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The Code of the West

by pete on October 15, 2010

                                         The Code of the West

     I grew up in Chicago under the politics of the first Mayor Daley “The Boss” who ran Chicago with an iron fist.  From an early age I was taught that only a fool trusted people.  My father always said “get it in writing” because we assumed all people were dishonest if given the chance.

     In 1975 I went to an outfitter and guide school in Hamilton, MT.  The summer of1976 my brother Joe and I rode a freight train from home into Missoula bent on learning to pack horses into the wilderness on our own.  As we did not have a vehicle we were hitchhiking around trying to find a way to accomplish our goal.  We met an outfitter in Hamilton who would rent us horses and gear – no money up front, no I.D. check, no contract just “pay me when you get back” and a hand shake.  It actually felt odd to be trusted. We were going to have to hitchhike back to Missoula to get all our gear and then hitchhike back.  We met another family in Hamilton who, when they learned of our predicament took us to their house and gave us the keys to a spare pickup to go and get our gear in Missoula and come back.  Again, no money, no I.D., no contract, just “see ya later and a handshake.  All very odd to our upbringing.  The second day into our pack trip one of the horses took off on us.  We went all the way back out looking for him.  Our first thought was that we would be accused of stealing him.  It then progressed to maybe we were the victims of the old “gypsy mare” trick and would be charged for a lost horse which had run back home and was hidden.  It turned out to be neither.  The rancher just laughed and said, “He’ll show up” and gave us another horse and trucked us back to the trail head again.

     During my first years in Montana I kept encountering these same type events.  Then one day I saw a bronze statue of two cowboys shaking hands and it was entitled “Montana Contract” and I started to realize that what I had been experiencing which seemed so foreign to my upbringing in Chicago was what all westerners had been brought up by and it was called “the code of the west”.  The core principle of this code was that a man’s word was his bond.  If a man gave you his word he was honor-bound to keep it no matter what.  A man that could not be trusted had no place on the frontier or anywhere else, in the minds of honest men.  A man helped others just because they needed help –because it’s the right thing to do!  The code of the west called for standing up for what is right, even when it is unpopular, because it is the right thing to do.  Speak out when needed because it is the right thing to do.  It was all about honor and honesty and integrity.

     In his column for September 4, 2010 in the Belgrade News Baxter Black referred to it in his article about the old cowboy shows like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.  “In their simple parables they showed us the difference between good and bad, between right and wrong.  They led us to believe that the code of the west boils down to “doin’ the right thing”.  That it was real, had value and was worth living and dying for.  My experience in Montana for the past thirty-five years first made me a sincere believer in the “code” but in more recent years very cynical about is existence in “modern day” Montana.

     I have been writing about it for over a year.  Just look at our local bureaucrats.  The Triad – Skinner, Murdock and Lambert.  Also, Chris Gray, Tim Roark, Sean O’Callaghan, Amy Waring and the list goes on.  If you have read this blog you have seen that none of these people live by the Code of the West.  In fact, they all show nothing but scorn for the people that try to live by it.  Skinner not only lied to all of us when he first ran on a platform of protecting our property rights but he also swore an oath before God when he was sworn into office; an oath to uphold and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.  This is a man who not only dishonors his own word but dishonors his oath sworn before God!  Murdock, Lambert and all the others are guilty of the same to varying degrees, but guilty none the less.  By their words and actions these people have proven that they DO NOT live by the code of the west.  The big question now is how many of us are going to live by the code?

     The constitution is the law of the land, it is what is right.  They want to deprive us of it – do you want to live by the code and fight for it?  Top-down zoning is unconstitutional – it is wrong!  Do you want to live up to the code and fight against it?  The Citizen’s for Landowner Rights” group has spent a lot of their own money fighting for all of us; “just doing the right thing” would be donating to the cause!  The ancient philosopher Plato was critical of social democracies because he argued that in a democracy, people gradually lose their sense of shared values.  He believed that people in a democracy tend to go their own way, pursuing only personal interests; such people are slow to sacrifice for the common good.

     Here again, in my opinion, the code of the west calls for us to VOTE NO ON JOE and send “Citizens for Landowner Rights” some dough!

Pete Rothing

                                                    Citizens for Landowner Rights

                                                    PO Box 1126

                                                    Bozeman, MT 59771HHhhhh

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