Old West Wisdom

Common sense in an uncommon degree, is what the world calls wisdom. 
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Every trail has some puddles.

There’s no place ’round the campfire for a quitter’s blanket.

Tossin’ your rope before buildin’ a loop don’t ketch the calf.

Polishing your pants on saddle leather don’t make you a rider.

A closed mouth gathers no boots.

Don’t name a cow you plan to eat.

Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.

Never miss a good chance to shut up.

Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce.

Keep skunks, lawyers, and bankers at a distance.

Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.

Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.

Don’t sell your mule to buy a plow.

Don’t corner something meaner than you.

It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.

When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

Most of the stuff people worry about never happens.

Don’t squat with your spurs on.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

Don’t interfere with something that ain’t botherin’ you none.

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

It’s better to be a has-been than a never-was.

A wink’s as good as a nod to a blind mule.

If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.

There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode, there never was a rider that couldn’t be throwed.

When in doubt, let your horse figure it out.

Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town.

He’s all hat and no cattle.

Never hire the people you drink with.

A man afoot is no man at all.

When a bad man dies, he either goes to hell or the Pecos.

A good fence should be pig-tight, horse-high, and bull-strong.

Don’t worry about bitin’ off more’n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger’n you think.

Good judgment comes from experience and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya.


Cookie at the Chuckwagon.

Only a fool argues with skunk, a mule, or a cook.

It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.

Any hoss’s tail kin ketch cockleburs.

Wide-open spaces don’t breed no chatterboxes.

You can never tell which way the pickle’s goin’ to squirt.

If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

There’s two theories to arguin’ with a woman. Neither one works.

A pair of six-shooters beats a pair of aces.

An angry bull is less dangerous than an angry woman.

Every cowboy thinks he knows more than every other cowboy. But the only thing they all know for sure is when’s payday and where’s grub.”

An old timer is a man who’s had a lot of interesting experiences — some of them true.

Only a buzzard feeds on his friends.

Speak your mind, but ride a fast horse.

Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.

A cow outfit’s never better than its hosses.

No one but cattle knows why they stampede, and the ain’t talking.

Bucking Broncho

Bad Hoss – A bucking Bronco.

You’ll never break a horse if you stay sittin’ on the fence.

Never drink unless you’re alone or with somebody.

You can judge a man by the hoss he rides.

A full house divided don’t win no pots.

When a cowboy’s too old to set a bad example, he hands out good advice.

A bronc rider should be light in the head and heavy in the seat.

Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in.

A word to the wise is unnecessary.

The measure of a man is when he does the right thing even when no one is watching.

You can’t keep trouble from visitin, but you don’t have to offer it a chair.

You don’t learn much when everything goes right.

Don’t run down narrow stairs when you’re wearing spurs.

Tumbleweeds are best left to themselves.

Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

Cattle Roundup

Cattle Roundup in Kansas.

Go after life as if it’s something that’s got to be roped in a hurry before it gets away.

Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

When you’re throwing your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.

Don’t worry about biting off more than you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger than you think.

Like a good cowboy, a good hat just gets better as it gets older.

When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don’t be surprised if they learn their lesson.

Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not so important to know what it is, but it’s good to know what it was.

Never get up before breakfast. If you have to get up before breakfast, eat breakfast first.

Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.

There are more horses asses than horses.

Never ask a barber if he thinks you need a haircut.

After eating an entire bull, a mountain lion felt so good he started roaring. He kept it up until a hunter came along and shot him. The moral: When you’re full of bull, keep your mouth shut.

Some people follow wagon tracks while others break new trails.

Never let your yearnin’s’ get ahead of your earnin’s.

Cowboy Thrown, 1906

This cowboy done been “grassed”, 1906. Click for prints, downloads and products.

Makin’ it in life is kinda like bustin’ broncs: you’re gonna get thrown a lot. The simple secret is to keep gettin’ back on.

cowboy hat looks silly on anyone who isn’t a cowboy.

Country fences need to be horse high, pig tight, and bull strong.

The best sermons are lived, not preached.

Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.

Meanness don’t happen overnight.

It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.

You can’t unsay a cruel thing.

Most of the stuff people worry about never happens.

Don’t judge people by their relatives.

Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

It’s better to be a has-been than a never-was.

The easiest way to eat crow is while it’s still warm. The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller.

If it don’t seem like it’s worth the effort, it probably ain’t.

There ain’t much paw an’ beller to a cowboy.

You can’t tell how far a bullfrog’ll jump by the size of its feet.

Every man is entitled to scratch his own itch.

Apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.

Life is short and full of blisters.

A good run is better than a bad stand.

Take no more on your heels than you can kick off with your toes.

Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got.

The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning.

If you work for the man, ride for his brand.

When you climb into the saddle, you’d better be prepared to ride.

Being a cowboy means never saying it hurts. Pain is just the other side of feeling good.

My jeans and my man — broke in just right!

Go after life as if it’s something that’s got to be roped in a hurry before it gets away.

Solvin’ problems is like throwin’ cattle. Dig your heels on the big ones and grab the little ones ’round the neck.

No matter how much horsepower your truck has it still can’t cut a calf from the herd

Never walk when you can ride, and never stand when you can sit.

Riding hard

Riding Hard. Click for prints, downloads and products.

A man is not born a cowboy – he becomes one.

Success is the size of the hole a man leaves when he dies.

If you follow behind the lead cow, you will step in the mess he leaves behind.

The man that straddles the fence usually has a sore crotch.

Careful is a naked man climbing a barbed wire fence.

Color don’t count if the horse don’t trot.

A loose hoss is always looking for new pastures.

Kickin’ never gets you nowhere, ‘less’n you’re a mule.

It’s the man that’s the cowhand, not the outfit he wears.

Cowboy Drinking

Cowboy Drinking – Tradecard for Wiedemann Beer. Click for prints, downloads and products.

Always drink your whiskey with your gun hand, to show your friendly intentions.

If drinking hurts your business, quit your business.

A smart ass just doesn’t fit in the saddle.

A faint heart never filled a flush.

Never mention “rope” in the home of hanged man.

A corkscrew never pulled a man out of a hole.

Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.

Nobody ever drowned himself in his own sweat.

Genius has its limits. Stupidity knows no bounds.

Colonel Colt made all men equal.

Men are like Barbed Wire…. they have their good points.

If the world made sense men would ride……Sidesaddle

Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly.

The length of a conversation don’t tell nothin’ about the size of the intellect.

You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is ’till they get thumped.

Its a big mistake to drive black cattle in the dark.

Never take to sawin’ on the branch that’s supportin’ you, unless you’re bein’ hung from it.

Always be able to look back and say, “At least I didn’t lead no humdrum life.”

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket.

There’s a whole lot more to ridin’ a horse than sittin’ in the saddle and lettin’ your feet hang down.

Too much debt doubles the weight on your horse and puts another in control of the reins.

Never try to dry a wet pair of jeans in the oven.

Never follow good whiskey with water, unless you’re out of good whiskey.

A smile from a good woman is worth more’n a dozen handed out by a bartender.

The wilder the colt, the better the hoss.

Some men talk ’cause they got somethin’ to say. Others talk ’cause they got to say somethin’.

Bein’ too positive in your opinions kin get you invited to a dance — in the street, to the music of shots, nicely aimed.

Tellin’ a man to git lost and makin’ him do it are two entirely different propositions.

If your horse doesn’t want to go there, neither do you.

If man was Man’s best friend, it wouldn’t be a dog-eat-dog world.

Work like you don’t need money and dance like no one is watching.

A halo only needs to drop a few inches to become a noose.

A man with an edgy smile is like a dog with a waggin’ tail: he not happy, he’s nervous.

No matter where you ride to, that’s where you are.

If you’re sittin’ at a counter eatin’, leave your hat on. If you’re sittin’ at a table take it off.

If you’re gonna drive cattle through town, do it on Sunday. There’s little traffic and people are more prayerful and less disposed to cuss at you.

I sowed wild oats and reaped prunes and bran.

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

A lasso is not a dating tool.

Bucking Broncho

A Bronc Buster.

Ridin’ a bronc is like dancin with a girl. The trick is matchin yer partner’s rhythm.

Real cowboys don’t line dance.

Generally speaking, fancy titles and nightshirts are a waste of time.

Some people grin and bear it. Other people smile and change it.

The only way to drive cattle fast is slowly.

After weeks of beans and taters, even a change to taters and beans is good.

Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.

No tree is too big for a short dog to lift his leg on.

You don’t need decorated words to make your meanin’ clear. Say it plain and save some breath for breathin’.

Honesty is not somethin’ you should flirt with — you should be married to it.

Never take another man’s bet. He wouldn’t offer it if he didn’t know somethin’ you don’t.

Any time a large herd moves through a civilized area there’s a lot of shit to clean up.

The wildest critters live in the city.

If the rodeo doesn’t kill you, the commute probably will.

The only substitute for good manners is fast reflexes.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, tension mounted, clicked its spurs, and rode off into the sunset.

Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.

Love your enemies and keep your gun oiled.

The best way to get a cowboy to do something is to suggest he is too old for it.

Virtue is its own punishment.

Don’t wear woolly chaps in sheep country during the breeding season.

If the saddle creaks, it’s not paid for.

When you’re tryin’ somethin’ new, the fewer people who know about it, the better.

Cowboys aren’t easy to love but they have the biggest hearts in the world.

After you groom your horse, don’t forget yerself.

Wearing gloves and button-fly jeans means you better think ahead.

A man doesn’t need to be any higher, than on top of a horse.

Never speak loudly unless your shanty is on fire.

The best way to cook any part of a rangy ol’ longhorn is to toss it in a pot with a horseshoe, and when the horseshoe is soft and tender, you can eat the beef.  

Compiled by Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2022.

Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorn