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Wild West Ethics

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

2021-February 20th

Out here in Carson City, we grew up watching our city burn up on a map every week on Bonanza.  It also drew some big laughs when Hoss and Little Joe finished dinner at the ranch and said, “Pa, we’re going into town (Virginia City) for the evening.”  There is no way anybody on a horse rode up over the crest of the Sierras, down through Washoe Valley and back up around the side of Mount Davidson to “go into town” for the evening!

One thing that always drew us into watching Bonanza was the strict “rules” of ethics that the Cartwrights lived by. They were really rigid about following the honest code of the west.

Well it got me to thinking. (My wife says that’s dangerous.) But everybody is all upset at one another over various topics in America these days. Election results, impeachment hearings, politics, economic shutdowns, wearing masks or not, etc. And it occurred to me that one way to get folks settled back down to being more civil with each other was to go back to the old “code of the wild west.”

At our CPA firm, we put the “Cowboy Ethics” list on the back of our business cards, it’s posted all over our office. It is our official firm ethics statement. These are copyrighted by James P Owen from his book “Cowboy Ethics.” You can go to to get more information, but here are the 10 rules we follow…

1-Live Each Day with Courage

2-Take Pride in Your Work

3-Always Finish What You Start

4-Do What Has to Be Done

5-Be Tough, But Fair

6-When You Make a Promise, Keep It

7-Ride for the Brand (be loyal)

8-Talk Less and Say More

9-Remember That Some Things Aren’t For Sale

10-Know Where to Draw the Line

Just imagine if everybody in all political parties and elected positions did their best to follow these 10 rules. How about #6? For politicians, #8 would be very difficult. (Maybe #9 too?) How many times have we all made the mistake of not knowing where to draw the line (#10)? What does it really mean to live each day with courage (#1)? How good a job would we do at our work if we tried harder to follow rule #2? For most of us, #3 sounds good, but we just quite can’t get there. Room for improvement?

Just some thoughts from an old Bonanza fan out here in the sagebrush of Nevada.

Did you hear? Psalms 119:150 says, “They draw near who follow after wickedness; They are far from Your law.”

Kelly Bullis is a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City. Contact him at 882-4459. On the web at Also on Facebook.

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