Monday, November 7, 2011

Cowboy Wisdom

Montana cowboys, c1910
For several months, on twitter and Facebook, I’ve been posting daily gems of “cowboy wisdom” collected over the years. For those who missed any, here are all 101 of them:

Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.

When somebody outdraws you, smile and walk away. There's plenty of time to look tough when you're out of sight.

The hardest thing about learning to ride is the ground.

When you ask for free advice, you get exactly what you pay for.

Don't squat with your spurs on.

Don't judge people by their relatives.

Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town.

When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

Talk slowly, think quickly.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Live a good, honorable life. When you're older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.

Don't interfere with something that ain't botherin' you none.

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

It's better to be a has-been than a never-was.

The easiest way to eat crow is while it's still warm. The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.

If it don't seem like it's worth the effort, it probably ain't.

Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got.

The biggest troublemaker a man may ever have to deal with watches him shave his face in the mirror every morning.

Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.

If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.

Don't worry about bitin' off more'n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger'n you think.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

Generally, you ain't learnin' nothing when your mouth's a-jawin'.

Tellin' a man to git lost and makin' him do it are two entirely different propositions.

If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there with ya.

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

When you give a personal lesson in meanness to a critter or person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson.

When you're throwin' your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back.

Always take a good look at what you eat. You don't need to know what it is, but it's crucial to know what it was.

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket.

Character shows up best when tested. You can't tell a good man or a watermelon 'til they get thumped.

Never miss a good chance to shut up.

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen are defrocked, shouldn't it follow that cowboys would be deranged?

There never was a horse that couldn't be rode; never was a cowboy who couldn't be throwed.

It is easier to get an actor to be a cowboy than to get a cowboy to be an actor.

Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.

Shirts that cost more than a week's worth of groceries are like horseshoes that cost more than a horse.

An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.

Nature gave us all something to fall back on, and sooner or later we all land flat on it.

Whoever said a horse was dumb, was dumb.

It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.

Ain’t nothin’ like ridin’ a fine horse in new country.

Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat.

Speak your mind, but ride a fast horse.

There's two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither one works.

The best way out of a difficulty is through it.

There are 3 kinds of men: Some learn by reading. Some by observation. The rest have to pee on the electric fence.

What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.

Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a rock.

Fast is good but accurate is better.

Never drink unless you're alone or with somebody.

Cowboy coffee ain't safe drinkin’.

Cowboy up or go sit in the truck.

It’s hard to put a foot in a closed mouth.

Do it right or get off the horse.

The challenge is not always saying what you mean, but to say it with as few words as possible.

If you’re sittin’ at the counter eatin’, leave your hat on, but if your’ sittin’ at the table take it off.

No matter where you go, there you are.

When in doubt, let your horse do the thinkin’.

Sometimes we have summer all winter and winter all summer, but regularly we have no rain.

Scars are cowboy tattoos with better stories.

If your horse ain't wanting to go there, neither should you.

Learn to speak kind words. Nobody resents them.

Sure you can trust the government. Ask any Indian.

Never give your horse more attention than your wife, unless you like sleeping in the barn.

Only out on the range can you find yourself.

If duct tape can’t fix it, it ain't broke.

A cowboy never betrays a trust.

I whisper, but my horse doesn’t listen.

Cuss all you want…around men, horses, and cows.

Dont stop kickin' till the clock stops tickin'.

A bull is like a dancing partner, you just have to let him lead.

Size does matter. The bigger your buckle the better.

Ride it like you stole it.

Don’t wake a sleepin’ rattler.

Your buckle don’t shine in the dirt. Get up.

Don't expect mules and cooks to share your sense of humor.

Cattle know why they stampede, but they ain't a-talkin’.

The fastest way to move cattle is slowly.

If you’re gonna drive cattle thru town, do it on Sunday. There’s little traffic and people are less disposed to cuss at ya.

Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.

Never drive black cattle in the dark.

Don't go in if you don't know the way out.

It's often better to keep your mouth shut and look stupid than open it and remove all doubt.

Veterinarians are the best doctors. They can't ask a patient what's the matter. They've got to just know.

Never trust a cowboy that will lie to his horse.

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered...not yelled.

Meanness doesn't just happen overnight.

Don't corner something that would normally run from you.

If you climb in the saddle, be ready for the ride.

It doesn't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

Don't go milkin' your neighbor's cow.

You cannot unsay a cruel word.

Every trail has a few puddles in it.

The best sermons are lived, not preached.

The only good reason to ride a bull is to meet a nurse. 

Don't pass anyone on the trail without saying "Howdy."

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)


  1. A nice collection full of good advice.

  2. Here's a couple more:

    Never go face to face with a gunslinger. Wait until he turns his back.

    Keep the outhouse supplied with plenty of dime novels or pulp magazines.

    Try not to beat up every non-reader or non-book collector; it is a hopeless task because there are just too many of them.

  3. So many great ones... They would make a great poster.

  4. Lots of words of wisdom here. What applies to cowboys applies to us all.

  5. Great stuff. I've got some Buchanan books. Looking forward to your take.