gwen petersen
Big timber, mont.

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May 12, 2014
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Gwen Petersen: In a Sow's Ear 5-12-14

There are a number of ways to honor military. No doubt every state and every community has its own style and method of paying tribute and thanks to those who serve so the rest of us can live in freedom. Here in Big Timber, Mont., we honor armed services by producing an annual benefit show. Proceeds to Big Hearts Under the Big Sky (BHUBS). This organization partners with Montana Outfitters and Guides Association to bring wounded warriors, cancer victims and children suffering life-threatening illness (and their families) to Montana for an outdoor experience — be it hunting, fishing, camping or any other Mother Nature outdoor activity.

We kicked it off in 2013 by bringing in the one and only Baxter Black in April. This year, again in April, we featured the Montana ShamRockers — five musicians playing, singing and regaling the audience with Irish humor. For the year 2015, we’re moving the SALUTE to February 21, 2015. April is sooo busy with other events — public proceedings and school and farming and calving and lambing and, well, you get the picture!

We chose February for the 2015 Salute partly because we’re featuring The Ringling 5 who live and ranch near Wilsall, Mont. These “Norwegians Studs of Rhythm” (their real jobs: cattle and sheep ranching) have been astonishing the populace since the 80s with original songs, humor and toe-tapping music. To quote the leader of the group:

We sing of today’s West — tennis-shoe clad men, women, (who had potential before they married one of us), and financial credit limits. Gone is the stoic cowboy on a bronco riding trail in a round-up. The challenges of ranching today can be found not only in the hand Mother Nature deals out but also in the manner bankers, politicians and other outsiders shuffle the deck. Today’s cowboy, mounted on a 250cc Japanese quarterhorse, rides the ridges, looking for cattle that got out when bird watchers & berry pickers ran their Land Rovers over the electric fence.

How did these boys get started you ask? They began singing at local gatherings or whenever one of them scraped together enough to buy a new (used) pickup truck. Then one time they got paid! They were so surprised, they gathered more guys (the Ringling 5 are currently seven hombres). One of them is actually a real, degreed, honest-to-gosh musician; the rest of the bunch figured they needed a pro “just to cover up bad notes.”

Though they title themselves The Ringling 5, none of them are from Ringling — a wide spot north of Wilsall, Mont. But the guys like Ringling even though back in the 80s, there were more members in the band than the population of Ringling. And they like it because once, they sang in the bar there and no one kicked them out. (The town has a unique history; in times past, the Ringling Brothers Circus wintered in the area).

Their first gig where they actually got paid — earned them $70.00 (which works out to a whole 10 bucks each) so they went out for dinner to celebrate, but sadly, they failed to do the math and had to chip in extra cash to cover the check.

Be assured the Ringling 5 have become beloved entertainers at all kinds of events, including Montana Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Lewistown and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nev.

Big Timber is proud to welcome The Ringling 5 as headline performers for the Third Annual Salute to Service Men and Women February 21, 2015.

Curious about this group? Go online to You’ll recognize them ... they’ll all be wearing cowboy hats, guitars and sheepish grins. ❖

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The Fence Post Updated May 13, 2014 02:25PM Published May 27, 2014 01:37PM Copyright 2014 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.