The Cowboy Code



What does it take to be a New Mexico Highlands University Cowboy? Not too surprisingly, the same traits that are needed to be successful in life! Award-winning New Mexico author Slim Randles shares his insight to being a successful Cowboy: 

Here at New Mexico Highlands University, we’re the Cowboys, with a capital C. That’s not just something we yell at athletic events, like “Go Livingston Lizards!” but is a way of life with us. Real cowboys live by a code that enables them to be kind, loyal, honest, hard-working and most of all, independent.

The cowboy of the American West might just be the closest thing this nation has to an old-fashioned knighthood, and we decided this was a good model to follow, not only as a college student, man or woman, but for whatever calling you choose after graduation.

Let’s look at some cowboy standards we can apply to being a Cowboy … a Highlands Cowboy.

Saddle your own broncs – There’s only one person who can educate you or give you a good life, and that’s you. The knowledge is here and the experts are here, but you’re the only one who can decide what to make of it. The buck stops with you.

Ride a ways with others – Show them the ropes. Lend a helping hand until someone else gets the hang of being a Cowboy. Others have done it for you, and this is the only way you can thank them for their kindnesses.

Do what’s right, even if no one’s looking – There are no degrees of honesty and integrity, and this, more than anything else, makes Highlands Cowboys good role models for the rest of society. It will set you apart from 90 percent of the others and is the Cowboys hallmark.

Ride for the brand – It’s called loyalty, and practicing it at Highlands can help bring you a lifetime of friendships and success. You see, no matter what you do, you’ll quietly know inside that you’re a Cowboy.

Lie, but only to your own mind – Never lie to others, but if you need an inner boost, it’s okay to lie a little to yourself. Telling yourself, “I’m really good at this class and I’m going to succeed” is an amazing way to do just that. In the real world it’s called “cowboying up.” It works for riding a difficult horse, and it works in life.

Learn from your elders – Look around for someone whose life and skills you admire, and help out around the place while you’re learning the secrets. Sweeping the floors in Mr. Stradivari’s shop was a darn good way to learn to make great fiddles. Find the best and learn from them.

Lend a hand where it’s needed – It’s called being a volunteer, you do it for free, you even do it for someone you don’t know. You’ll learn the most profitable moments in life sometimes occur when  there’s no charge. And it’s fun and habit forming.

To think right, straighten your boots – Make your bed in the morning, hang up your clothes, keep some gas in the car. It’s an old cowboy trick to get your mind right and it allows you to forget the small stuff and concentrate on the important things.

Be polite – Send a little thank-you note to someone who has gone out of their way to help you. It will be emblazoned on their heart forever. They’ll always think nice things about you, even if they can’t remember why.

Choose your pards carefully – Be nice to everyone, but when it comes to picking your pards, your inner circle, pick a person who shares the same values – Cowboy values – as you. It will bring you a lifetime of fun and success.

Find a passion – Look for something to do with the potential for improvement. Whether it’s an athletic goal, a scholastic goal, or just playing the guitar better than you were able to last month, work at it. People with a passion live long and fulfilling lives. If you’re satisfied with your progress, it wasn’t really a passion, was it?

So whether you’re a man or a woman, a city dweller or a mountaineer, it means something to be a Cowboy. With a capital C. A Highlands Cowboy. If that doesn’t work for you, there are always the Livingston Lizards.  Here’s a promise: work at being a Cowboy, and all your life you’ll be strengthened by it. Tuck that thought away in your pocket and smile when you say to yourself, “A good Cowboy can do anything.”


When Slim Randles wasn’t in the newsroom – either as editor, reporter, or columnist- he was in the open, getting cold, wet, burned by the sun, starving and otherwise having a great time. He has been a hunting guide in New Mexico and Alaska, made the first solo dogsled trip across Alaska’s Arctic Slope, paddled a canoe down the Yukon River, built a log cabin 12 miles from the nearest road, and drove a dog team in the first Iditarod Race. He has also packed mules in the eastern High Sierra and roped calves in rodeos. And he has written about it in newspaper stories, magazine articles, and books, both fiction and nonfiction. He was a popular columnist for the Anchorage Daily News and The Albuquerque Journal, and now writes a syndicated weekly newspaper column called “Home Country”. His books are online at