The outdoor honor code.
"Unfaithfulness in the keeping of an appointment is an act of clear dishonesty. You may as well borrow a person’s money as his time.” —Horace Mann
Like most Montanans, I’m not too finicky about social graces, economic standing, political stances, or personal hygiene. We live in the West; we live outside; many of us live day to day by the skin of our knuckles—if you want to pass gas in convenience stores, drive a 1968 F100 with no muffler, vote Libertarian, and wash your hair once a week, it doesn’t really affect me. But there’s one behavior that is inexcusable, whether we’re discussing trailhead etiquette or downtown dining: tardiness.
As a microcosm of Western manners, being late (or failing to show up at all) is akin to wearing your boots to bed. It’s rude. Blowing off a much-anticipated morning of corn skiing, hunting, or casting for rainbows is an affront to your partners, and to the fabric of our outdoor culture. It’s a middle finger to the main reason we all (pay out the nose to) live here—we’re here to do things. And to do things, you gotta show up. Plus, being late or absent gives your friends plenty of time to reflect on all of your shortcomings—and that’s never good.
Now, that’s not to say there aren’t exceptions. Some other things that make Bozeman great are the general decency of our people, the laid-back lifestyle we cultivate, and some good old-fashioned Montana adaptability. If you are late because you helped your elderly neighbor shovel her sidewalk, you are exempt. If you couldn’t make it because you were busy pulling a baby from the burning wreckage of a freak car accident, you are exempt. If you’re ten minutes late because you stopped and generously bought breakfast sandwiches and coffee for your partners, you are exempt. But if you’re late because you are hung over, slept through your alarm, ran a few errands on the way, or had to check your email on a Saturday morning, it constitutes a dickhead move of the highest order, punishable by kicks to the groin and banishment from future Fun Activities.
We can’t buy time. We can’t save it. And when it’s stolen, we can’t ever get it back. Those precious few hours on the river and in the mountains with our friends and family are finite—it’s important, for me anyway, to use them. And that means honoring plans, being respectful of others, and managing to “cowboy up” even if you overdid it with the Fireball the night before.
That’s what it comes down to—doing what we say we’re going to do. Being reliable. Being a good partner and friend. We all want to have a great time in the outdoors—and we want to do it with you. But you gotta show up. So put on the coffee, set your alarm, and go to bed early. I’ll see you in the morning—the skiing is going to be great.