“The Code of the West” by Doug Balmain
The Code of the West is the classic American code of ethics created out of necessity by the pioneers of the western frontier. The Code was never a formally written document. Instead, it was an unwritten set of rules which established the requirements of living an honorable life. These rules served as the governing law of the West before formal law reached the territories.
Although The Code originated in a 19th century America, much different from the one we now know, it is anything but outdated. This timeless ethical and moral axiom serves as the foundation upon which countless individuals, myself included, continue to base their lives.
Some folks are turned off by the idea of The Code of the West. They think it implies that just by being a cowboy a person is living by The Code. This gives birth to the misconceived notion that The Code is simply an artifice used by outlaws to make their lives seem majestic and noble. Make no mistake, simply because someone was, or is, a cowboy does not mean that they lived by The Code of the West. The Code has never, and will never be followed by everyone. In the same way that there could be no good if there was no bad; if all people conducted themselves in an ethical, honest, and moral manner there would be no need for a formal code of ethics.
Much more than just a set of rules, The Code of the West is a comprehensive moral structure upon which one could base their entire life. It symbolizes the spirit of a people and their traditions, and it honors a way of life that is true to the land as well as to the people and animals that inhabit it. The Code is alive in us, and although somebody may not always be physically watching, The Code is always with a person reminding them to be true to themselves, their families, and their word. The Code of the West is not just for cowboys. Anyone, regardless of where they live, where they grew up, or their ethnic background can apply The Code to their life.
The Code of the West is about transparency, humility, honesty, courage, loyalty, and hard work. It’s about being on the outside who we are on the inside. It is about being humble and admitting to our mistakes and shortcomings. It’s about being true to our word and keeping our promises. It’s about doing what needs to be done even though we may be scared to do it. It’s about being loyal to ourselves and to our families. It’s about knowing where to draw the line and knowing that some things aren’t for sale. It’s about embracing hard work and taking pride in everything that we do.
The Code of the West is far from a fairy tale or western gimmick. It defines our American heritage and western culture. Uphold our country’s traditions and honor the ethical code established by our families who risked everything to settle the American West. Live your life by The Code of the West and you will be rewarded with respect, happiness, loyal friends, and the satisfaction that comes with living an honorable life.
- Doug Balmain, Editor