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Origins of the Phrase

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One of Wyoming Head Football Coach Joe Glenn's trademarks is the phrase "Powder River, Let `er Buck!" He often quotes this battle cry when speaking in public and addressing his team. The Powder River runs through north central Wyoming in Johnson and Sheridan Counties and in southeastern Montana.

Here is some history on the phrase "Powder River, Let `er Buck!"

The first story on the origin of the phrase comes to us courtesy of Wyoming Tales and Trails website at www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com.

Powder River has been described as being "a mile wide and an inch deep." Yet because of the war cry of cowboys, picked up by American troops, "Powder River, Let `er Buck," the river has gained a fame well beyond its size. According to Lander cattleman, Edward J. Farlow (1861-1951), author of "Powder River, Let `er Buck" (Annals of Wyoming, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1939) and Wind River Adventures: My Life in Frontier Wyoming, the expression originated with a cattle drive along Powder River to Casper. An excerpt from Mr. Farlow's article "Powder River, Let `er Buck" follows.

Some hands trailing cows to the railroad at Casper in the autumn of 1893 bedded down near the headwaters of Powder River, near the present Hiland, Wyoming, one night. They talked about crossing Powder River repeatedly the next morning, and spoke of getting their swimming horses. The next morning one cowboy, Missouri Bill Shultz, changed horses to get a good swimmer. Making their various crossings, they discovered that in the fall at that place, Powder River was just deep enough to wet a horse's hoof, and had barely enough energy to trickle from one hole to another.

When they got to Casper, Missouri Bill toasted the hands like this: "Boys, come and have a drink on me. I've crossed Powder River" They had the drinks, then a few more and were getting pretty sociable. When Missouri Bill again ordered he said to the boys, "Have another drink on me, I've swum Powder River," this time with a distinct emphasis on the words Powder River. "Yes, sir, by God, Powder River," with a little stronger emphasis. When the drinks were all set up he said, "Well, here's to Powder River, Let `er Buck!"

Soon he grew louder and was heard to say, "Powder River is coming upeeyeeep! -- Yes sir, Powder River is rising," and soon after with a yip and a yell, he pulls out his old six-gun and throwed a few shots through the ceiling and yelled, "Powder River is up, come an' have `nother drink." Bang! Bang! "Yeow, I'm a wolf and it's my night to howl. Powder River is out of `er banks. I'm wild and woolly and full o' fleas and never been curried below the knees!"

Bill was loaded for bear, and that is the first time I ever heard the slogan, and from there it went around the world.

The second story on the use of the phrase came about during World War II. This story is courtesy of the book "Thunder in the Appennines: The Story of the 361st Infantry Regiment in Italy" - by Roy Livengood. This is a detailed history of the 361st Regiment of the 91st Division. Drawing from several sources, it tells the story of the hard fighting in the Appennines. Appendix contains a list of veterans of the 361st Association as of 1978. Published by the 361st Association in 1981.

It was at Camp White, in the heart of the Rogue River Valley in Oregon, that the 361st Infantry Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division was reactivated on 15 August, 1942 after 23 years on the inactive rolls of the United States Army. The 361st, as part of the 91st Division, had served its country well during the First World War. It was one of the best units in the A.E.F. During the last months of the war, it had met and defeated the best of the German Army in the Lorraine, Meuse-Argonne and Ypres-Lys campaigns. In the 39 days it was in combat, it was credited with having permanently gained fifteen and one half miles of enemy territory. In a war where little real estate changed hands, this was a major accomplishment. After the armistice, the Regiment patrolled the Franco-Belgian border for a short period. It was here that the division adopted a green fir tree as its insignia and gave itself the battle cry, "Powder River, Let `er Buck!" The fir tree symbolized the Northwestern United States, for the personnel of the division had come from seven western states. By the time the division arrived back home, the battle cry had become official.


 

 

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