Thursday, February 4, 2010

When did the code of the west become a code?

My bank gave me a book for getting my mortgage through them titled, "Cowboy Ethics, What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West." It was written by James. P. Owen, who coincidentally worked on Wall Street. Photography was done by David Stoecklein.
My first thought was when did these basic practices become a "code." To me it is obviously a book written by some person that sits behind a desk for a living. If he hasn't heard these things by his age he probably isn't fit to tell others about them
It is filled with words like courage, resolve, integrity and character. Things that certainly fit agriculturalists almost to a tee, but cowboys, come on. After cruising around Mr. Owen's website I found this famous painting of a man on his horse carrying a calf and a lantern.What Mr. Owen would consider a cowboy I would definitely call a rancher.
Almost every "cowboy" I've ever met is broke, lazy and shirking some responsibility or another. They scrounge around just enough to pay the next entry fee and use whoever they can along the way. A few weeks work or selling one horse and they will lay around until they can't afford another beer. Then start the whole cycle over. Sure they're charming, but Idealistic? Maybe in the mythical sense, but the codes expressed in the book are almost laughable when demonstrated as "cowboy" ethics.
Ranchers, farmers and other agriculturalists are a far more likely group. They stuck around long enough to not only make something of themselves, but to hang on to in today's world. It takes a lot more nerve to purchase land and try to make it work through production methods than to work for an operation for a few months.
The author includes always finishing what you start and taking pride in your work in his code. Businesses can adopt the code as something they follow in their place of work. I certainly hope businesses I shop at do these things regardless of whether they follow a code or not.
But maybe they don't, perhaps that's why this man was so fascinated by the west. The things he lists are so common and expected where I'm from they would never be separated and highlighted. It's just what is done and even as small children if it wasn't done the consequences ensured it was the next time.
So, if you need a physical reminder of what you should do and how to conduct your affairs based on a man who worked on Wall Street for decades, give the book a try. It does have beautiful pictures. Beyond that it is a series of noble sounding words and famous quotes. Words are easy to say or write, but until they are actually practiced they're just words.
I do believe Wall Street can learn from the west and how we conduct our affairs on the whole, ut, reading a book isn't going to do it.

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