Importance of the cowboy to development of this country is being recognized with the National Day of the Cowboy.
“On the fourth Saturday of July, many states in the nation celebrate the contribution of cowboys and cowgirls to America’s culture and heritage,” explained Ron Wilson, who’s coordinating some activities in Kansas.
The National Day of the Cowboy was designated by President George W. Bush in 2005.
“The mission of the National Day of the Cowboy nonprofit organization is to contribute to the preservation of America’s cowboy heritage so that the history and culture can be shared and perpetuated for the public good, through education, the arts, celebrations, gatherings, rodeos and community activities,” Wilson said.
The Kansas Legislature passed a resolution for the National Day of the Cowboy on March 31, 2009. House Concurrent Resolution No. 5020 designated the fourth Saturday in July as National Day of the Cowboy in Kansas.
“It acknowledged the pioneering men and women, recognized as cowboys, who helped establish the American West. That cowboy spirit continues to infuse this country with its solid character, sound family values and good common sense. The cowboy embodies honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic and patriotism,” Wilson stated.
Approximately 725,000 ranchers conduct business across the nation and contribute to the economic well-being of nearly every county in America. The annual attendance at professional and working-ranch rodeo events exceeds 27 million fans and is the seventh most-watched sport in the United States.
‘The cowboy is an American icon; to recognize the cowboy is to acknowledge the ongoing commitment of the United States to an esteemed and enduring code of conduct,” Wilson said.
The Kansas Museum of History plans the first West Fest: National Day of the Cowboy July 27, 2013, in Topeka. There will be family activities and special events in the museum’s main gallery with activities appropriate for children five to 11 years of age.
Wilson has also scheduled the second annual Kansas celebration of the National Day of the Cowboy Saturday, July 27, at his Lazy T Ranch near Manhattan, featuring western entertainment at 5 o’clock, with a barbecue supper at 6.
On that program in addition to Wilson, known as “The Poet Lariat,” are cowgirl yodeler Judy Coder and cowboy poet Jeff Davidson.
Coder is a native Kansan who has toured the United States and Europe performing cowboy and Western music. Trained as a classical musician and now living in Topeka, she has performed with leading cowboy stars and been named the Patsy Montana National Yodeling Champion, Yodeler of the Year by the Academy of Western Artists, and the Western Music Association International Yodeling Champion.
Davidson is a musician, president of the Kansas Chapter of the Western Music Association, and winner of the Governor’s Buckle at the 2013 Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest.
Using songs, historical facts and pictures, Davidson leads audiences through the history of Kansas and the role of the 34th state in the creation of the “Great American Cowboy.” The history can be traced through songs, which is what Davidson does, using both traditional and original cowboy and Western tunes.
A watershed specialist, Davidson entertained for the Flint Hills Overland Wagon Train for more than 25 years, which gave him a keen interest in Kansas history and an appreciation for the early travelers on the Santa Fe, Oregon, Chisholm and Western trails.
Wilson grew up near Manhattan on the Lazy T Ranch where his family resides today. He won first place in the cowboy poetry contest at the Kansas Cowboy Symposium in Dodge City, has performed on national RFD-TV, was named Horizon Award winner by the Heartland Chapter of the Academy of Western Artists, and was proclaimed by then-Governor Bill Graves as “The Poet Lariat.”
Available in book form, Wilson’s poetry appears regularly in numerous publications and is featured on weekly airwaves programs. Chairman of the Kansas Cowboy Poetry Contest, Wilson is an ambassador for the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
The National Day of the Cowboy organization was founded in June 2005, receiving non-profit status from the IRS on December 7, 2005.
Lack of written law on the range made it necessary for the cowman to frame his own guidelines for personal conduct in society, thus developing a rule of behavior which became generally known as the “Code of the West.”
These homespun “laws,” simply an unspoken agreement to certain rules of conduct, were not written into statutes, but were respected on the range nevertheless.
Because there was no formal law, pioneers who lived in and settled the west were bound by these unwritten rules which centered on hospitality, fair play, loyalty, honesty, integrity, a solid work ethic, and a deep and abiding respect for the land.
“Though the cowman might break every law of the territory, state and federal government, he took pride in upholding his own unwritten code. His failure to abide by it did not bring formal punishment, but the man who broke it became, more or less, a social outcast,” Wilson said.
Cowboy-Cowgirl Code of Conduct: 1. Live each day with honesty and courage. 2. Take pride in your work. Always do your best. 3. Stay curious. Study hard and learn all you can. 4. Do what has to be done and finish what you start. 5. Be tough, but fair. 6. When you make a promise, keep it. 7. Be clean in thought, word, deed, and dress. 8. Practice tolerance and understanding of others. 9. Be willing to stand up for what’s right. 10. Be an excellent steward of the land and its animals.