Every time I get the chance to be freed from my responsibilities in West Ridge Academy, I immediately head down to my ranch to indulge my childhood dream in becoming a cowboy. Several years ago, in an act which I could only attribute to either a midlife crisis or a moment of weakness, I actually purchased a working cattle ranch. Along with that purchase came a multitude of problems which I hadn't anticipated: wandering bulls grazing on my neighbor's field, broken wheel lines, calving at 3 a.m. in freezing conditions, fixing fences, my tractor's hydraulic lines acting up, never ending flat tire incidents, picking up rocks, and then picking up some more. But even with all these challenges, I would still say that the whole experience has been very rewarding indeed. One of the rewards is the chance to work with several true-blooded cowboys. These guys are the real deal—boots, hats, scarves, and mustaches. However, it isn't their attire that actually impresses me the most. But their work ethic, strength of character, and the unwritten code with which they choose to live their lives. Author James Owen mentions this unwritten law in his book as "The Code of the West.”

It is this law or code that makes cowboys stand out as a symbol of American culture and values. It's a culture that is borne out of years of perseverance, resourcefulness, and hard work. It's a code of honor where a handshake is your bond and putting others' welfare first before your own. It is a life where you embrace the idea that helping others finish what they have started is as important as finishing what you have started yourself. Here in West Ridge Academy, we are committed towards instilling these same ideals for ourselves and for our students.

Several years ago, there was this young man that was brought to our attention because of heavy drugs and alcohol use. His grades were very low and he harbored much contempt against the world. His parents told us there was no reason they knew of that would bring this change. They had tried everything they could think of to help their son, but everything they did only seemed to make things worse. Our therapist who was working with them listened very carefully to everything the boy and parents were saying until he realized what had happened. Finally, in a one-on-one session with the young man our therapist told him he knew he had been molested and that he was going to help him work through his pain.

The therapist promptly asked for the parents to come to his office - so that they could discuss a very important issue with their son. Within half an hour, the parents arrived and immediately sat down with their child in the therapist's office. As he told them what had transpired, they lovingly put their arms around him. Within the next half an hour, very few words were actually spoken, and yet much of what they went through in the past were immediately cleared and clarified. The love and compassion that the young man felt at that particular time was so strong that it left a huge imression upon him. He knew that he was loved and safe, and that he was no longer alone in his suffering.

The next two years were not necessarily easy for the family. The perpetrator got 40 years in the junk for his crime, but the young man and his family were forced to work through all kinds of adversities and fight to keep their family together. Fortunately for them, they found what was troubling their son early on, hence they can now look forward to a much brighter future. They were able to help their son finish the good he had started before his life had been derailed.

"The Code of the West" is a moral code that we could all use for our own lives today. We might not have to tend to a newborn calf at 3 a.m. on a brutally cold night, yet the same values of hard work and courage are still the same things that will let us lead meaningful lives. Setting a high moral code and ethical standards in the way that we live our lives and we run our families require follow through and fierce loyalty.

As you read and ponder “The Code of the West,” I hope you might consider how to implement these principles in your own lives. We actually live by these principles on a daily basis at West Ridge Academy.

So, saddle up partner…it’s time to cowboy up!

1. Be courageous as you face each and every day 2. Take pride in your work
3. Always make it a point to finish what you started 4. Do what has to be done
5. Be firm, but fair
6. Always keep your promises 7. Ride for what you stand for
8. Do more with less talk
9. Keep in mind that not all things are for sale 10. Know where to draw the line

Author's Bio: 

With a 15-1 NAAS accredited student teacher ratio K-12 program, West Ridge Academy is a top level school. West Ridge Academy has been helping youth since 1964; to date helping more than 25,000 troubled teens. http://www.linkedin.com/company/west-ridge-academy