Cowboy Wisdom


By Denis Boyles

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$11.99 CAD


ebook (Digital original)


ebook (Digital original) $8.99 $11.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 26, 2009. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A thrilling, insightful collection packed with Cowboy lore from prolific author Dennis Boyles.

In the bestselling tradition of Life’s Little Instruction Book, this rootin-tootin’ collection of Wild West wisdom spotlights Cowboy lies, tall tales, witty proverbs, and advice. Collected from real-life and movie cowboys and cowgirls, Cowboy Wisdom covers such topics as Love and Horses and Greenhorns, Tenderfeet, and other Amusements.



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First eBook Edition: September 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-56667-4

To the lady who wears many hats.


To Ann Stebben—a true rodeo cowgirl.



We would like to thank the following people for their assistance: Claudia and Mike Riordan; Susan and Bill Streaker; Hal Cannon and Cyd McMullen of the Western Folklore Center of Elko, Nevada; C. J. Hadley and Benny Romero of Range magazine; Kathy Gangwisch; Kathy Lynn Wills of the Cowboy Country General Store; Charlotte Thompson; Jennifer Lyons; Judy Andreson; Rib, Pat, and Wylie Gustafson; Harry Rinker; Ted Hake of Hake's Americana & Collectibles; F. E. Abernathy of the Texas Folklore Society; and Heather Bach.

Grateful acknowledgment is given for permission to quote from the following:

Selections from Great American Folklore by Kemp P. Battle. Copyright © 1986 by Kemp Battle. Used with permission of Doubleday Book & Music Clubs, Inc. "The Coyote: Animal and Folk-Character," by Lillian Elizabeth Barclay from Coyote Wisdom, edited by J. Frank Dobie, Mody C. Boatwright, and Harry H. Ransom, Publications of the Texas Folklore Society Number 14, 1938; "Fifty Thousand Mustangs" by Frank Collinson (originally published in Ranch Romances, March and November 1936), "Mustanging on the Staked Plains, 1887" by Homer Hoyt (originally published in The Colorado Magazine, March 1934), "Black Kettle" by Frank M. Lockard (originally published by R. G. Wolfe, 1924), and "A Mustanger of 1850" by J. W. Moses (originally published in the San Antonio Express, April 1888) from Mustangs and Cow Horses, edited by J. Frank Dobie, Mody C. Boatwright, and Harry H. Ransom, Publications of the Texas Folklore Society Number 16, 1940; "Ranch Remedios" by Frost Woodhull from Man, Bird and Beast, edited by J. Frank Dobie, Publications of the Texas Folklore Society Number 8, 1930. All reprinted by permission of the Texas Folklore Society.

Grateful acknowledgment is also given for use from the following: A Son of the Frontier by John Abernathy; Calamity Jane and the Lady Wildcats by Duncan Aikman; Vanishing Breed by William Albert Allard; Captain George Ash by George Ash; Back in the Saddle Again by Gene Autry; The American West by Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg; Cow by the Tail by Jesse James Benton; Riding the Mustang Trail by Forrester Blake; Cowboy Life on the Western Plains by Edgar Beecher Bronson; Wondrous Times on the Frontier by Dee Brown; An Old Time Cowboy by London Brown; Muggins, the Cow Horse by Charles Camp; Stunt Man by Yakima Canutt; Arizona Cowboys by Dane Coolidge; Old California Cowboys by Dane Coolidge; Range Rider by Bud Cowan; Cow Country by Edward Everett Dale; Cowboy Culture by David Dary; The Autobiography of Will Rogers by Donald Day; Cowboy Fun by Frank Dean; The Flavor of Texas by J. Frank Dobie; A Vaquero of the Brush Country by J. Frank Dobie and John Young; Cattle Kings of Texas by C. L. Douglas; Great Trails of the West by Richard Dunlop; A Corral Full of Stories by Joe M. Evans; Out West by Mike Flanagan; Once a Cowboy by Walt Garrison and John Tullius; The Cowboy Encyclopedia by Bruce Grant; An Overland Journey by Horace Greeley; Box-Office Buckaroos by Robert Heide and John Gilman; The Bad Man of the West by George D. Hendricks; The Humor of the American Cowboy by Stan Hoig; They Went Thataway by James Horwitz; The Drifting Cowboy by Will James; Cowgirls: Women of the American West by Teresa Jordan; Rodeo: The Sport of the Cow Country by Max Kegley; The Official John Wayne Reference Book by Charles John Kieskalt; Long Lance by Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance; Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by J. A. and Alan Lomax; Women of the West by Cathy Luchetti and Carol Olwell; The Life and Legend of Tom Mix by Paul E. Mix; The Book of the American West by Jay Monaghan; Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline by Ellis Nassour; Fifty Years on the Trail by John Young Nelson as described to Harrington O'Reilly; Wild Bill Hickok by Richard O'Connor; The Outlaw Trail by Robert Redford; The Roll Away Saloon by Roland W. Rider as told to Deirdre Murray Paulsen; The Cowgirls by Joyce Gibson Roach; The Cowboy by Philip Ashton Rollins; The Book of Cowboys by Francis Rolt-Wheeler; The Open Range and Bunk House Philosophy by Oscar Rush; The Lives and Legends of Buffalo Bill by Don Russell; The Settlers' West by Martin F. Schmitt and Dee Brown; El Rodeo by Charles Simpson; The Kaw by Floyd Streeter; Clint Eastwood Riding High by Douglas Thompson; Cowboys of America by Sanford Tousey; Queen of Cowtowns by Stanley Vestal; The Cowboy at Work by Fay E. Ward; and Dodge City by Robert M. Wright.


This is a little collection of this and that and other things a cowboy knows, but that other folks might not. The things in this book have been learned the hard way, and I hope they help. Sometimes, a fellow will get out alone on the trail and get too hot or too wet or too dry and just plain go stupid because there's not a smart cowboy around to make him see straight. That's why this book has been designed to fit in a standard-sized saddlebag. It's what you call your basic Cowpoke's Companion.

There's not much in here from guys who talk cowboy, but aren't, or from guys who dress cowboy, but aren't. Cowboys think people who act like cowboys but aren't are a pain in the behind, probably the same way proctologists can't stand being around guys who talk and dress like proctologists, but aren't. To get in this book, you either have to be a cowboy, or you have to be somebody a cowboy would like to be.

There are also some things in here from women we call cowgirls, since that seems like the right way to call a person who does everything a cowboy does, but looks better doing it. Nowadays, these people are also called cow-women or cowpersons—but only by people who aren't cowboys or cowgirls. Nothing like a good bounce on a hard saddle to knock the political correctness right out of a person.

Anyway, if you've eaten enough dust to recognize where it came from by taste alone, you know who you are. Hope you and all your friends enjoy this little ride.

—TERRY HALL Hastings, Nebraska



A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

—ALAN LADD Hollywood, California in Shane 1953


  • All you have in life is your word, your handshake, and the image you portray.


  • Civilization has taught us to eat with a fork, but even now if nobody is around we use our fingers.


  • Give 90 percent and take 10 percent on both sides. That's the way to get along with your horse or your wife.



I contend that a year spent on the hurricane deck of a cow pony is one of the most useful and valuable pieces of experience a young man can possibly have in fitting himself for business of almost any kind; and if I were educating a boy to fight the battle of his life, I would secure him a cowboy's situation as soon as he was through with his studies at school. A term of service on a frontier cattle ranch will take the conceit out of any boy; it will at the same time teach him self-reliance; it will teach him to endure hardships and suffering; it will give him nerve and pluck; it will develop the latent energy in him to a degree that could not be accomplished by any other apprenticeship or experience that I know of. Many of the most successful businessmen in the Western towns of today served their first years on the frontier as "cow punchers," and to that school they owe the firmness of character and the ability to surmount great obstacles that have made their success in life possible.

Tribune-Republican Denver, Colorado 1886 quoted by Clifford Westermeier in Trailing the Cowboy

Son, if you're going to be a cowboy, let me give you two pieces of advice: Stick to herding steers—never work for a cow-and-calf outfit. And never work for a man who has electricity in his barn. You'll be up all night.

—ANONYMOUS quoted by William Albert Allard in Vanishing Breed 1982

Every cowboy thinks he knows more than every other cowboy. But the only thing they all know for sure is when's payday and where's grub.

—L.L. ROYSTER Amarillo, Texas 1915

I worked around cattle all my life, and I guess I learned all there is to know about it, and I think I can sum it all up in one thing: You can't drink coffee on a running horse—and a good thing, too.

—SAMUEL BRENNER Lubbock, Texas 1962

You raise kids, dogs, and horses all the same.

—RAY FARMER Elko, Nevada c.1964


The Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules

  1. Be neat and clean.
  2. Be courteous and polite.
  3. Always obey your parents.
  4. Protect the weak and help them.
  5. Be brave but never take chances.
  6. Study hard and learn all you can.
  7. Be kind to animals and care for them.
  8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
  9. Love God and go to Sunday School regularly.


On Sale
Sep 26, 2009
Page Count
160 pages

Denis Boyles

About the Author

Denis Boyles is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, travel, humor, essays, and criticism. He is a veteran magazine editor, and currently a coeditor of The Fortnightly Review. Boyles teaches journalism and political science at the Institut Catholique d’Études Supérieures in La Roche-sur-Yon, France.

Learn more about this author