(March 5, 2005)
Benton LeRoy Barnes, better known as the Rocky Mountain Cowboy, died Saturday, March 5 of natural causes at the New Horizons Care Center in Lovell. He was 98.
He was born Oct. 11, 1906, in Goodman, Mo., the eldest of six children born to Oliver Benton Barnes and Susie Shadwick. They later moved to Kansas City, Mo., where he met Frances LaFollette. They married Dec. 28,1924.
In August of 1925 they came to Powell by train. On Feb. 26, 1926, their only son, Robert Leroy Barnes,was born. Frances died in 1987 after a marriage of 63 years.
He is survived by his son, Bob of Powell; two grandsons, Jack and Dan Barnes; four great grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.
He farmed with his in-laws and bought the first truck used for hauling sugar beets in the Powell area. He paid for the truck by hauling beets and groceries for Sawyer's and Jeffries General Store from Billings, Mont., to Powell. He also worked at the Buffalo Bill Dam when they were putting in a third turbine and relining the tunnels. He worked as the night man at Roney's Sales and Service Garage and later ran Roney's Mobil Service station. Later he bought the Husky Service Station on 2nd and Clark streets and drove a school bus for 36 years for the Powell school district.
While running the Mobil station he and some of his musical buddies formed the Wyoming Range Riders band. The band consisted of Slicker Stanwaity, Ed Markley, Alkali Ike (real name forgotten over the years), Albert Scott, and later Clark and Don Kindler and Harold Pierson. They played every Saturday at Sage Creek, near Cody, and at other dance places in the Big Horn Basin. In 1934, he auditioned for KGHL radio in Billings and they put him on the air that same day and asked him to bring his band and return every Wednesday night. They made the 100-mile trip every week in a 1926 Chevy for several years.
In 1941, when KPOW radio station went on the air in Powell, he and his band were there on April 1, and he performed as "the Rocky Mountain Cowboy" for many years on the air waves. In 1990 he was invited to Cheyenne to perform for Wyoming's 100th birthday celebration. In 2003 he was inducted into the Wyoming Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
He was a self taught guitarist and had written many songs, though he couldn't read music. One song he wrote gained national attention and a commendation from General Doolittle. It was "We Didn't Invite Them Over but We're Going to Repay the Call". That song went to No. 1 on the Hillbilly Hit Parade as well as No. 1 on KRLD a Texas radio station. He received many letters from armed services personnel who were overseas where it was also played for them. He also wrote "The Legend of Earl Durand" which he sang at the World Premiere in Powell of the movie of the same name. His last years he could no longer play the guitar but he would still entertain people with his voice and songs.
His funeral will be Thursday, March 10 at 11 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Powell. Memorial donations to the Powell Valley Hospice would be appreciated by the family.