The Cowboy Code

A steely-eyed buckaroo graces the cover of the January-February 2024 issue of True West. Beside him is the caption: “The Cowboy: America’s  Icon.”

The cowboy is as American an icon as the bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty, and Mount Rushmore.

But what truly makes the cowboy iconic is the Code of the West—a set of rules for him to live by. These include courage, loyalty, fair play, self-reliance and respect for the land.



Cowboys are riding tall in the saddle again now with the resurgence of Westerns. I don’t reckon that real cowboys or reel cowboys will be riding off into the sunset anytime soon.

Paul Hoylen (Deming, New Mexico)

Thank you! Your letter reminded us that at one time Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Buck Jones and Tom Mix, to name just a few, emphasized a “Code of the West” for young boys and girls to live by. As a reminder of those long-ago codes, here is the Buck Jones Cowboy Creed:

I must be courteous and obedient to my elders.

I must study and learn.

I must be courageous, honest, industrious, truthful and unselfish.

I must be a pal to my playmates and big brother (or big sister) and to all boys or girls younger than myself.

I must keep my life bright and clean.


The Duke vs. Hoppy, Gene and Roy

I keep reading that John Wayne is the most popular Western hero of all time, but is he? Counting ticket sales over the years from 1930 to 1976, perhaps he was, but using other measures, I doubt it. He never sold merchandise like RR, Gene A. and, particularly, Hoppy (William Boyd) in the ’50s. And I don’t think he had their kind of fan clubs all over the world. I like the Duke’s movies, too, but they were mostly A-features, with different standards of quality.

Dr. Jim Vickrey (Montgomery, Alabama)

That is a great question and one that may never be answered, but you make a good argument for the great B-Cowboy heroes of Western serial fame and the immeasurable joy our cowboy favorites of film and television brought to us all.


Right on, Dude!

In the January-February 2024 issue, Stuart Rosebrook is right on the money with “Dude or not a Dude.” Do you know how the term “dude” came about? If not, here it is. It was coined by the cowboys. When a cowboy spent too many hours in a saddle that maybe didn’t fit him just right he would likely end up with a blister or a boil on his backside and it was called a “dude.” When Eastern tourists showed up out West they were quite often a real pain in the ass. Hence, the term “dude.” The hippie culture, not knowing anything about this (and a lot of other stuff), changed the meaning of the word.

Lee Anderson (Chino Valley, Arizona)

We are always grateful to learn the origin of Western words. The Dude abides! 



Frank J. Haynes, Photo Courtesy The Getty Online Collection

On page 94-95 of the January-February 2024 issue, the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in the photo with the Liberty Cap (below) was misidentified as Old Faithful Lodge; on page 116, the Blue Mountains should have been listed as the Cascades between The Dalles and the Willamette Valley; on page 120, the Boot Hill Museum was incorrectly listed in Abilene, Kansas, but it is located in Dodge City; on page 123, Jerome, Arizona, was inadvertently left off the “Where History Lives” list of towns.

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