A Tradition Unlike Any Other

Boondockers Day Generates Excitement for Foresters’ Ball


A member of the UM Woodsmen Team winds up to throw an ax.
The backward, over-the-head technique seemed to be working for the keg toss.
Many students tried their hand at throwing an ax.


Categories: Alumni , Campus , Academic , History

Story by: John Heaney

Photos by: Todd Goodrich

A member of the UM Woodsmen Team winds up to throw an ax.
A member of the UM Woodsmen Team winds up to throw an ax.

Axes, kegs, woodchips, cardboard—even cow dung—were seen flying all over the Oval on March 13 as part of Boondockers Day, a publicity event in advance of the ninety-seventh annual Foresters’ Ball at the University of Montana.

This year’s ball, “Saw Fumes and Outlaw Tunes,” is set for March 21-22 at the Adams Center.

Boondockers Day dates back to 1915 and started as friendly logging competition between students in the UM Ranger School, called “shorthorns,” and students in the School of Forestry, known as “longhorns.”

“Today it’s a competition for the whole University,” says Leslie Neu, the Foresters’ Ball publicity officer. “Students can try their hand at ax throwing, crosscut sawing, and keg tossing. The person with the highest score wins a ticket to the ball.”

Boondockers Day began with a fun-spirited cow pie tossing competition between Jim Burchfield, dean of the College of Forestry and Conservation, and Sam Panarella, an assistant professor and associate dean of academic affairs at UM’s School of Law.

The winner, Neu says, is whoever can sling the crap the best.

“And lawyers are always really good at that,” she quips.

She was correct, as Panarella won the contest, which seemed to irk Burchfield.

“His turd broke in half, and one of the pieces flew past mine,” Burchfield says with a hint of dejection. “That’s the first time I’ve lost in a long time.

“I’m not sure he’s even with the law school,” he adds. “I think he’s a pitcher from the Phillies.”

A crosscut saw demonstration was part of the Boondockers Day festivities.

Many students took a turn chucking an ax
 at a wooden target, which was officially seven paces from the throwing line. The keg toss also was popular, with students using varying throwing techniques to send the empty shells soaring. The backward, over-the-head toss seemed to work the best, as distances surpassed ninety feet.

The event culminated with the helicopter ticket drop. Two forestry students went up in the helicopter, and at precisely 12:30 p.m., they dropped hundreds of pieces of cardboard onto hundreds of students gathered in the center of the Oval. Some pieces had tickets attached to them; others had coupons for free T-shirts or hats.

The Foresters’ Ball is planned and put on by students in the forestry college. In addition to the dance, the Natural Resource Management Career Fair and Community Forestry Day also will be held.

Missoula-area high school students and UM students with undeclared majors are invited to the career fair from noon to 3 p.m. Friday, March 21, at the Adams Center. The event is hosted in collaboration with the Forestry Scholarship Association and features natural resources employers from across the region.

The public is invited to the free Community Forestry Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at the Adams Center. Families and youth can experience all the fun and interactive aspects of the forestry world. Smokey Bear will make an appearance; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will have furs and fish to feel and catch; and forestry students will assist kids with their first mini-logging experience.

The dance will feature its traditional “Swingin’ Good Time” aspects, including the Drinkin’ and Dreamin’ Bar, where patrons can get a Coke for a kiss; the Mugshots photo booth; the Two Strokes Camp maze of trees; free chili at the Hungry Highwaymen’s chow hall; Cutters and Rakers barbershop; Gold Rush Picks general store; Bosworth’s Last Stand jail; and the Choker Bell Chapel, where couples can be married—and divorced—for a small fee collected by the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority for Camp Mak-A-Dream. Patrons also can walk back in time at the Honky-Tonk Heroes exhibit and Tall Timber Tales timeline.

The dance will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight both nights in the East/West Auxiliary Gym of the Adams Center. Tickets cost $20 for singles and $35 for couples. They will be available Monday, March 17, at the University Center, the Sunrise Saloon, and the Adams Center Box Office. Pre-sale tickets currently are available at http://www.griztix.com and at all GrizTix outlets.

John Heaney

Story by: John Heaney

John Heaney is the editor-in chief of the Montanan. An Anaconda native, John graduated from UM in 2002 and took the helm of the Montanan in 2010. In between, he worked for the Missoulian, the Spokesman-Review, the Coeur d'Alene Press, and the Anaconda Leader.

Todd Goodrich

Photos by: Todd Goodrich

Todd Goodrich is the University of Montana's photographer. He graduated from UM's School of Journalism in 1988, and has captured images on campus for more than twenty years.

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