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Dear rural America: You’ve got things figured out. I don’t know where we’d be without you.

I’ve been in a lot of urban areas, including Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, Dallas, Kansas City and Denver. Plus, I’ve also been in a lot of rural areas all the way from Pendleton, Ore., to Yoakum, Texas.

And what have I discovered? It appears that the best kids in the world are rural kids who are involved in agriculture and rodeo. They care for and show stock and they say “yes, sir” and “no, sir” and treat people and animals with the utmost respect.

Where does that come from? It comes from their parents and grandparents, but it also comes from a cowboy/cowgirl honor code established long ago.

Of course, you hear a lot from urbanites these days about how ranchers and rodeo people abuse animals. Meanwhile, the truth is just the opposite.

They don’t know that when you wear a cowboy hat you’ve got certain responsibilities besides taking care of animals. For example, you tip your hat to a lady. You open doors for everyone, no matter whom it is and walk on the outside of a sidewalk when walking with a lady. You treat everyone and everything with respect. Your handshake is as good as a contract. Plus, you help your neighbors and you depend on them to help you.

That’s why rodeo, family farms and ranches, horses, 4-H and FFA are so important. They might be the last things that are preserving traditional American values. Sports once did, but not anymore because sportsmanship is almost extinct. The United States government once did but not anymore.

It used to be that almost everyone in America lived by the cowboy code, whether they were a cowboy or not. But that’s not necessarily true anymore.

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Oh, sure, I’m generalizing. But I’m not over-generalizing.

I was in Nashville at a Professional Bull Rider’s event a year ago in August and went to a bar on Broadway afterward to play pool. Some big local citizen pushed his way through a bunch of bull riders and planted his chest in the face of one of them and uttered a few vulgarities. Despite his bulk, he was soon dropped like a big timber with one quick punch from that bull rider who was half his size because you don’t disrespect people. And if you do there are repercussions. As a cowboy, you are friendly, peaceful and helpful, but you aren’t a pushover.

How does that translate to the rest of America? If there are government officials, Republican, Democrat or independent, who are participating in illegal or unethical activities, and billionaires financing discord from the outside, they must know that there will be repercussions.

And that’s probably why the rest of the world refers to Americans as cowboys. And quite frankly, they couldn’t pay us a bigger compliment.

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Kevin Holten is the executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV.

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