Not all cowboys look like Tom Selleck.

Not all cowboys look like Tom Selleck.


Some of the best Cowboys aren't "boys" at all.

Some of the best Cowboys aren’t “boys” at all!

And not all the work is done on horseback.

And not all the work is done on horseback.


And the mama cow still does a lot of the work.

But one thing stays the same: the mama cow still does a lot of the work.


My mom was an excellent cook, but Sundays were extra special. She made a roast surrounded by vegetables or baked chicken with all the trimmings, and she always made plenty of food and extra biscuits in case someone came home with us to share a family meal after church.  Those were delicious main meals, rich with what my parents called the best food, family and fellowship, but as much as I enjoyed those Sunday dinners, my favorite “meal” was always that evening.

Sunday night was family time for us.  Mom sliced apples and popped a huge bowl of popcorn.   That was our evening meal as we watched Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, or some similar program.   It was many years later before I realized that all the cowboy shows from that period contained lessons of THE CODE OF THE WEST.

In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, One-Word Personal Themes, and general plans for being more aware and doing better, I’m adding The Code of the West to the mix:

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 fair.   6) When you make a promise, keep it.   7) Ride for the brand.   8) Talk less and say more.   9) Remember that some things aren’t for sale.   10) Know where to draw the line.

If you don’t have a resolution or a theme word—or even if you do—which of the ten code lessons would you choose?   Slice an apple, eat a bowl of popcorn, and give it some thought.

Whichever lesson you choose from the Code of the West, to make it work, remember YAGOTTAWANNA

Whichever lesson you choose from the Code of the West, to make it work, remember          YAGOTTAWANNA




Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, importance of doing good things, just doing the best we can, lessons about life, lessons for great-grandchildren, making a difference, recipes, special quotations

61 responses to “SADDLE UP

  1. Growing up, we also had popcorn after church with folks we brought back with us. No worries, they came willingly. Grin. Thank you for popping that memory up. And I’ll ponder the 10 Code of the West tips, Marylin, which are great. Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

    • Our popcorn and apples came in the evening, when it was just us in front of the TV; people we brought home from church got the full Sunday meal, but I still liked the evenings best. 😉 I realize now that the characters in the TV cowboy show who broke any of the Codes of the West paid a price by the end of the program. They were usually the bad guys, too.
      You have a wonderful weekend, too, Tracy!

  2. juliabarrett

    Love this one too! And I loved Bonanza, especially Little Joe. Not to mention horses and cows and cowboys… We had a similar Sunday growing up, and I continued it with my kids, but since we are Jewish it’s more of a big Sunday brunch- lasts all day. We don’t worry much about supper. Of course those family favorite television shows don’t really exist anymore, which is a pity. Around here I guess it’s football or baseball.

    • Brunch that lasts all day…WOW! Now that’s a brunch, Julia. 🙂
      It is a pity that sports have replaced all of those family favorites; I really do think the Code of the West is a better lesson than all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes or on the sport fields.

  3. I was brought up on a farm in Germany. The Sunday lunch was a roast or a chicken and some pudding for desert. My favorite was the afternoon coffee , there was a sheet cake , waffles or a regular cake which had been baked on Saturday. No German Cowboys , just farmers But the rules were the same as the Code of the West.

    • Afternoon coffee in Germany; tea in England. And not just the hot drinks, but cakes and waffles, little sandwiches, mini-meals at the end of the afternoon. I loved those traditions when I traveled in Europe the summer before my senior year in college, Gerlinde. Farmers, Cowboys…being independent and working hard on the land does carry the same rules as the Code of the West.

  4. ‘When you make a promise, keep it’ would be my chosen mantra Marylin.
    Sunday dinner was a roast meal like yours but Sunday tea was special because we often got tinned fruit afterwards, especially pears.After rationing these were a real treat.
    Then my grandparents, Nan & Pops would come to play cribbage and I loved sidling up to the table to watch and learn all the calls. I swear this was where I learned my maths skills adding cribbage scores.
    xxx Stupendous Hugs to you xxx

    • Oh, David, I wish you’d do a full blog post on this, the tinned pears that were such a treat after rationing, Nan and Pops (love it!) playing cribbage and how you learned your maths skills adding the scores. This is rich imagery of a special time, David. Stupendous Hugs back to you! 🙂

  5. Carol

    Love this.
    Texas Girl

    • Thanks, Carol. 🙂 Once a Texas Girl–or in my case, a Kansas Girl–the memories are always tinged with the foods and traditions. Plus, we both share the same Code of the West. I miss you at the writing table. ❤

  6. As my dad was a cowboy and lived the Code of the West, it has been part of me all my life. He was as handsome as Tom Selleck and drove a pick up truck as well as rode horses. If I had to pick, it would be #6 – which is commitment. A pretty good word don´t you think.

  7. I remember your Yougottawanna sampler. Such a simple but effective message! I’m not sure this year what I wanna but I told Jill that my word is Resolute – which could cover any number of possibilities.
    Sunday lunch was always a big family occasion in our house growing up – sometimes we’d still be around the table approaching tea time – and you know what we Brits are like about our tea😀

    • I do know how you Brits are about many things, Jenny, including tea, and I envy so much of it. We don’t have tea time here, but for Molly’s 12th birthday we had a dress up Anne of Green Gables Tea Party with little sandwiches, etc. But in Colorado and Kansas we just never got the knack of tea time right, so Jim ended up going for pizza for the birthday party. Now her daughter is the same age as Molly was then. I’ll see if she wants to go somewhere and “have tea” with me. 😉

  8. Your Sundays growing up sound exactly like mine, right down to the mandatory popcorn and apples in the evening. That was Momma’s night off, and Dad would take over popping the corn. As a grandpa, Dad loved slicing off razor thin pieces of apple that even the toddlers could chew safely, and they loved his apple “snitzes”. We didn’t watch TV though until I was 12–when we finally bought one in order to watch the funeral proceedings of Dad’s beloved John Kennedy. As a Mennonite deacon, he didn’t think he should have one. They screened our TV viewing very carefully–no Westerns, not even Bonanza. Much later in life we were amused as Dad became a rabid fan of “Dallas”!

    Anyway, my challenge from your list is: 8) Talk less and say more. Thanks!

    • You say it so well already, Melodie, but #8 is a good reminder from the Code. For several years we had only 3 channels we got on our TV, and we didn’t watch a lot of television anyway, but I, too, remember JFKs funeral proceedings with little John-John saluting.
      My dad never watched “Dallas,” but during his last years of Alzheimer’s, he had two TV favorites: Rachael Ray’s cooking show, and “Wagon Train.”

  9. Your Sunday dinners and activities sound much like my childhood, Marylin. I loved Gunsmoke. We also watched The Wonderful World of Disney. There was always a big bowl of popcorn to share. 🙂 Great memories!
    As you know, my one word this year is RESOLUTE. Like Jenny said, it covers an array of possibilities.

    • Resolute could be incorporated with several of the lessons from the Code of the West, Jill, and then also to resolve to keep the lessons.
      Isn’t it amazing how so many of us had the same Sunday evening popcorn and apples as we watched TV? I wonder if our mothers all read the same “Helpful Hints for Homemaking” articles in the women’s magazines, or something. 😉 I like it, though, that we all have this in common.

  10. Marylin, those are all good. If I had to pick one I’d say #1- Live Each Day with Courage. I’m still helping out my mom, growing my event/wedding planning business, and staying involved in a couple of church ministries. And now, trying to write a small mini book on seeing the grace in everyday life. Every day is meant to be lived with courage. (And I’m waiting for my granddaughter Penelope to be born- any day now!)
    I wasn’t a big fan of cowboy shows but I did love a few old tv programs. I’d have to say Andy Griffith and Petticoat Junction were two of my favorites. Thank you for bringing back some old memories. Joanne

    • I’m excitedly awaiting pictures of you holding little Penelope, Joanne. She’s going to receive so much love, and you’ll all be lined up to take turns holding her, but remember the Code of Grammas; we can’t be hurried to hand over our wee grandbabies! It’s going to be such a beautiful time for you and your entire family ❤
      You're the second friend to have a granddaughter named Penelope. They have already nicknamed their tiny girl Penny because of her coppery curls.

  11. Hmm, that’s a good code, not sure I could pick one – I like live each day with courage, but also remembering that not everything is for sale.

  12. I like your cowboy theme, Marylin. My husband grew up in the West (Washington state) and saw all the shows you listed. My Mennonite family much like Melodie’s didn’t even have a TV. But we lived by the Code and to the letter. Your list of ten mirrors my family’s values then and now. I can’t pick just one, but I swear by YAGOTTAWANNA, a great mantra.

    Saturday night was Mom’s night off when we had ice cream and pretzels and sometimes chips. Precious memories . . . how they linger. Thanks for keeping yours/ours alive here.

    • I’m so glad you connected to YAGOTTAWANNA, Marian; whoever did all the work to cross stitch, mat and frame it would surely be pleased that even though it was donated to the Women’s Thrift House, it fell into the right hands (and minds).
      Your comment triggered a Sunday night summer memory for me. We took turns with Dad, hand-cranking the ice cream maker. Mom made the best strawberry ice cream, and sometimes that replaced the popcorn on Sunday evenings. 🙂

  13. I have often said of late that we need some good westerns! I grew up on these same shows and they were a family time and growing lessons. Now later in life I return to those stories, am writing some of my own. It is a longing for another time more than the Old West. When the family went to stay overnight with my grandparents, the whole family prepared for Gunsmoke, the last event of the day.

    • And in Gunsmoke, when anyone broke one of the rules of the Code, there were always consequences. Which is something we seem to have forgotten today, that there are consequences for our actions.
      So many of these old shows taught us so many lessons, Claudia, and we thought we were just watching a good show.

  14. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Wishing our politicians would adopt The Code of the West! Thanks, Marylin.

  15. Jim

    I love this week’s blog, honey, partly because I love all things farm and ranch. How appropriate that you use cowboys for this January blog.

    Do you and your readers know The National Western Stock Show is currently underway in Denver? It lasts several days. It occurs every January to preserve and promote the way of life on family farms and ranches, a passing heritage. It has all things farm and ranch from little kids showing their prize lamb, calf, or bunny to world class rodeo events. Some of the Western states’ foremost breeding stock is on display. The event is one of most respected of its kind in the entire world. It is 110 years old. Why is it always held in January? January is traditionally the only month of the entire year that farm and ranch families can afford time away from the multitude of daily chores and operations needed to keep a farm or ranch profitable. In January crops have been harvested, fields are dormant, and ranch stock has been shipped and sold. February starts the busy yearly cycle all over again.

    I love the pictures of the calf being delivered and the mama cow cleaning her baby. Farming or ranching is a 24/7 way of life. My farming uncle put in 12-hour days and still went out to irrigate through the night. My grandpa was a farmer as well as a licensed veterinarian with a DVM degree from Colorado State University (A&M). He not only farmed full-time but he was on call 24/7 to assist his neighbors with any problem needing a veterinarian. My dad performed daily farm chores from the time he was a little boy until he left the farm to go to college. He knew how to work hard, and he lived the Cowboy Code without ever knowing about it.

    YOUGOTTAWANNA describes farm and ranch families from the point of view of city folks. Endless hard work is never an issue for farm and ranch families. Given a choice, they wouldn’t trade places for the world. As generations pass, at least one of the offspring carries on while siblings often serve society by branching off into sundry respected careers.

    My word last week was LISTEN. Here I go again, being wordy on your blog, honey. I think I better choose #8 from the Code of the West, “Talk less and say more,” and try harder. 🙂

    • But you share such good information, honey!
      I knew all this about your family’s farming/ranching history, and also about the National Western Stock Show this month in Denver, but I never could have told it with the personal experience and conviction you told it. I should have had you write this post! Thanks for stepping in and helping me out! ❤ ❤ ❤

  16. Hi Marylin. Your growing up was so very different from mine. We lived in the East End of London surrounded by bomb sites and after the war was over the powers that be took forever to clear the sites. My mother who’s father was Jewish didn’t come to church with us but I still remember the smells when we arrived home. Of course food was rationed in the UK for long after the end of the war and like David said, the tinned pears were a real treat. But Sunday tea was always at our grandparents. Mother’s two brothers and their families would always be there too. And in memory we always had egg and tomato sandwiches. Thanks for reviving these happy memories for me.
    And my word for this. Year I think has to be perseverance.

    • Egg and tomato sandwiches ~ my mom added onion and sometimes dill pickle.
      Sometimes, Judith, I think our memories of the food are also our connection with the memories of the times and the people, and you have many vivid memories of the East End of London after the war. Thank you for sharing this!

  17. MOLLY Mosher

    These Cowboy Ethics were one of my favorite things of working at Assurance Partners. Such wonderful words/goals to live by!

  18. The code of the west seems quite sensible.
    (We were allowed to watch Bonanza at weekends too. And Swamp Fox.)

  19. Great post! I don’t think I could choose just one. I think it would depend on the day/circumstances. (Can you tell I’m also not good at taking surveys? Haha.)
    We didn’t have Sunday dinners, but we did have some great brunches when I was teen and my grandfather brought the lox, cream cheese, bagels, etc.

    • While I’m not big on lox, I think the key ingredient of Sunday dinners would be that families and friends got together to eat, Merril. And I agree: it would depend on the day and circumstances for me to choose one of the lessons of the Code to focus on.

  20. I have to give this some thought before I tell which I’d choose, but thank you for inspiring me and for the reminder of days gone by and how much I love the “Code of the West” shows. We too were faithful watchers and your post brought back many fond memories.

    • I kind of combine them, Robyn; it’s hard to choose just one. But thinking about the Code of the West certainly brings to mind so many of the cowboy programs we watched, doesn’t it? 😉

  21. calvin

    Am terrible at ‘choices’. But there is always a song that says it better than I could. So I’ll just give you this and leave at that.

  22. Hey, Calvin, if the cowboys really did follow the Code of the West, why wouldn’t mothers let their babies grow up to be cowboys…or fall in love with cowboys? 😉 Drat you, now I’m still humming the song.

  23. Marylin … Great thoughts to ponder. I do follow some of The Code of the West now. It must have been my early exposure to Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Hopalong Cassidy and many others on the big and small screens.

    But I’ll give the rest of that list some thought. 😉

    We also had a big meal on Sundays. But I think it was in the evening, not at lunch. I love your tradition of sliced apples and popcorn.

    • Sunday was our “light meal at night,” Judy, and I loved it because it was a predictable time and we were all together. The other six nights my dad often worked late or had meetings, and Mom would give us toast and grapes or something to nibble on, because we waited for Dad to come home for dinner so we could all eat together, and sometimes it was very late. Afterwards it wouldn’t be long before we’d take our showers and go to bed, so our one very special “normal time” night was Sunday. It was where my dad drew the line and didn’t allow the needs of clients or committees, etc., to cross over it.

      • Those special get togethers show the value your Dad put on being with his family. That was the most important things for him – and for all of you. Ours was pizza night – Saturdays – when I’d make Appian Way (boxed) pizza. I can’t remember how good it was only that we all enjoyed being together. 😉

  24. Oh Marylin, this is so wonderful! Now I get it, why you told me about The Code of the West! Bonanza was one of my absolutely favourite TV shows growing up and I was thrilled when, many years later and expecting my third child, Aspie D, we took our boys to Lake Tahoe and visited the Bonanza ‘home’ up in the woods. I still have the blue, tin mugs I bought there which we still use for camping trips. Great memories! Those shows definitely had moral codes and values that are so lacking these days. I remember those simpler times, of not having all the choice on TV like today and sitting down together as a family like you describe on a Sunday evening with our supper (tea as we call it sometimes!), usually beans or cheese on toast or something, to your apples and popcorn (like you, having had our roast earlier for lunch). I adored The Waltons too 🙂 And LIttle House on the Prairie. It’s no wonder I had such a hunger and thirst to go to America and love my American friends so much! You bring me so much joy my dear friend, you really do 🙂 ❤ xoxo

    • Aw, bless you, sweet Sherri. I was just thinking the same about you.
      Your draw to America is similar to my draw to the UK…mostly, though, for me it’s because of my friends whose posts remind me of the things I most enjoyed and appreciated on my only visit.
      So much of what you write follows The Code of the West, Sherri. ❤

      • Oh thank you Marylin…that’s so sweet and I’m glad I’m one of those Brits who helps reminds you of your time in the UK. That makes me very happy 🙂 ❤

  25. I LOVE popcorn and apples on Sunday nights, Marylin. Now I have Downton Abbey to watch. I didn’t get to watch all those westerns in my youth because we had no TV. But we did have popcorn.

    I wonder what the The Code of the Landed Gentry and the Code of the Servant’s Quarters would differ from The Code of the West. Might have to mull that one over as I watch with my popcorn on Sunday night — assuming that we have electricity here in Snowmaggeden Country.

  26. 🙂 Oh, Shirley, wouldn’t you love to know the similarities and differences between the Code of the West and the Code of Landed Gentry vs. Servant’s Quarters? THAT certainly would be an education!
    Enjoy your popcorn ( and make up plenty of hot tea, too, if you have power to boil water during the snow storm!) Stay warm and safe.

  27. “Always finish what you start” might be a good one for me unless we are talking about pie! 🙂

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