Most folks would not automatically conclude that cowboys have manners, but in my day, most cowboys were considered true gentlemen. The tipping of the hat to a lady still applies in many cases, but let's examine some less familiar forms of cowboy etiquette.
Growing up on a ranch in NE New Mexico brought numerous lessons in cowboy conduct, many of which are still alive in today's less formal environment. To go to dance in most places meant leaving your hat on the table while you were dancing (upside down, of course, to protect the brim). Spurs were never worn on a dance floor, even if you felt they looked cool.
This code was even more pronounced while out working on the ranch. We, who were fortunately enough to live the life, learned the lessons, sometimes the hard way. One sure way of approaching a cowboy's was to ride in front of him, or between him and the herd.
When gathering cattle, the riders converged on a pasture in a way similar to an army surrounding the enemy. Dropping off riders until one end of the pasture was fully enveloped; they converged simultaneously in a wide loop and remained in the same formation, as the loop squeezed the cattle toward the corral or gate you were heading for. A cowboy who got out of this formation was in for a difficult time.
This could call for some tricky decisions, especially if you were riding next to someone who did not know what they were doing. It was considered ok, though, if the cattle were getting away, to close up the gap by riding in front of someone, however, you needed to apologize as soon as possible.
You never handled another cowboy's hat, unless given permission, other wise this was grounds for a fist fight. Never set your hat on a bed either, although I think this had more to do with superstition than manners of any kind. It's supposed to bring bad luck.
One summer while helping neighbors brand, they had a chuck wagon, which we gathered at for meals. One cowboy had been consistently disrespectful and uncaring about the cowboy code, and one afternoon it all came to a head. He was introduced to the age old tradition of chapping.
Several cowboys grabbed him and held him over the tongue of the chuck wagon, while an older cowboy took off his chaps and proceeded to whip him across the back side with the chaps. This hurt the ego, much more than the rear end. I think the "chappers" got more out of it than the "chapee," as it certainly did not improve his disposition, but it was a lesson for us all in the code of the cowboy.
Cowboy courty is alive and well today, but the lines have been somewhat blurred by our permissive society. I've always felt it was an honor to be a cowboy, something to be proud of. Mutual respect between cowboys should always be the norm. Let's keep the tradition alive, and allow the dream of the American cowboy to live on.