David Hines (hradzka) wrote,
David Hines

Gene Autry and the Cowboy Code

From 1940 to 1956, singing cowboy star Gene Autry had a radio show. It was incredibly popular with children -- how popular was it? Gene Autry's horse got his own radio show. And comic book. -- and Autry found himself a role model for millions of America's youth. Especially the boys.

His response to this situation shows you the kind of man he was: Autry devised a "Cowboy Code," so the boys of his day could have something to try to live up to. We can't all be radio stars, or sheriffs on the range, but Autry told his listeners that they could all be cowboys.

All they had to do was follow the Cowboy Code.

1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.

2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.

3. He must always tell the truth.

4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.

5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.

6. He must help people in distress.

7. He must be a good worker.

8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.

9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.

10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

I find the Cowboy Code to be quite touching, and Autry's creation of it even more so. It's also a little depressing, because I can't imagine any modern celebrity even thinking of the idea, much less, you know, *trying* to be a role model. Celebrities of Autry's day had a press that concealed the weaknesses and foibles of the famous; today, we celebrate celebrity decadence. I can't even imagine what a modern celebrity's code of behavior would look like.

Maybe there's a plot bunny in that for those who write fanfic about celebrities. I can't imagine what Pete Wentz's Rocker Code would look like ("4. You must post online pictures of your genitals."), but it's a thought.
Tags: history, music

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