet hit the ground after the initial move out of the chute. This is called “marking out.” If a cowboy fails to keep his spurs in position, he is disqualified.  The bronc bucks and the rider pulls his knees up, rolling his spurs up the horse’s shoulders. As the horse comes back down, he straightens his legs, returning his spurs over the point of the horse’s shoulders, anticipating the next move.

 

A qualified ride requires more than just strength. The cowboy is judged on his spurring technique, the degree his toes remain turned out while he’s spurring, and his willingness to take whatever comes along during the ride. 

 

In Keeping Christmas, Gage Taggart is a bareback rider on his way to making the national finals. He rides a motorcycle, has the world on a string, and is sure of his future… until a freak accident leaves him at the mercy of his best friend’s sister who just happens to be a nurse. 

Here is an excerpt from their first encounter in the story: 

There was no way on earth or beyond she was going behind the chutes. The last time she’d done that had cured her on rodeos and rodeo cowboys for life. She had no intention of repeating the experience. The very thought of going back there left her thoroughly disturbed.

She sent a text to Gage, telling him to meet her near the ticket booth. It was only after she hit send that she realized she should have mentioned she was the one there, not Trevor.

Gage would figure it out soon enough, she supposed.

She leaned against the corner of the ticket booth, out of the way, and watched the faces of those coming and going. Through the crowd, she caught a glimpse of a face that looked familiar as a cowboy jogged her way.

Tally sucked in a gulp of air, unprepared for how much Gage had changed since she’d last seen him in person. The boy she’d had a crush on had morphed into a very handsome man. His dark brown hair was shorter, his shoulders broader, his body a finely-tuned machine of muscle. She noticed a scar on his right cheek that hadn’t been there before, yet it only added to his rugged appeal.

But his eyes were the same magnificent shade of blue, and his lips still appeared incredibly kissable. When he looked at a little girl wearing a pink tutu over her denim overalls, his grin kicked up the left side of his mouth just as she remembered.

He didn’t appear to have gotten taller than his already six-foot height, but he looked stronger and more capable than he had all those years ago.

Tally noticed several women eyeing him as he made his way through the crowd. He didn’t even seem to notice them as he scanned the faces, no doubt searching for her brother. She stepped away from the ticket booth and headed toward him.

She tried to catch his eye, but he looked right past her, as though she didn’t exist. Not that it surprised her. Guys like Gage weren’t interested in girls like her — girls who would never be mistaken for a model, had brains in their heads, and held to an unyielding set of morals.

Nope. There was nothing about her that would be of the slightest interest to a cowboy like Gage.

Tally waited until she was standing directly behind him to tap him on the shoulder.

“Gage Taggart,” she said in a voice she used to subdue unruly patients. He jerked and turned around to stare at her.

She could see him struggling to pull her identity from his memories. Insulted he hadn’t yet figured out who she was, someone jostled into her and she bumped against Gage. Something electric and completely unexpected arced between the two of them. Tally wanted no part of whatever it was and moved back.

Eager to get the torturous errand over with, she held the gear bag out to him. “Trevor sent me with this.”

“Where’s Trev?” Gage asked, taking the bag and looking around like her brother might suddenly materialize. “Who was I texting a minute ago if it wasn’t him?”

“That would be me. I’m sure you don’t remember, but I’m Trevor’s sister.”

“Tally? You’re little Tally?” He held his hand down near his waist, indicating the height he thought she should be.

She nodded and Gage broke into a wide grin.

“You were always such a cute kid with those big gray eyes, sturdy little legs, and chubby cheeks.” He reached out and playfully pinched her cheek. “You haven’t changed a bit. Aren’t you like, fifteen, maybe sixteen?”

 

For a chance to win a digital copy of Keeping Christmas, please share one thing that is bringing you joy today. 

Julie Benson’s Winner

 

The winner of the owl scarf and Family Ties giveaway is. . .

Janine

Congratulations!

I will contact you at the email

address you left concerning getting your giveaway.

Again, congratulations Janine, and thank you to everyone who stopped by to chat. I’ll leave you with one final bit of cowboy wisdom. “Never give the devil a ride. He will always want the reins.”

                               Julie

Never Jump a Barbed Wire Fence Naked

Every generation says growing up is harder for the current one, but the issues I see today’s children dealing with makes my heart ache for them. As I pondered how we as a society start dealing with the problems facing our young people something in my Pinterest feed caught my eye: 

The Cowboy Code

If it’s not yours,

Don’t take it.

If it’s not true,

Don’t say it.

If it’s not right,

Don’t do it.

Something so simple, and yet, so profound. The first part—if it’s not yours, don’t take it—is easy for most of us. We know what stealing is and that it’s wrong. But the other two are tougher. If it’s not true, don’t say it—I don’t lie about someone, but I’ve been known to gossip. Because I’ve come to believe gossip can be as dangerous and damaging as lying, I try to avoid listening to or repeating it. As to the last part of The Cowboy Code—if it’s not right, don’t do it—I think it’s the most complicated. How do we tell what’s right with so many gray areas? For me, if I listen to my gut, it becomes clearer. When I feel that little twinge, I know something isn’t a good decision, and I’m learning to trust that. So far, my gut’s served me well.

Inspired by The Cowboy Code, I searched Pinterest and found other western advice. Maybe because cowboys work with cows and steers—animals known for requiring patience—but what I found has encouraged that very trait in me. I’ve always been a “Lord, give me patience right now” gal. I’ve been quick to honk at drivers who don’t move the minute the light turned green. I’ve fumed at someone taking too long leaving a parking space. But now, I try to be the driver I want on the road with me. When someone allows me to pull out in heavy traffic, I give them the “thanks pardner” wave to acknowledge their kindness, and more importantly, I try to be the person who makes room for others.  

Yup, I’m taking The Cowboy Code and philosophy to heart. I did this hoping to brighten someone else’s day and made a profound difference in my own life. Doing so has helped me slow down, be more patient, and live happier. Maybe that’s The Cowboy Code is a possible answer to some of our problems.

I’ll leave you with another cowboy tip that hopefully makes you smile as it did me. You got it. “Never climb a barbed wire fence naked.” Okay, so maybe they aren’t all diamonds, but you got to admit, it’s solid advice!  

Click here to head to the Petticoats and Pistols Pinterest site and check out more cowboy philosophy inspiration I found.

Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about your favorite cowboy or downhome wisdom to be entered to win the gray and white owl scarf and a copy of Family Ties containing my novel Cowboy in the Making pictured here. 

America Needs Westerns by Mike Torreano

My western mystery, The Reckoning, was recently released by The Wild Rose Press. It’s set in 1868 and follows Ike McAlister, a Union soldier who returns from the Civil War to his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas to find that his parents have been killed by Quantrill’s raiders. He sets out on a single-minded hunt to find the murderers; a search that takes him to the high plains of Colorado. My sequel, The Renewal, set in South Park, Colorado, 1872, was released in March 2108, also by The Wild Rose Press.

Let’s talk westerns for a minute. We’ve all heard that the traditional American western is dead—which prompts the question, ‘If that’s so, why write westerns?’ Well, it’s true the golden age of westerns was some time back. Since then, there’s been a bit of a dry spell until recently when several big box office westerns based on great new novels have been released.

Are they’re coming back? It sure seems like it. Why would they be mounting a return? Probably because westerns and the Old West embody timeless values—a place and time where right triumphs over wrong. Not always, certainly, but in our stories it does. The American West in the nineteenth century was a black and white society with clear-cut rules—there were things you were supposed to do as well as things you weren’t. And if you did wrong, there were consequences, oftentimes immediate.

Code of the West

There was a code of the West, even observed among the bad guys. Simple rules for simpler times. Unwritten, but adhered to nonetheless. The Code drew its strength from the underlying character of westerners, both men and women alike. Life back then was hard, but it was also simple. Things that needed to get done got done. Whining wasn’t tolerated. Complainers were ignored. You weren’t a victim. You played the hand you were dealt.

If you’re getting the idea I like that kind of culture, you’re right.

The world we live in today sometimes baffles me. Everything seems to be different shades of gray. Honor and fidelity seem to be out of fashion. People are entitled. The media are advocates, not observers.

While the Code of the West was unwritten and existed in various forms, there were certain common elements everyone—from the hard-working sodbuster, to the law-abiding citizen, to the hardened criminal—typically abided by. Granted, there were exceptions, but generally that held true.

In 2004, Jim Owens synthesized the Code into ten guiding principles in his book, Cowboy Ethics- What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West.

  1. Live each day with courage.
  2. Take pride in your work.
  3. Always finish what you start.
  4. Do what has to be done.
  5. Be tough, but fair.
  6. Keep your promises.
  7. Ride for the brand.
  8. Talk less and say more.
  9. Some things aren’t for sale.
  10. Know where to draw the line.

Let’s look at three of these.

How about number seven—Ride for the Brand. It means be loyal to the people in your life—from family and friends, to those you work for. Support the people you’re involved with.

Take a look at number four—Do what has to be done. Life is oftentimes messy. Our days are filled with ups and downs, and we make choices all the time. This is about choosing to get done what has to be done, then getting on with life.

Next, there’s number nine—Some things aren’t for sale. The Code gave westerners a guide to live by that they broke at their own peril. Are there still things today that aren’t for sale? What are they for you? They might be different for each of us, but at the end of the day I’d wager we all still have values that are non-negotiable. After all, values don’t really change—only times, circumstances, and people do.

The good news is the values the Code embodied haven’t vanished from today’s America, but more often than not it seems they have been marginalized. Popular culture tends to look down on old-time values, or should I say the timeless values of nineteenth century America. We’re an instant gratification society that focuses on the here and now, and disregards the lessons of the past. Imagine a world where you sat with your family for dinner at night, even going so far as to talk with each other. Imagine a world where a man’s word, and a woman’s, was their bond. Where handshakes took the place of fifty-page contracts and lawyers.

Arthur Chapman captured these principles in a poem he penned in 1917.

“Out Where The West Begins”

Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,

Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,

And a man makes friends without half trying—

That’s where the West begins.

So, yes, occasionally I yearn for those simpler times amid the hustle and bustle of our world. We’re inundated today with various media from morning to night. Sometimes Ike’s and Lorraine’s world-my main characters-looks pretty appealing. Especially right now.

At the end of the day, westerns remind us of our solid roots and what we were and could become again. That’s why the American western will never die.

To buy a copy of Mike’s latest release The Renewal, click here

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Mike is giving away the winner’s choice of either a print or digital copy of his novel, The Renewal. To be entered in the drawing leave a comment about one of the ten Code of  West principles listed above.