You can learn a lot about the real culture by reading stories you only find in the local news.
Years ago, while traveling through Wyoming, I read in one of those small-town newspapers about a man who had recently died.
He'd been drinking with some friends and went outside to relieve himself. Apparently he passed out while he was out there, because later that night one of his friends found him lying on the bluff.
Now here's the thing that caught my eye: this friend didn't help him up and back into the house, even though it was a fairly cold night. This was the American West, you see, the land of rugged individualism. It would be an insult to imply that someone couldn't take of himself.
So what did this "friend" do? He put a coat over the man lying on the ground and then went back in to rejoin the party.
The next day they found the man dead, still lying out there on the bluff.
That story has always stuck in my mind as the epitome of the cowboy ethos.
-- A comment I originally posted on Bruce Charlton's blog. Reposting here with some minor edits.