Order of the 3rd Cowboy
The Joke as I remember it…
There’s three cowboys sitting around the campfire talking about how tough they are.
The first cowboy says “You remember that new bronco they brought in last week? No one could ride him right? So I jumped up on him and grabbed him by the hair and had him trotting around the ring in no time. That’s how tough I am”.
The second cowboy says “Yeah that is pretty tough. But listen you here to me. We were out on the trail last week coming back to camp when a herd of stampeding buffalo came out of nowhere and we were out by the bluff and they are coming straight for us. We were all going to die! So I stepped down off my horse, looked at the buffalo, raised my hand and yelled STOP! And they all just stopped in their tracks. Because, that’s how tough I am”.
The first cowboy and the second cowboy looked over at the third cowboy who was remaining strangely quiet. That’s when they noticed that he was stirring the fire with his ****.
Creating an Order of the 3rd Cowboy
I can’t remember when I first heard the 3rd cowboy joke or even who told me it, but it immediately struck me as an excellent maxim of how one should approach work and life. Some people talk about how tough they are, others just do it.
In 2011, as we were poised to complete a major project at work (opening a new 500 room patient care tower) a lot of us were putting in a ridiculous amount of unpaid overtime and I decided to institute an “Order of the 3rd Cowboy” at work to acknowledge those who were showing by their actions that they were of 3rd cowboy calibre. Like I told them: “we can’t give you a raise, or a bonus but we can give you respect for a job well done”. I ordered some pewter cowboy hats pins from Jim Clift Design’s Lapel Pin Planet (http://www.lapelpinplanet.com/CC451-cowboy-hat-lapel-pin.html) and awarded them to staff who went above and beyond the call of duty…and didn’t whine or brag about it.
In 2015 I decided to re-boot the Order of the 3rd Cowboy at work, ordered some more pins and have been inducting co-workers as the opportunities present themselves. The criteria for induction is pretty simple. Someone who continually puts in more effort than is required and doesn’t boast about it.
I am writing my own experience here in the hope that it might inspire other teams to start their own version of the “Order of the 3rd Cowboy”.
Order of the 3rd Cowboy as philosophy for how we approach work and life…
I thought I was the only person who thought about the lesson of the 3rd cowboy joke as a life philosophy. But as I searched the ‘net for the origins of the joke (which I didn’t find), I came across the below post in a thread discussing the joke which I think sums up quite nicely the attitude of those who subscribe to the Order of the 3rd Cowboy as a philosophy. Actions speak louder than words.
“Be the third cowboy.”
The way I look at it, it’s more than a joke. It’s kind of a life philosophy.
I mean, sure you can believe the first two cowboys, if you want. But when it comes down to it, all you have is their word. Hell, they even had to tell you they were tough.
But the third cowboy, this ****** doesn’t have to say anything. You know just by looking at him, at his actions. Because a real man isn’t in what a man says he is. A man’s true grit lies in his actions.
He’s a man who doesn’t have to puff himself up with self-praise, because he knows he can get **** done when it comes down to the grind.
For a while now, whenever I need to keep my ego in check or when I don’t feel up to the task at hand I tell myself, “Be the third cowboy.”
The Chuck Norris version (presented here just for fun)
Chuck Norris and 2 other cowboys were out in the old west. After a long day of travel in the desert, the three of them set up camp for the night. Having sat around their fire silently for some time, the first of the cowboys decided to speak up.
“You know,” he said, “I believe I am the manliest man here! Why, this one time I was riding all alone through the desert on my manly horse when I stumbled upon a town that had no name. Upon entering the town, I realized that the townspeople were in a panic. Everyone was fleeing for their lives and screaming. So I grabbed the nearest woman to me around the neck and demanded of her, ‘What the hell is going on around here?!!!’ The woman, terrified, only managed to stammer and point. Low and behold, there was a wild bull skewering people through the heart. So, what did I do? I got down off my tall horse and grabbed the bull by the horns and looked him straight in the eyes, broke his neck, crushed his *****, rammed my fist into his chest, pulled out his heart and ate it! That is how much of a man I am!”
There was silence quite for a while. Soon the other cowboy cleared his voice and said:
“You, know, that’s pretty good, but I am more of a man than that! Why, this one time, me and a few of my manly buddies were off on a horse trip. I was bringing up the rear of the line when all of a sudden I heard a commotion at the front of the line. Kicking my fine horse with my spurs, I raced ahead to see what was the matter. Low and behold, there was a twenty-foot rattler that had consumed my friend whole! So, what did I do? I got down off my tall horse and ran over to the snake, grabbed him around the neck, crushed his *****, bit off his head, sucked the venom from its cold, lifeless body and then spit it upon the dry ground like acid! That is how much of a man I am!”
After this, there was another silence. The two cowboys looked one another over, each recognizing the other to be a fine specimen of what it is to be a man. They then both patiently waited to hear Chuck Norris’ response. But there was only silence. Off in the distance an owl hooted. A coyote howled. Still, silence. Chuck Norris didn’t say a word; he merely continued to sit calmly and stir the coals of the fire with his ****.