John Boston | The Code of The Cowboy on The 4th of July

John Boston

For years, I would dress up in my finest Sunday-Go-To-Meeting cowboy regalia, climb atop a fine tall horse and lead our annual Fourth of July parade. I’d offer my two practiced waves. The first was the cupped hand slight wrist-wiggle parade wave. The second was the Vatican Pope Cowboy Parade Wave. It’s the same motion, except backward and instead of “Howdy,” you say, “Ciao, bella!”


Courtesy of a Chinese flu bug, no parade. First time we haven’t had one since World War II. Nearly 70 years. Quite the streak. 

We almost didn’t have it in 1955. At the last minute, in something from a Frank Capra movie, people clambered out of businesses and homes, banging washtubs and waving flags, blowing old trombones and making impromptu floats from cars and flatbed trucks. 

Our sheriff knew the parade was illegal. As hundreds of cheering SCVians headed toward him, he shrunk in his seat, pulled his cap over his eyebrows and pretended not to see the clamorous parade. 

I haven’t ridden in our Fourth of July parade in years. Last time, I was grand marshal. Got to ride with my dad and wave from a convertible instead of a 19.5 hands thoroughbred. 


It’s easier to invade Siberia than get a horse to the parade. The valley is different and a few braindead fans can make it impossible. As you ride back to the staging area, people in cars cut you off and honk their horns. I’ve been flipped off and had rude things yelled at me by soccer moms and dads. Kids run out and shoot the horses with silly string and firecrackers. Yuppie mothers push toddlers into the street to run up and hug the horses’ legs.

Lately, I’ve become more of a Deskboy than a Cowboy. Too much sitting. Too much pontificating on my rock ’n’ roll iMac. 

Desperately, I need to just — ride.

Recently, one of my columns didn’t run. Which happens. I can get a little harsh, especially when I’m right. Hope I never change. The commentary was temporarily pulled. A good friend, during the time of riots, felt — and rightly so — discretion was the better part of valor and didn’t want people thinking we’re a bunch of cowboys up here in Santa Clarita. 

I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but this Fourth of July, America is writhing in a Hieronymus Bosch mural of our own painting.

I don’t see being a cowboy as much of a problem.

I see it as a solution.

You know what makes America great?


Simple as that.

Good people make the daily attempt to become the man or woman they are supposed be. No one’s perfect. Far from it. But — we strive. We fall. We get up. We’re shaken, sometimes terribly beaten, cheated, lied to, but we get up — time after time after time. There are days we crawl toward that higher vision of the person we’re supposed to be. We ask for help. From God, strangers, family, friends. If our hearts are contrite, always — always — that help is there.

Well. Unless you’re a nihilist.

Good luck with that.

For a hundred-plus years, so many Westerns were shot here in the SCV. Many of the cowboy stars had their own commandments, their moral guidelines written and shared with America’s youth. Many scoff, thinking they were corny. 


Reading a cowboy canon can get you expelled — or beaten. These lists of Western matinee idols all carried a simple roadmap to a most attractive quality: Humble Greatness. The origins of these celluloid cowboy moral and ethical canons actually go back thousands of years, but were rewritten from actual cowboy codes of the 19th-century American frontier, modified and continued into the 1960s. 

Our own Gene Autry had his “Code of Honor.” Gene’s No. 5 is: “A cowboy is free from racial and religious intolerances.” Hm. Wonder if Gene knew that 25% of the West’s cowboys were African American? 

Autry wrote that a cowboy is also kind, “clean about his person in thought, word, and deed.” A cowboy “never takes unfair advantage — even of an enemy.” A cowboy never betrays his trust, doesn’t go back on his word, tells the truth, is respectful, gentle and helpful when someone is in trouble.

Would the mobs of neighboring Los Angeles find this offensive?

The SCV’s Lone Ranger had his 10-point “Creed.” It called for a man to be a friend, to bear witness of our equality, that situations change, but “…the Truth alone lives on forever.”

Hopalong Cassidy? He had his Creed for American Boys & Girls. Hoppy shied away from things Orwellian and called for kids to be honest and truthful. His No. 5 amendment read: “Your good deeds always come to light. So don’t boast or be a show-off.” Hoppy noted that only through hard work and study can you succeed. He wasn’t a fan of laziness.

America has misplaced their elders, blocked their ears to wisdom and common sense. Wickedness reigns. Heroes are in short supply.

Does the world gnash its teeth and fret that Santa Clarita is so passé, so corny, a little too cowboy?

It’s the Fourth of July tomorrow.

Is it better to embrace the cowardice of the mob?

Or, stand up tall, and, hat or no hat — assume the virtues of the Cowboy?

John Boston is a local writer.

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