Wandering Amylessly: While Riding for the Brand

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By Amy Larsen
Wyo4News feature writer

I recently returned from a work trip, and one night, we were asked to dress in a Jersey from our favorite team. Well, anyone who knows me knows that I went dressed in Brown and Gold, as Wyoming will forever be my favorite team. Upon arriving at the event, several of my friends and colleagues laughed out loud and joked about how they wouldn’t have expected me to come in anything else. It’s just who I am.

As I was unpacking, I realized that pretty much my entire suitcase had made a nod somehow to Wyoming. While some of it was intentional, most of it was just normal. In fact, I have noticed that many Wyoming residents pack much like me. There is just something about carrying that cowboy and bucking horse with us, a sense of pride that only belongs to Wyoming.

I have often been told I truly “Ride for the Brand’, which I take as a huge compliment. I have used that statement as a retreat theme in the past, on social media posts, and in conversations. I love that the Wyoming Cowboys athletics program uses it as well. Many people do not know that in March of 2010, Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal signed legislation adopting “Ride for the Brand’ as one of the ten ethics derived from the “Code of West” written by James Owen, making it Wyoming’s official State Code of Ethics. It is part of who we are.

When I first read the “Code of the West,” I’ll admit I wasn’t taken aback or surprised by anything in it. What actually surprised me was that it wasn’t the norm for everyone! Each of the ethics was just a part of growing up in Wyoming, values and lessons instilled in me my whole life, a part of my character that I am proud of.

For those of you who are not familiar with the “Code of the West,” the ten ethics derived from it are:

 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.

 8) Talk less and say more.

 9) Remember that some things aren’t for sale.

10) Know where to draw the line.

(https://cowboyethics.org/cowboy-ethics/).

Photo submitted by Amy Larsen

While I could write a column on each of these ethics and how they relate to me, the one that has always stood out to me the most, as you have guessed, is #7, Ride for the Brand.

Years ago, I did some research on what it actually means to “Ride for the Brand.” The answer, of course, goes back to the physical brand of the ranch. The brand is what shows ownership of the livestock. The brand is a unique marking that belongs only to that ranch and, in fact, is registered with the state. To “Ride for the Brand” for a cowboy means you take pride in that brand and ownership, you are a part of the ranch, and most importantly, you represent it.

Coach Craig Bohl also uses the principal with the Wyoming Cowboys football team. No player has their individual name on the back of their jersey, as they all play for the name on the front. They “Ride for the Brand.”  As do many of us.

When I travel, I am always in awe at how many people ask if I am from Wyoming when they see my “brand.” Inevitably, the conversation leads to a story: either they are from Wyoming, have visited Wyoming, or want to visit Wyoming. There is something about Wyoming that still carries the romanticism of the Old West, combined with the adventure of unknown places and experiences. If they are from Wyoming within a person or two, we have someone in common and just laugh about how small of a world it is. Whether I am talking to another “cowboy” or someone just in awe of Wyoming, there is just an overwhelming sense of pride in where I am from and, in that moment, what I represent. There really isn’t any other state that just has one symbol, one code of ethics that everyone is proud to ride for.

While I truly “Ride for the Wyoming brand” when I travel, it does go beyond the bucking horse and cowboy. You see, I ride for myself, my family, my hometown, the University of Wyoming, the state of Wyoming, and the current city I live in as well. I take pride in being the “one person in Wyoming” that people meet and know. I take pride in who I am and how that reflects what people think about me and know about me.

 

I want people to know my story and experience, that my family has been in Wyoming for four generations, and that I truly loved growing up here and still growing here. That I grew up in the Red Desert, surrounded by people who worked hard and played hard, camped in the Wind Rivers, and the Flaming Gorge was my backyard. That Wyoming has an incredible history, including being the first state that gave women the right to vote. I grew up knowing how to hunt and fish and knowing there wasn’t any mountain you couldn’t climb. Wyoming isn’t just iconic national parks, wildlife, cowboys, scenic drives, and rivers. At the absolute heart of Wyoming is her people and those people who are riding for her brand every day, just by being themselves. A brand that is as normal to them as our western skies.

There is a lot of meaning in that bucking horse and cowboy, and I, along with so many of you, take pride in it every time I put it on.