Cowboy principals down to essentials

By Baxter Black: QCS columnist

Last year, Turner Classic Movies invited me to be part of a month of shows featuring old western movies. First I declined, explaining that although I enjoyed them I was not an authority on the subject. I suggested they try some of the veteran western actors who were still around like Buck Taylor or Jerry Potter. 

No, what they wanted was me to elaborate on what real cowboys thought of the old western movies. I agreed to do it with the caveat that I actually knew some real cowboys. 

Among the observations I made were that western movies actually put real cowboys to work, like Ben Johnson, Richard Farnsworth and Slim Pickins.  Also it was kinda like home movies in that it is always fun to try and guess where they were filmed. If there were Saguaro cactus, it was not the Dodge City they claimed.

But to me the most important part of old westerns was that they portrayed the Code of the West, as it still exists today. In a nutshell — doin’ the right thing.

Recently, James P. Owen, a investment consultant, wrote a book called, “Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn From The Code of the West.” He boiled the cowboy ethics down to 10 principles:

1. Live each day with courage.
2. Take pride in your work.
3. Always finish what you start
4. Do what has to be done.
5. Be tough, but be fair.
6. When you must make a promise, keep it.
7. Ride for the brand.
8. Talk less, say more.
9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale.
10. Know where to draw the line.

This year, Hollywood is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the television series “Gunsmoke.” Matt Dillon exemplified the Code of the West. Regardless of how tough and messy the dilemma, justice was always done in the end.
Most people who believe in God, I suspect, do so because their parents pointed the way. That was my case. Today I believe just as strongly but it is influenced by my hope that justice will be done in the end, that all the tragedy and suffering and cruelty, the famine, war, unspeakable crimes, physical handicaps and human losses we endure will be rectified. 

For the Saddams and Hitlers and Osamas, there will be consequences. For the Helen Kellers and Mother Teresas and Nelson Mandelas, there will be eternal inner peace. 
The old western movies reaffirmed our deep belief that good guys win in the end. And the bad guys pay for their misdeeds.

Looks to me like “Deadwood” needs a man like Matt Dillon.