It has been lonely so far from home and life here is strange and unusual. It is not as I expected when I set out. It is somehow both more vicious and more beautiful than I could have anticipated.
When I first arrived, I was appalled at the complete disregard for any sort of law. Over time though, I have come to see there is a sort of code among these people. A respect based more upon strength than imbued authority. It was hard to follow initially, but over time I’ve come to find some consistency to it. These men and women may break every law of government and suffer no reprisal, but if they violate these unspoken expectations? They might well be cast out of town. And out here that could well be a sentence of death for the unlucky.
I am so looking forward to your arrival. I thought to spare you some of my trials and tribulations. To give you a guide of sorts as you make your way here to join me. Besides, it helps me to while away the hours whilst I wait for developments in my negotiations.
The people here live a life filled with equal parts of violence and courtesy. They will offer hospitality to any who need it, a trait that likely saved my life at one stage of my journey. The concept of helping another in need is deeply ingrained in them. I did not expect those with so little to be so generous with what they have. But heavens defend those who steal those meager possessions. I am convinced that thievery is viewed as worse than murder. One fellow explained to me, let me see if I can capture his voice for you, “If’n you shoot a man outright, he dies quick and easy. If you steal his food, you leave him to shrivel away with a belly full o’ knives and no creature alive deserves that.”
Murder does not seem overly concerning to most, which was and remains shocking to me. If two gunslingers draw upon one another in town, everyone else seems to simply turn away and mind their own business. At most, they might watch as it might well be the only entertainment they can find. Outlaws and Tong enforcers face one another with impunity for no lawman cares to intercede so long as those being hurt are all outside of their jurisdiction. So long as no one of polite society suffers, these shenanigans happen freely. Now if a bullet were to run astray and strike the local doctor? Well then all polite veneer falls away and the entire town can rise up to strike down the offending gunman.
As for gunfire, you will hear it at all hours. I swear these people never tire of their little contests. Shooting at cans, shooting through hoops, at times shooting at one another. Did I mention the lack of quality entertainment? Unless there is a carnival around or someone is organizing a fair, I do believe that watching one another shoot might well be their favorite pastime.
Now I do wish to clarify one thing, my dear. I know I have spoken of the kind hospitality that is so embraced, but I do not want to give you the wrong impression. These people are intensely private. In truth I think that privacy is the true reason no one interferes in a gunfight. If it isn’t your affair, you do not get involved. Do not inquire too deeply into anyone’s affairs. Do not fail to say hello, or “Howdy” as they prefer, to a passer by, but keep your greeting simple. And do not prevaricate. One’s word is one’s bond here and proving one’s self untrue will leave you friendless and alone.
Please be safe in your travels. I cannot wait to show you all the wonders of this strange place.
— Letter from the personal collection of Anna Sullivan,
Heiress to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company
There is no written Code of the West, but there are tropes and traditions that define the West. These are traditions you will see upheld by locals in Carrion Creek and could serve you well within that setting.
The Three Ain'ts
If it ain’t true,
don’t say it.
People out here don’t lie, not to others and not to themselves. Even desperadoes face the truth of their acts and if caught, go to the hangman with a certain stoicism.
On the other hand, you don't inquire into a person's past. What’s done is done, take the measure of a person for what they are today.
If it ain’t yours,
don’t take it.
Out West a thief is as bad as a murderer, sometimes worse. When a person has barely enough to survive, taking their supplies is a sure way of sending them to a slow death.
There is little reason to steal out here, folks truly understand the obligation of hospitality. Anyone who wanders in is welcome at the dinner table.
If it ain’t right,
don’t do it
Defend yourself whenever necessary, but never shoot an unarmed or unwarned enemy. Never shoot a person in the back. This is also known as "the rattlesnake code", always warn before you strike.
Never shoot a gentle person or child no matter what.
One is expected to help someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.