U.S. Senator Mike Enzi
has served the state of Wyoming since 1975, when he became the Mayor of Gillette, and he continues to represent The Cowboy State from his current seat in the U.S. Senate. Though born in Washington, where his parents were serving our country during World War II, Enzi has been a Wyoming resident since he was four years old. In an interview with American Cowboy, he shares his views on the importance of the cowboy culture and spirit in the fabric of our great nation.
Can you explain to our readers why Wyoming is indeed “The Cowboy State”?
In my home state of Wyoming, we have a rich history that we can trace back to the early settlers. And we know that cowboys are more than a tradition. They are a symbol of the West and American culture, and their way of life still endures in Wyoming. Our license plate features a cowboy riding a bucking bronco. Our state was the first and only state in the nation to adopt a state code of ethics, which follows the “Code of the West,” derived from James P. Owen’s book, Cowboy Ethics. The Code of the West says, “Live each day with courage,” “When you make a promise, keep it,” and “Remember that some things aren’t for sale.” I believe in the Code of the West. I encourage every member of my staff to keep a copy of the Code near their desks where they will see it often and incorporate its message into their interactions every day. Each time we see the Code, it reminds us of the Wyoming values we represent and work so hard in the Senate to defend. We’re The Cowboy State, and our values reflect those that made America what it is today.
Having grown up in Wyoming, did you have influential cowboys in your life?
My grandpa on my mother’s side was a great mentor, and he was a cowboy in his younger days. I still have his spurs and his braided leather rope in my office.
How about famous cowboys in the movies or books—do any of them serve as role models to you?
I really enjoy books by Wyoming authors. A lot of the characters that appear in those books embody the West and the Cowboy Spirit. CJ Box and Craig Johnson are two of the most famous Wyoming authors who create strong cowboy characters in their books.
Spending time in Washington, D.C., must make you feel pretty far from home sometimes. How do you keep the Cowboy Spirit alive in your day-to-day life?
I am usually back in Wyoming on the weekends, traveling all around the state, going to events, and visiting with Wyomingites. But when I do have to be in Washington, my office is like a part of Wyoming. It is filled with collectibles, memorabilia, and mementos from all over the state and from different parts of my life. Not only do I appreciate the feel of having a “home away from home” in my office, but constituents who stop by for a visit appreciate it too. Almost every piece of memorabilia in my office comes with a story. Also, when I am here, I mostly meet with folks from Wyoming and most of my staff is from Wyoming.
Is there an appreciation for the cowboy on Capitol Hill?
I think the Cowboy is a symbol that a lot of people appreciate, but don’t always see as a role model. I’m working on educating my colleagues in Congress about that. I often say that one of my most important jobs in Washington is educating the East about the West. So when I am in [the capitol], I usually have to explain to folks about how Wyoming, or the West, is different. I believe that if everyone in Washington, D.C., lived by the Cowboy Code of Ethics, our country would be a lot better off.
What role do you play in the National Day of the American Cowboy?
Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas began the tradition of honoring cowboys with the “National Day of the American Cowboy” in 2005. I’m pleased that I have been able to continue that legacy since his passing. The Day of the American Cowboy is about honoring a culture of traditions and values that will never be forgotten. I’m proud to continue this tradition of recognizing one of Wyoming’s greatest symbols and a way of life that has contributed so much to American culture and the Western way of life.
Why is it imperative to preserve cowboy culture in America?
America faces a lot challenges, but we have always handled them because we are a strong, resilient nation that has always stood for what is right. That is the Cowboy Spirit. It is about honesty, integrity, courage, and patriotism. It’s a philosophy of commitment to friends and family, to our country, and to always doing what is right—because it’s right. Cowboys are role models that have a lot to teach us about the importance of our character, the values we embrace, and good old-fashioned common sense.
Is the Cowboy Spirit something that everyone can experience?
To me, the Cowboy Spirit is about respecting ourselves and each other; taking pride in everything we do; being loyal to our friends and helpful to all those we meet; being honest and above board in all our dealings; and living each day and facing the challenges of our lives with confidence and courage. Anyone who chooses to embrace those values is embracing the Cowboy Spirit.
Take a tour of the senator’s Washington, D.C., office atenzi.senate.gov