Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Cowboy Wit and Wisdom


Cowboy Wit and Wisdom

Spending long hours in the saddle, roping and herding cattle, averting a stampede—all were duties of a cowboy in the Wild West. The iconic lifestyle of a ranch hand on the open range is the stuff of legend. Who wouldn’t want to live free, sleep under the open sky, and swap stories around an open fire? Stampedes, mosquitoes, and dust storms only add to the mystique.

Well, okay. Maybe cowboys did have it rough at times. Despite this, many of them mourned the end of the open range. Read enough of these pearls of cowboy wit and wisdom, and I think you'll understand why.   

Cowboy Proverbs

Cowboy proverbs are like a breeze blowing back the curtains over the window of time. Taken together, they reveal a picture of freedom, good humor, and comaraderie.

  • Don’t fret about biting off more than you can chew. Likely, your mouth’s a whole lot bigger than you think.
  • When your horse dies, get off.
  • How to ride a horse—first you mount the horse; second you stay mounted.
  • Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, and a fool from any direction.
  • A man, a dog, and a horse never tire of each other’s company.
  • When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  • Speak your mind, but ride a fast horse.
  • If you’re not making dust, you’re eating it.
  • Always drink upstream from the herd.
  • Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
  • If you ain’t made up your mind, don’t use your spurs.
  • It don’t matter how big a ranch you have, or how many cattle you brand, or how many dollars you have. The size of your funeral is still going to depend on the weather.
  • If your horse don’t want to go there, then neither should you.
  • It’ll feel a whole lot better, soon as it quits hurtin’.
  • Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
  • The worst troublemaker you’re ever likely to meet, watches you shave your face every morning.
  • A bad day roping beats a good day at any other work.
  • Just because it’s a well-marked trail doesn’t mean whoever made it knew where he was going.

Code of the West

Cowboys did not hold any governing law as dearly as their own unwritten code. All told, it was a smart way to live.
  • Never ask a man about his past.
  • Theft of a horse is punishable by death.
  • Look after yourself and those you love.
  • Remove guns before sitting down to dine.
  • Only make a threat if you’re prepared to take the consequences.
  • On the trail, greet others before you come into shooting range, especially when approaching from behind.
  • When greeting a person on horseback, nod rather than wave to avoid spooking the horse.
  • Looking back at someone you pass on the trail implies a lack of trust.
  • Riding a horse without permission is akin to violating his wife.
  • A real cowman saves his breath for breathing rather than talking.
  • Tend your horse’s needs before your own.
  • Never cuss in front of a woman.
  • Complaining about the cooking earns you a stint as the cook.
  • Use your gun hand to drink whiskey to show good will.
  • Help those in need, even enemies.
  • Never steal another man's hat.
  • Show hospitality to strangers
  • Fight fair.
  • To avoid being shot, never shake a sleeping man awake.
  • Help a friend in need.
  • Never brag.
  • Be loyal.
  • Be grateful.
  • Don't complain.
  • Never quit.
  • Show your grit.
  • Never shoot an unarmed man.
  • Never shoot a woman for any reason.
  • Let your word be your bond.
  • Uphold the Golden Rule.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into a bygone era. While researching The Whispering Wind (Montana Gold 6), I came across much of this information. In each of the Montana Gold books, I brought various icons of the Wild West to the fore. The Whispering Wind honors the cowboys of the open range. If you'd like to learn more about them through entertaining fiction, be sure to check out the Montana Gold series description at the end of this post.

What's New with Janalyn Voigt

Anyone who works from home knows the difficulty of separating personal, household, and business activities. It's no different for a writer. Finding time to write is the biggest problem most writers face. An online friend of mine complained of the same trouble, and I told her I would pray for both of us on this topic. That night I dreamed of writing in a coffee shop. 

My friend latched onto the idea. Going somewhere else to write intrigued me, but I do have a comfortable home office. Leaving all the distractions behind in favor of an uninterrupted interlude won out. By the time you read this, I'll have gone for my first coffee-shop session. Watch my news here or subscribe to my newsletter for an update. 

Discover Montana Gold

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, the Montana Gold series explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west. The books follow the lives and loves of a family of Irish immigrants surviving in a hostile environment. Each inspirational story takes you on a journey into a simpler time. Find out more about Montana Gold.


  1. Thank you for posting today. That was a lot of wisdom right there!

  2. I love this post! Although I talk way too much to be a cowman!

  3. Me too, Janine. Thanks for commenting to let me know you enjoyed the post.