The Cowboy Code, Alive and Well
Let's get past the rippling muscles, the slouch of the Stetson, the jingle of spurs and exactly what those chaps seem to be highlighting. Let's forget about The Virginian's mysterious smile, the twinkle in Rowdy Yates' eyes, or the dimple in Paladin's chin. I'm talking about the man within here, whatever the heck he looked like, the man you really fell in love with. After all, if these guys had been wimps, two-timing city sidewinders or snakes-in-the-grass, would you have fallen for them?
Cowboys live by a code. Over the years, the code has taken many forms and been written, so to speak, by many of our heroes. Zane Grey was the first to actually put the creed in print in his 1934 book, Code of the West. While ranchers and cowpunchers would break virtually any territorial, state, or federal law if it suited them, they were actually living by their own code of ethics; after all, they wouldn't shoot a man in the back, would they? Although there are often variations on the theme, most of the code follows a sort of western version of the Ten Commandments. Think about "Remove your guns before sitting at the dining table" and all that that implies. Or how about "He must always tell the truth?" I'm afraid that when I read "He must always keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits" I saw the code stretching a bit as well as 99% of western romances flying out the window. It might have worked back in Hopalong Cassidy's day, but by the time we get to Smith & Jones or Maverick, it's adios. It is pretty biblical.
Some of the more famous cowboys of television fame had their own codes that paralleled the traditional one. The Lone Ranger believed, "That God put the firewood there, but every man must gather and light it himself." Roy Rogers had a 'prayer' that included the words, "…when trails are steep and passes high, let me ride it straight the whole way through." On the website Old West Legends http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-codewest.html there is a long list of what constituted the code of the west. It includes such advice as, "Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses and cattle" and "Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand to show your friendly intentions." More recently, in the book Cowboy Ethics: What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West by James P. Owen, we have "Ride for the Brand" and "Talk less and say more."
So think about the man this code projects. Strong, trustworthy, well-mannered, respectful of women yet a fighter and a doer, a defender while still being excitingly hard-living and a little bit of rough. Is the code alive and well? Yup, sure is—and living in Wyoming. Back in 2010, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal passed a state code based on the tenets put out in the Owen book. Although the bill entails no penalties or fines, as a gesture it is an admirable doctrine to have in this day and age.
And, of course, if you package all that with the mysterious smile and the slouched Stetson, well…what could be better than that? I have no idea if my current hero, Chay Ridgway in Bad Boy, Big Heart, follows the Code of the West, but he’s a well-read, generally well-mannered young man so I like to think so. Why not meet him yourself and decide?
Andrea Downing has spent most of her life in the UK where she developed a penchant for tea-drinking, a tolerance for rainy days, and a deep knowledge of the London Underground system. In 2008 she returned to live in the city of her birth, NYC, but frequently exchanges the canyons of city streets for the wide-open spaces of the West. Her love of horses, ranches, rodeo and just about anything else western is reflected in her writing.
Log Line: She’s a New Yorker escaping her parents. He’s a Wyoming cowboy supporting his dad. One summer, two young people—three months to find love.
New Yorker K.C. Daniels feels the strain of being her overbearing parents’ daughter. Chay Ridgway feels the strain of being his father’s sole support. As these two find their way in the world during three months in Wyoming, will it be a summer romance or a love that will last for years?
K.C. was licking her lips over a piece of cheesecake when Breezy ambled over.
“I heard,” she said in an undertone. “I’m so sorry, K.C. I really didn’t know or I certainly would have told you. All I knew was Jamie could be very unpleasant but nothing like that. You know, spoiled brat unpleasant.”
K.C. gulped down another mouthful. “Well, he certainly was ‘unpleasant’ and a ‘spoiled brat.’”
“Are you all right? You know if you ever want to talk about it or need a shoulder, mine is at the ready. And you know where to find me, though I suspect you have another shoulder in mind.” She tipped her head toward Chay, who had just come in and was chatting with one of the guests.
K.C. glanced across as he squatted down to speak with a little girl, tilting his hat back off his face and giving the child a wink as he rose again. Her stomach did a back flip.
“So how do you like the cheesecake?” Breezy was saying. “It’s my own recipe—chocolate mocha cheesecake. You seem to be doing pretty well with it but, of course, you may only be eating it to be polite.” She sauntered off in a stream of giggles.
And then a second fork was coming from above into that cheesecake.
“Do you always just take what you want?”
“Oh, shit, I’m supposed to ask! Sorry.” Chay slid into the chair opposite her at the long refectory table. He looked her in the eye. “May I please have a bite of your cheesecake?”
“Why don’t you get your own? In fact, shouldn’t you be starting with lunch and then dessert?”
“Had a sack lunch and got in earlier than expected.” His fork dangled threateningly over the waiting slice before he swung the fork like a pendulum.
“Oh, go on then. I guess you deserve it.”
Chay shoved a forkful into his mouth, having obvious difficulty chewing as he was smiling so much. Finally he got it down, stretched to grab a napkin from another clean place setting, and gave a wide grin to K.C. “Am I your hero, then? Riding in to save the day? How are you?”
“I’m fine. Thanks. Fine, but reluctant to keep telling everyone I’m fine.”
“Okay then, message received.”
K.C. studied him for a moment, melting at his pale green eyes. She suddenly reached across and gently poked the small dimple in his chin. Oh dear, what was she going to do about this man?
“You’re supposed to ask, aren’t you? You can’t just go around poking people in the chin, can you?”
“Golly. What have I started?”
“I don’t know. What have you started?” The smile was replaced by a very direct look.
“I…I’ve been told things about you. I don’t want to be a summer romance. And I do have to leave at the end of the summer, and the summer is fast fading.”
“It’s only June, K.C.” He hesitated before, “What sort of things were you told?”
K.C. looked around to make sure they weren’t being overheard. “That you like to…to date the girls who work in the office because we leave at the end of the summer, and it makes for a clean break.”
K.C. blinked at his honesty.
“But it doesn’t mean it will always be the case.” Chay fidgeted on his chair. “What time do you get off? Let’s go for a ride. You do ride, don’t you?”
“Oh, yeah. Bob said something about that. That can be fixed. So what time?”
“Five-thirty weekdays, Saturday noon as long as the check-outs are complete. Sunday is hit or miss; I work virtually all day until all the check-ins are done.”
“Hmmm. I’m taking out a pack trip tomorrow, back Friday. Meet me down at the barns as soon as you’re off Saturday.” Chay swung out of the chair and stood, then leaned in and stabbed one more bite of cheesecake. “Saving you calories,” he said. “You’d be amazed at what goes into this.” And with that, he stuffed the piece in his mouth and was off.
K.C. sat there, turning over Chay’s words in her mind: ‘It doesn’t mean it will always be the case.’ Yet the fact was, her Master’s degree meant two years…oh, what was she thinking? That was way ahead and, while she knew she was deeply attracted to Chay, it didn’t necessarily mean…. She stared at the remaining cheesecake on her plate, then pushed it away.
What was ‘the case’?
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