So much for the 'Code of the West'

While no such thing officially existed in writing, the “Code of the West” became known over the years for its guidelines to straight-forward, respectful living.

The code was even mentioned by famous western writer Zane Grey in his 1934 book, “The Code of the West.” Renowned Western historian Ramon Adams once wrote, “Back in the days when the cowman with his herds made a new frontier, there was no law on the range. Lack of written law made it necessary for him to frame some of his own, thus developing a rule of behavior that became known as the ‘Code of the West.’ These homespun laws, being merely a gentleman’s agreement to certain rules of conduct for survival, were never written into statutes, but were respected everywhere on the range.”

Although the Code of the West was always unwritten, here is a list of some of its guidelines regarding hospitality, fair play, loyalty and respect that can be found on multiple websites. In my estimation, examples of such behavior aren’t easy to find in every day life, and of course, my two cents follows each one (along with a reference to a relevant Bible verse here and there).

• Live each day with courage.

This is just plain unpopular these days. People in general much prefer giving in to trendy, politically correct nonsense, and shy away from standing up for what was for hundreds of years considered good and right.

But then, the Bible says people would act this way, and that right would be considered wrong, bad good would be considered good and vice versa (Isaiah 5:20; 2 Timothy 3).

• Take pride in your work.

This is so rare these days. You see it everywhere: People slide by without doing more than the bare minimum and literally get annoyed at having to help or serve another person.

The Bible says that’s all wrong and we should always toil as if we’re doing it for the Lord (Colossians 3:23).

• Always finish what you start.

Suggestion: Don’t start what you don’t intend to finish, and count the cost before you start – and that doesn’t just mean monetary cost (Luke 14:28).

• Do what has to be done.

For some reason, doing all kinds of things that don’t have to be done often takes precedence these days. Imagine if people focused on accomplishing necessities first and pleasure second.

That might be a pretty cool world to live in.

• Be tough but fair.

Being fair doesn’t always mean giving in.

And sometimes it’s tough not to give in.

But sometimes in the name of fairness, it’s right not to give in – like to a special interest group a vast majority disagrees with. By the way, God never gives in; He has only one way of doing business and nobody gets favor over anyone else (Romans 2:11). What could be more fair?

• When you make a promise, keep it.

A man’s word was his bond in the Old West, but eh, not so much now.

Instead it’s now more popular to make empty promises that aren’t really serious, or for that matter aren’t even intended to be kept.

Gee, has a major politician ever done that? Or a family member? Or yourself ?

Several passages in the Bible warn against making false promises (like Ecclesiastes. 5:5). Imagine that. And imagine a world where you could always take someone’s word to heart.

• Ride for the brand.

I’d say this doesn’t have to just mean the Lazy Q Ranch or that kind of brand.

I think it means recognizing right and wrong, planting your rear end right there and staying put. A man whose actions match his words in a righteous way is always seen as “riding strong,” and conversely, a man who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk is seen as “weak in the saddle.”

God prefers the former (3 John 1:4).

• Talk less and say more.

Wow, I wish life was like this. But unfortunately, the standard procedure is often to just speak a lot of words and hope there’s something in there that conveys something remotely close to a message.

If someone asked me what my top few pet peeves were, this would be one of them. I really can’t stand hearing someone who is a supposed expert on a subject use a lot of unnecessary, inapplicable or even worthless words. For that matter, I don’t like it when anyone addresses a matter that way, as if the more words, the better the opinion or the deeper the meaning.

The Bible frequently points out how foolish that is (Like Proverbs 10:19, 13:13 and 17:28).

• Remember that some things aren’t for sale.

The Beatles were right when they sang about how “money can’t buy me love.”

And while money is necessary in obtaining many important things in life (like food, clothing and shelter), it will always fall short in providing happiness where there would otherwise be none (Ecclesiastes 5:10-20).

• Know where to draw the line.

This ought to be easy, but people often don’t find that to be true.

It’s simple: The line should be drawn where God says it should. But instead, people in today’s upside down society like to draw lines where they see fit, and leave God’s will in the back seat.

That’s goes against what the Bible teaches (Deuteronomy 11:1 and many other verses).

Anyway, the Code of the West had a lot going for it, and its values weren’t far off from an even higher code. Too bad the behavior it endorses is now widely shunned rather than supported, defended and embraced.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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