On Wednesday, Feb. 6,  Head game warden for Wyoming game and fish and Wyoming National Guard General Brian Nesvik visited Laramie High School during I&E to speak with students about the code of the west, also known as “Cowboy Ethics.”


“‘Cowboy Ethics’ are a set of ethics developed by James P. Owen adopted by the state of Wyoming on March 3, 2010.  We are the only state as far as I know, that has an actual code of ethics attached as the state code,” LHS American literature of the west teacher Den’ja Pommarane said.


This code was originally written in 2004 by a man named James P. Owen, an award winning author who resides in Austin, Texas. He wrote the code of ethics in hopes to bring core American values back to the spotlight in our modern society and provide a guide to “Win at Life”, according to Owen.


Wyoming is in fact the only state in America who has adopted a state code of ethics that many Wyoming residents take great pride in, including General Nesvik.


The code has 10 laws that are traditionally followed and reinforced by the cowboys of the American west, as follows:

  1. Live each day with courage
  2. Take pride in your work
  3. Always finish what you start
  4. Do what has to be done
  5. Be tough, but fair
  6. When you make a promise, keep it
  7. Ride for the brand
  8. Talk less and say more
  9. Remember some things aren’t for sale
  10. Know where to draw the line

Nesvik is a huge advocate of these principals.


This code acts as principle of life to many, with strongly rooted core values that are very important to build and sustain one’s character, and many Americans can agree.


The code of the west is merely a guide to to help a person become successful, honorable, and have the ability to stand proud to their own actions and the way they handle themselves and the environment around them.

During General Nesvik’s speech, he spoke about how there are no real consequences to breaking these ethics. No ticket, no jail time, no detention, only the weight on one’s shoulders, and the guilt someone carries behind their moral wrong doings.


Member of the LHS department and member of the Wyoming National Guard, Ross Mcgee explains this concept.


“The west was an area of the world, initially, that was somewhat lawless… people aren’t driven by ‘you’re going to get in trouble if you do this or you’re going to get in trouble if you don’t do that’, it was rather, ‘Hey we’re all living together, let’s treat each other well and this society will be more effective,” Mcgee said.


“As a society were better if we can define and adhere to a common set of values,” General Nesvik continues, “It, “The Code of the West”, defines us. It defines who we are and who we want to be,”


There is an old saying that goes, “Decide who you want to be in this world and go out everyday trying to become that person,” The code of the west puts a spotlight on this idea.


These ethics can be used in everyday life, to decide what is right from wrong, and what decisions  are the most true and fair.


As head game warden and general of the National Guard, Nesvik is approached by many different and difficult choices he must make on a day to day basis.


“I have to make hard decisions everyday and certainly these principals shape the way I think about hard decisions,” Nesvik said.


These values capture the way of the american cowboy, in its most courageous, noble, and honorable form.


One thing Author James P. Owen describes as the ethical cowboy way, is this idea of a four legged stool that supports the nobility of an American cowboy.


In the authors novella, “Cowboy Ethics”, he writes “…What we get out of an endeavor depends less on the outcome than what we put into it…If you know in your heart that you did your very best, and gave it everything you had, then you’re a winner already.”


The four legs of the stool are attitude, grit, integrity, and purpose. Nesvik believes integrity is the most important leg of this stool.

He describes the four legged stool as, “The foundation for success in any endeavor, and for winning at life.”


The code of the west can be a life changing thing. It can help the American people formally shape their morals and individual ethics. It gives the public a means of determining right from wrong. The code is especially tailored to those of the American west, more specifically, the American cowboy.


But despite it’s target audience, this code can be applied to any person, trial, or tribulation one may face. General Nesvik described this code to be life changing and defining of his character and truly believes in each one of these ethical laws. These were written to be a guide to “Win at Life”, and has proven to do so for many.