In his Graduate of the Year acceptance remarks, Jud Little ’65 shared the ethics and standards of the American cowboy, drawing from the book Cowboy Ethics by Jim Owen.
“I associate on a day-to-day basis with a rare breed of people. And those people are cowboys. They have a sense of value that is engrained in them not from an institution such as Culver but by their reliance on other people. The cowboys’ ethical view of life is not based on myth – but on the reality of a hard life. Cowboys embraced this as a matter of day-to-day survival. They did rough, dangerous work and they had to rely on the integrity and character of other cowboys. It had to be something that you took for granted in other people. Some people called it The Code of the West:
- Live each day with courage. Cowboys find out how much a mere human can do and do a little more because you can do a little more. Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.
- Take pride in your work. Do the best you can do whether you like the job or not, or if it’s mundane. You do not have to like a job to do the best you can and be proud of your work. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
- Cowboys never quit. Cowboys don’t give up. When you’re riding through hell, just keep on riding. A true leader says there won’t be any quitting on this team – not by me, not by you.
- Do what has to be done – and do it now, not after it’s too late! Doing the right thing is a matter of honor, despite the odds. The true test of a person’s honor is what he or she would do to keep his honor.
- Be tough but be fair. Little shares a story a drilling contractor who signed a contract with his father for so much a foot and lost his shirt, almost going out of business. Quinton Little offered him another job and handed the driller a $50,000 check, knowing he was operating at a loss. “From that time on, he probably drilled another 100 wells for Daddy and there wasn’t one of those big thick contracts. It was a handshake and a long relationship.”
- When you make a promise, keep it. And even more important, don’t make a promise you cannot keep.
- Ride for the brand. If you work for the man, ride for his brand. You’ve got a brand, it’s called Culver. You spread the word about this great institution and you represent it well when you go off to college.
- Talk less and say more. Harold Barry was a great polo player, Little explained, but not your slim, svelte picture of an athlete. He stood about 5-10, weighed about three hundred pounds. Playing in Argentina, when the crowd saw Barry they began to chant “El Gordo!” When the match was over, the president of Argentina invited Barry up to his box. Barry wasn’t about to climb those 70-odd stairs up the bleachers; he rode the polo pony up to the president’s box. And the crowd chanted “El Chico! El Chico!” “Harold Barry talked very little that day,” Little said, “but he said a whole lot.”
- Some things in life aren’t for sale. And remember that some of the best things in life aren’t things.
- Know when to draw the line for yourself and for other people. There are lines you won’t cross and lines you won’t let others cross. Little quoted J.B. Books, as played by John Wayne in The Shootist: “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.”
- Demand fairness and fair play in anything you do. A square deal is a good one for everybody; all sides are equal. There’s always right and there is always wrong, but there is nothing in between. There is no gray area.
- Last, remember everyone needs a code or a creed to live by. It’s up to you to develop yours. These things may sound a little familiar. Every time I come to Culver I go to Logansport Gate and there, ensconced in bronze, are eight great Culver values. And they seem to ring pretty true with what these cowboys have figured out – honor, service, truth, justice, courage, wisdom, duty, and moderation. These are the kinds of things we need more of in this country.
To read the full story on Little, go to your Culver Alumni Magazine.