Code o’ the West, rodeo clown edition

By Bob Hicks

The other day we posted news of the Oregon Legislature’s impending adoption of the Code of the West as the official state, um, thing we adopt.

Rodeo clown Flint Rasmussen, April 14, 2007. Photo: Dave Hogg/Wikimedia Commons.The code’s as rugged as rawhide, which means it tends to get frayed if you leave it out in the rain. And it does rain hereabouts. Besides, some fella in Texas came up with the idea, and sells merchandise to go along with it. (We might actually go for a Code o’ the West jeans-pocket whiskey flask.)

The thing’s pretty much stampeded through the state House and is now sitting in the Senate holding pen. And while it’s tough to argue with the likes of “take pride in your work” and “do what has to be done,” in the interest of healthy public debate we’d like to propose for the Senate’s consideration a Counter Code o’ the West — something the rodeo clown in all of us might appreciate. (And let’s just say right here and now that being a rodeo clown requires an immense amount of grit, fortitude, courage and foolhardiness, not to mention a good supply of chewin’ tobacco.)

Our friend Mighty Toy Cannon, after first posting a few suggestions for amendments to the Code, followed up with a second comment that allowed he was getting a mite perturbed about the whole idea. “First, aren’t there more important tasks to be handled right now?” he wrote. “Second, the thought of the legislature codifying a set of values disturbs me. What’s next? Shall we adopt the 7 Habits of Successful People as our state’s official habits? Or make the ‘Golden Rule’ Oregon’s authorized Rule? We could adopt the AA’s 12 Steps as the state-endorsed approach to recovery. Didn’t I once hear something about commandments – how many is it? – right, the Ten Commandments? Why not have the Oregon Legislature vote for that? We could display it next to the Cowboy Code. I guess I shouldn’t worry about any of that; after all, #10 in the Cowboy Code is knowing where to draw the line.”

We suspect he’s right. That’s why we’re suggesting a contrarian code so we can laugh the whole concept off into the sunset. Thanks to some straight-shooting suggestions from MTC  and Scatter’s own chief correspondent, Martha Ullman West, here’s our new, improved,  Oregon Code o’ the West. Feel free to add to it or shout it down. Plus, if it passes, we promise not to sell any merchandise whatsoever to go with it. Not even a state user’s fee, often known on some ranches we’re aware of as a Democrat Sneak-a-Tax.

Counter Code o’ the West

Never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody. Call this the Cat Ballou clause. Thanks, MTC. This does sound like a Rule #1.

Don’t make a mess in your own bunkhouse. It’s the only West we’ve got. Don’t trash the place.

Admire that big horse, son, but saddle the small one.

Be respectful around the womenfolk. You’re not the boss of them. Considering that on the average homestead they had the kids, raised the kids, maybe even died while birthin’ the kids, did the cooking and cleaning, kept the books and generally ran the family business, by rights they ought to be the boss of you.

Before cussin’ your boss, saddle your horse.

White don’t necessarily make right. Contrary to certain claims of exclusivity, the True West is a place for all sorts of folks. Indians (they were here first). Mexicans (ditto). The Chinese who built the railroads, the Japanese who tilled the soil, the black men and their families who came looking for a fresh start. The West belongs to all of us. Better yet, we belong to it.

Respect the other riders of the range. Animals. Fish. Plants. They live here, too. They got rights.

Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Kenny Rogers is a wise man. We prefer this to the original code’s “Always finish what you start.”

Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got. Especially if you don’t fold ’em when you ought.

Defend and obey the rights of the Commons. We’re all in this together, so don’t get greedy.

Help your cowpoke neighbor as yourself. Ain’t no such thing as a lone ranger. When someone needs it, lend a helping hand. Could be the other way around next time.

Holster that six-shooter. For god’s sake, can we please try to talk first and maybe not shoot at all?

Stop and smell the sagebrush. What’s the point of living here if you don’t pay attention to the beauty of it all?


PICTURED: Rodeo clown Flint Rasmussen, April 14, 2007. Photo: Dave Hogg/Wikimedia Commons.