Yippee Ki-Yay! The “Cowboy Code” Rediscovered…in an Austin Bathroom?

Cowboy Code
Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code

Saddle up partner, you’re in for a treat today…courtesy of the original singing cowboy, Mr. Gene Autry… straight from 1948.  Huh?   Well, sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest of places. In this case, that place would be in the bathroom of Wild Bubba’s, a roadside wild-meat burger joint on the outskirts of Austin, TX.  For those of you who don’t know who Gene Autry is/was, he was an actor & performer in radio, television, and movies for over three decades starting in the late 1930’s….mainly Westerns and related themes.  Anyway…back to my story.  After ordering my double bison burger, I went to the bathroom to wash my hands (among other things) and, low and behold,  right there above the commode, hung a picture of Gene Autry’s “10 Commandments of a Cowboy”, also referred to as “The Cowboy Code”.  To say that Gene Autry was a little before my time would be a gross understatement, but given that it was smack dab in front of my face while “conducting my business”, I had no choice but to read on.  So that’s just what I did…and it read:


Gene Autry’s 10 Commandments of a Cowboy

  1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
  2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
  3. He must always tell the truth.
  4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
  5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
  6. He must help people in distress.
  7. He must be a good worker.
  8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
  9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
  10. The Cowboy is a patriot.


Set aside the fact that these Cowboy Commandments presuppose that cowboys must be men (this was 1948 after all), this is a pretty good list.  Actually, it’s a really good list.  Yes…it has hints of a bygone era, but I was seriously impressed with it.  As I progressed through it, I kept waiting to discover a “red flag” given the era (i.e. sexism, racism, xenophobia, etc.)…but nothing. 

How can one singing cowboy from the 1940’s have it figured out and, 70 years later, so little progress against such ideals be evident in the mainstream lexicon of today?  Why has such messaging been lost and what needs to be done to get it back?  My three children are exposed to many forms of media throughout the day and very few, if any, contain the positive messaging that are at the heart of the Cowboy Code.   Mainstream and alternative media (and the government) should strive to promote such ideals rather than the garbage that they put out…maybe then I wouldn’t have to work so hard erase the negative programming (consumerism, body-shaming, etc.) just to make room for some more positive and progressive messaging so that my sons and daughter can develop a healthy construct from which to grow and make the world a better place. 

For my part, I will be sharing Gene Autry’s wisdom with my children.  And maybe the next time you’re visiting and have to take a bathroom break, you’ll find a framed picture in the guest bathroom of Mr. Gene Autry’s Cowboy Commandments staring you back in the face! 




p.s. The burger at Wild Bubba’s was amazing!  Here’s a quick link to a Travel Channel video on Wild Bubba’s.

Wild Bubba's in Elroy TX
Wild Bubba’s in Elroy TX

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