• J.J. Wheeling

Code of the West

Updated: May 29, 2019

Growing up on a ranch in southwestern Colorado in the mid-to-late-20th century has given me a unique perspective from which to write.


There were the expected ranch rules: Leave the gate the way you found it, open or closed; always know where the bull is before you cross the pasture; don’t get between a momma cow and her baby.


But there were others that came from outside influences, policies and rules that had been woven into the western fabric from previous generations. While not on paper, once violated, one remembered the lesson.


When my husband and I returned to the ranch after school and corporate life, we wanted to raise our children in a rural lifestyle without really knowing what was driving it. We wanted them to know that your animals eat before you do in the morning. That failing isn’t a sin, but the key to creativity. That getting dirty during honest work is honorable. And earning respect has little to do with one’s age and more with one’s character.


About the time our children left the nest, James P. Owen’s books, “Cowboy Values: Recapturing What America Once Stood For” and “Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West” came to our attention. Unwritten for at least a century, Mr. Owen captured the western essence of the Code of the West. Now nurtured by many organizations, the Code of the West has been adopted by the state of Wyoming as its state code of ethics, and Mr. Owen has created the Center for Cowboy Ethics and Leadership using the Code of the West to reach into high school civics classes and corporate board rooms. To learn more go to cowboyethics.org.


There it was!


After all these years, what had been intangible was finally down on paper. For those who are new to this code, I’ve listed them ten postulates below.


Code of the West


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


As I was writing, a friend asked me about my “Invisible Ink.” I had no idea what he was talking about so, he explained, Invisible Ink is the moral or the meaning behind the story – the essence of what the author wants the reader to take away and consider after they are done with the book. I had written my story with lessons subtly ingrained in them while striving not to become “preachy.”

When I realized that I had been using the Code of the West tenants all along, I was happy that they had translated so well into my “Invisible Ink.” I hope my readers will be able to identify these concepts woven throughout my stories.

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