The Code of the West

This is an excerpt from Broncs and Honkytonks, a forthcoming play in the 2022 season of The Bridge. This dialogue is addressed directly to the audience. 

A. Cowboys got rules, just like other folks.

B. There are just some things you don’t do.

A. That’s right.  For example:

B. You cuss around the women folk.

A..  And when you’re introduced to one, you ti your hat.

B.I’ve seen fights start over not showin’ proper respect.

A  Here’s another: when your dancin’ with a lady, you don’t spit tobacco juice over her shoulder,

  B. Then there’s a mess of rules for the round-up.

A. You don’t ride to the chuck wagon with the wind at your back.

B.  You go around the other side.

A. You don’t go between a cowboy and a herd he’s restraining.

B.  You don’t try to rope an animal that another cowboy is chasing.

A. Don’t ride in front of another cowboy unless his horse is bucking and you’re trying to help him.

B. If you want to get to another side of a ride, don’t cross in front of him.

A. slow, and let his horse pass, then cross.

B.  Feed you horse before yourself.


C. What happens if you break the code?

A. A cowboy who breaks the code gets chapped. He gets whipped  with a pair of chaps.

B.  Two cowboys grab his arms and two grab his legs and had him over a bedroll

A. Backside up.B.Then another cowboy takes a pair of chaps and whips his butt with a pair of chaps.

B.  It doesn’t do any permanent damage but it stings like hell.

A.  I’ll give you an example. My friend Clyde had a ranch next to mine. Somehow he met an Englishman, John, who wanted  top work on a ranch. Clyde, being a welcoming sort, gave him a horse to ride and brought him in over to our place for a round-up and branding.

B.  When they got t the pasture where th cows were, each man was given a position. When the boss gives you a position, you stay there.  John didn’t.

A. John was chatty, and he’d ride from one cowboy to another, cutting in front of several.

B. Clyde told him to stop that.

A. Well, once the cattle were corralled and the cook was fixing lunch, the cowboys gathered in a circle with John in the middle. Clyde was acting as judge,   Each cowboy gave testimony as to how John had broken the code of the West by ridding in front of him. John was judged guilty of multiple violations.

B. The cowboys made a rush for him, held him over a bedroll and each cowboy gave John a crack with a pair of chaps.

A. When the chapping was over, Clyde took out his penknife and cut off John’ pig tail.

B. That

A. John said

B. Hurt worse than the chapping.


A. By the way, any cowboy that hangs back and doesn’t participate in a chapping, gets chapping.