The Code of The West

"Cowboys and Heroes"

Pamela R. Blaine
Copyright, December 2004


As I child, I loved Saturday morning!  This was the day that I looked forward to all week.  I would hurry through my morning chores, finish my bowl of “Tony the Tiger” cereal (it’s “GREAT, great!”) and turn on our family’s newly acquired television set.

Yes, it was Saturday morning in the late 1950s and life was good!  There were a lot of good programs such as: Annie Oakley, Wild Bill Hickok, Zorro, Hopalong Cassidy, Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin, Sky King, The Texas Rangers, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans, just to name a few.

Television was in black and white back then and sometimes it didn’t come in very clear, in fact, I thought that it snowed in the desert until we got a better antenna with a rotary dial.  I can still hear the steady “click-click” it made as it turned the antenna to the preferred direction. 

The remote control had not made an appearance in the 50s, so we had to actually get up out of our chairs and trek over to the television and change the channel manually.  As I turned the dial, searching for a Saturday morning favorite, it didn’t take long to check out all three of the channels that were available.  I wondered why they had all of those other numbers on the dial.

I would immediately stop at the channel where I heard the familiar sound of the “William Tell Overture” as the announcer would say:

"A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty hi-yo Silver. The Lone Ranger!"

“With his faithful Indian companion Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early west. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!”

 After the programs were over it was time to pretend.    Sometimes I would braid my hair like Annie Oakley, saddle my horse, and ride off down the trail.  At other times I would pretend to be Dale Evans, Queen of the West. 

My brother and I, along with the neighborhood kids, would imitate our heroes and call each other, “kemo sabe” (meaning trusted scout) and make silver bullets out of aluminum foil.

The programs on Saturday morning were mostly westerns and stories of rescue and heroism.  Who can forget the Songbird flying through the sky as we heard, “Out of the clear blue of the western sky comes Sky King!”  Whether it was Sky King, Lassie, or The Lone Ranger, the programs were wholesome and filled with a plot and a purpose.  They taught us that crime doesn’t pay.  The stories showed us through the heroic cowboys and lawmen that it was best to make good choices by having good morals and values.

Our heroes gave us “the code of the West” that all good cowboys and cowgirls followed:

Hopalong Cassidy's "Creed for American Boys and Girls"

1. The highest badge of honor a person can wear is honesty, be mindful at all times.

2. Your parents are the best friends you have. Listen to them and obey their  instructions.

3. If you want to be respected, you must respect others. Show good manners in every way.

4. Only through hard work and study can you succeed. Don't be lazy.

5. Your good deeds always come to light. So don't boast or be a show off.

6. If you waste time or money today, you will regret it tomorrow. Practice thrift in all ways.

7. Many animals are good and loyal companions. Be friendly and kind to them.

8. A strong, healthy body is a precious gift. Be neat and clean.

9. Our country's laws are made for your protection. Observe them carefully.

10. Children in many foreign lands are less fortunate than you. Be glad and proud you are an American

Gene Autry's "Ten Commandments of the Cowboy"

1. A cowboy never takes unfair advantage.
2. A cowboy never betrays a trust.
3. A cowboy always tells the truth.
4. A cowboy is kind to small children, to old folks, and to animals.
5. A cowboy is free from racial and religious prejudice.
6. A cowboy is helpful and when anyone's in trouble he lends a hand.
7. A cowboy is a good worker.
8. A cowboy is clean about his person and in thought, word, and deed.
9. A cowboy respects womanhood, his parents, and the laws of his country.
10. A cowboy is a patriot.

The Lone Ranger's Creed

I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one.

That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world.

That God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather and light it himself.

In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.

That a man should make the most of what equipment he has. That "this government, of the people, by the people, and for the people," shall live always.

That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number.

That sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken. That all things change, but the truth, and the truth alone lives on forever.

I believe in my Creator, my country, my fellow man.

Roy Roger's "Rider's Rules"

1. Be neat and clean.

2. Be courteous and polite.

3. Always obey your parents.

4. Protect the weak and help them.

5. Be brave but never take chances.

6. Study hard and learn all you can.

7. Be kind to animals and care for them.

8. Eat all your food and never waste any.

9. Love God and go to Sunday School regularly.

       10. Always respect our flag and our country.

Another aspect of many of the western programs was the singing cowboy.  A campfire wasn’t complete without a cowboy singing a song as he strummed his guitar.  Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and The Sons of The Pioneers were just a few of the great cowboy singers.

Throughout the years, the morals and values of our childhood heroes carried us through.  The children of the 50s are now grandparents who still believe in “the code of the west” and it has served them well through troubles, illnesses, and wars.

Roy Rogers’ cowboy prayer still echoes in our hearts:

 “Lord, I reckon I’m not much just by myself,

I fail to do a lot of things I ought to do. 

But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high,

Help me ride it straight the whole way through. 

And when in the falling dusk I get that final call,

I do not care how many flowers they send,

Above all else, the happiest trail would be for YOU to say to me,

“Let’s ride, My friend” Amen

I wish we never had to say good-bye to the kind of programs that motivated children and all of us to be better people.  Hopefully, child and cowboy will meet again so I won’t say good-bye, I’ll just sing… 

Happy Trails to you, until we meet again
Happy Trails to you, keep smilin' until then...
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy Trails to you, ‘til we meet again..."

("Happy Trails to You" By Dale Evans)