Voices from the Past
From the Examiner Files
February 23, 2023
February 23, 1923
Several Meanings Powder River Slogan
“The Powder River slogan that is known so well to all of us had its origin in the Hole in the Wall country on Powder River, south of Buffalo, Wyo.,” said Frank T. Kelsey this week. Mr. Kelsey has long been a resident of Powder River in the vicinity of Moorhead and has but recently moved to Broadus with his wife and family. His long residence in this country makes him an authority in telling the origin of the famous slogan and its interpretations through the vicissitudes of time.
“The slogan was first yelled ‘Powder River! Hole in the Wall!’” said Mr. Kelsey.
It was first shouted by an unlawless element that infested the Hole in the Wall country that consisted of a box canyon 50 miles south of Buffalo, Wyo., on the east side of the Big Horn Mountains where the Middle Fork of Powder River comes out of the Big Horn Mountains. Leading from the canyon was a narrow trail that was traveled with difficulty by even the surest-footed horses and their riders and in single file. There were many points of vantage on this trail that would enable a very few men to stand off a multitude of soldiers of sheriff’s posses, which was done at different times. The trail led around the side of the canyon into a small valley that was regarded as one of the best agricultural sections in the west, and here congregated a band of outlaws that used the retreat as a rendezvous. There was no other way to reach the valley but through the box canyon and the trail. Eventually the government routed the outlaws by blasting away a wide road at the foot of the bluff that made traffic possible to the retreat of the outlaws. The Powder River yell first originated with the outlaws themselves, and then later the cowpunchers of that vicinity adopted the yell as their own. When cowboys from that section went to town and got drunk they yelled ‘Powder River! Hole in the Wall,’ which meant ‘I’m a bad man from a bad country.’
The Spear cowpunchers were the first to introduce the yell in this part of Montana in 1891. The meaning of the slogan as yelled by them became “I’m a bad man and don’t give a damn.”
Kelsey continued: “Eventually ‘Hole in the Wall’ was dropped from the slogan and in its place was substituted ‘Let ‘Er Buck!’ This phrase was tacked on to the slogan at the different roundups. Sometimes when a rider would mount a bad horse, cowpunchers would yell ‘Powder River! Stay With Him!’ but ‘Powder River! Let ‘Er Buck’ seemed to be a more popular slogan and was universally adopted. If a bad horse threw its rider during an exhibition they would yell ‘Let ‘Er Buck!’
At the Eagles convention in Omaha in 1910 I saw a newsboy throw his hat on the pavement and then tromp on it yelling ‘Powder River!’
The Powder River slogan was adopted by the roundups meant ‘Out for a good time and going to have it.’”
In the army camps, Montana and western boys used the Powder River slogan “Powder River! Let ‘Er Buck!” as describing their feelings in quest of excitement. Such was the interpretation of the slogan until the troops got to France where it was generally adopted as a war slogan by the American Expeditionary Forces. Our soldier boys shouted “Powder River! Let ‘Er Buck!” as they went over the top terrorizing the Germans who heard it and felt the cold steel and lead bullets backing it up. The slogan became so popular among the American soldiers and was yelled so often by them that French soldiers learned its pronunciation and many of them adopted it as their war yell. During the war the Powder River slogan had a meaning, “We’ll do or die in the attempt.”
During the hard winter of 1919-20, the now famous Powder River slogan, “Powder River! Let ‘Er Buck” took on a new meaning with the civilian populations - “We’ll do our best despite any and all adversities.”
The present-day interpretation of the Powder River slogan is “We’ll reach our goal by overcoming any and all obstacles.”
Feb 22, 1973
Wrestlers Take Second
This year for the first time in the history of Broadus wrestling the Hawks did not come home from their long journey to the state tournament empty handed. They were edged out of first place by Ronan, who outscored the Hawks by a mere 4 ½ points, but were unchallenged for second place.
There were eight Hawk matmen competing in the tourney, but only five were able to score any points. These five all received medals for their fine efforts. Sophomore, Cam Raulston, came through for the team very well in the wrestlebacks to earn a fourth place finish and Bill Wetherelt, Kirk Vandever, Les Stradtman, and Craig Mader showed outstanding performances and all emerged as state champions. Although it is not confirmed yet, it is believed that the Hawks may have set a new record by producing four state champions in one year. Going into the championship round, the Hawks were trailing Ronan by seven points, but a decision by Bill Wetherelt and a pin by Kirk Vandever tied it up. Les Stradtman then put Broadus ahead with his upset win over the defending state champion. However, Ronan won three matches after that and Craig Mader’s decision was not enough to make up the difference.
Besides the fact that Broadus came out of the tournament with four state champions, there were several other highlights during the tournament for the Hawk grapplers. After two near misses, senior captain Bill Wetherelt finally won his well earned and fully deserved state championship at 98#. Last year Kirk Vandever was defeated by the second place finisher at 112#. Kirk met him in the second round of the tournament again this year and defeated him 10-1. In the championship round Les Stradtman defeated the defending 119# state champion. In the semifinals, Craig Mader came up against the second place finisher of last year’s state tournament at 155# and defeated him 10-4.
The second place trophy is the only trophy ever brought home by any Broadus team from a state tournament. The Hawks were given a fine welcoming reception by a caravan of cars which met them at the junction three miles west of town.