The southern Black Hills town of Pringle, which is out-populated by the area’s elk, knows how to laugh in the face of adversity. The proof is at the top of the hill and overlooks the town.
The community’s unofficial monument isn’t obvious, well advertised, or the most photo-worthy site in the Black Hills, nor is it a popular tourist destination, but any local can and loves to point it out. As one looks west toward the rocky ridge from downtown Pringle, the monument sits broadside on a steep rock face. Once a contrasting blue that stood out against the green pines and outcroppings of granite, the Pringle Poacher car is now sun-faded and camouflaged.
Without knowing what’s behind the hill, by the car’s location one might think it had to have been airlifted there. Only locally grown Pringle Boys could have gotten it there any other way.Like Mount Rushmore, it isn’t supposed to be accessible to visitors, due to being on private property (ours), but initials and dates etched in the metal and stolen parts and emblems taken as tokens of the infamous car prove otherwise.
In the past, where the perpetration has stayed, an incident of poaching took place in the Pringle area. Several years later, a handful of young men (including my husband before we met) with an eccentric sense of humor took advantage of the mishap. The illegal activity branded Pringle as misfits by surrounding tourist-promoting towns and pompous hunters. The Pringle Boys founded the PPA (Pringle Poacher Association)—a tongue-in-cheek, informal organization of locals. The twenty-odd charter members, so-to-speak, called themselves the Pringle Poachers to keep people guessing at the seriousness of the association. Business cards, T-shirts, and caps were made for publicity purposes at parades and community events. One of the members decided the PPA needed a Poacher car, which my husband proudly provided. He turned a 1969 Dodge Polara into a convertible by cutting the top off. It was decked out with steer horns at first, then elk horns, spot lights, a fake .50 caliber gun and the words “PRINGLE POACHERS” painted neatly in white boldface across the side door panels.
After the car died, memorializing the first Poacher car was my (still-single) husband’s brainchild. The hilltop was easier to access from his property on the backside of the ridge, and the insanely daring Pringle Poachers formulated a plan to pull the car to the top. It was a monumental job that took all day, using an old logging road, a log skidder, Pringle testosterone-driven ambition, and the most essential component of any Pringle Boys’ plan—Budweiser.
Three-fourths of the way to the top, progress halted due to the nearly vertical and mostly rocky slope. Hesitation and doubt regarding the risk seeped into the plan, forcing the crew back to the Hitchrail for more beer-induced strategizing. Overhearing the discussion, another logger offered to give it a shot. The fearless skidder operator dragged the car up the remainder of the hill a little at a time then nudged it to the edge of the cliff, where it’s become part of Pringle’s horizon.
Pringle Poacher cars have been a part of the PPA’s existence ever since. It may seem ludicrous that the group even exists, let alone is commemorated, but the Pringle Poachers proved that you should consider who you look down on or you may find yourself looking up at their monument.
column originally published September 6-12, 2009