JORDAN — As Jordan's most famous native son walked gingerly to the lectern 1,500 miles away Saturday evening, the steady buzz in the Ranchers Bar & Grill on Main Street abruptly halted and about 40 people — roughly 10 percent of Jordan's population — fixed their gazes on two televisions behind the bar.
Jerry Kramer never did mention Jordan in his speech in Canton, Ohio, but it didn't matter. Just knowing that the little ag community on the banks of Dry Creek is the only town in Montana with a Pro Football Hall of Famer as a native was enough.
"It's amazing," said Tim Fogle, a lifelong Jordan resident who, along with about one-fourth of the crowd, was sporting Green Bay Packers gear in honor of Kramer's induction. "Just amazing."
When Kramer, 82, a 10-time Hall of Fame finalist who played offensive guard for the Packers in the first two Super Bowls, finished his speech with "You can if you will," there were several nods of appreciation from a jeans- and ballcap-clad group that understands the value of hard work and persistence.
"That was pretty good," said Ed Ryan, owner of Ryan's Processing Plant, the town's lone grocery story and its laundromat.
Ryan, who provided the brats for the Kramer party at Ranchers and earlier showed off an office festooned with Packer memorabilia and elk mounts, also wore a Green Bay cap. Packer/Kramer backers of all ages wore green and gold, including a gaggle of future Murnion athletic standouts, bartender Rhonda Losinski and bar owner Tom Fogle.
Ryan estimates about 75 percent of Jordan is loyal to the Packers, a phenomenon they credit solely to Kramer, who was delivered by Dr. B.C. Farrand in 1936 and lived in a little white house on Dawson Avenue until the family left for Helena when he was 5 (two years later in Jordan, Farrand would deliver another future pro, Wayne Hawkins, who played for Oakland; when the Packers and Raiders met in Super Bowl II, Kramer and Hawkins jointly sent Farrand two tickets on the 50-yard-line at the Orange Bowl in Miami).
"That's how we got to be Packer fans," explained Pat Murnion, who runs a greenhouse and has a mail run to distant Brusett three days a week to make ends meet in retirement. "Green Bay and Jerry Kramer — that's when football hit us, and TVs. We didn't have TVs. Then we had black-and-white TV, so not very good."
On Saturday, the crowd had four TVs in Ranchers, one of those classic small-town Montana bars with deer and elk mounts on two walls and monster fish caught from nearby Fort Peck Reservoir high above the grill-side tables. The only evidence of Ranchers as a Packers sanctuary is a clock; longtime owner Fogle once had a stained-glass Packers helmet made special for him hanging in a front window, but it was stolen; another is on the way, he says.
Many of these Jordan residents have made pilgrimages to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for Packers games and tours of Lambeau Field and the Packers Hall of Fame. The few older Jordanians who have met Kramer, most of them at his uncle Bud's funeral in 1979, remember his big hands.
"I tried his Super Bowl ring on," Tim Fogle said. "It went on three of my fingers."
Kramer's father, Kermit, who was employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during The Great Depression, was remembered mostly for building box kites and having three or four in the air at a time. As a handful of older men waited for Kramer to appear on TV, they recalled a time the future 11-year NFL standout lopped off two fingers in a table saw, only to have them surgically reattached by Farrand, who traded baby deliveries for chickens and traveled to tend to patients in a horse and buggy.
Earlier, as the Hall of Fame show began, the Packer fans talked about their town, what they knew of Kramer and Hawkins, and needled the occasional Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings booster who wandered in. Even the enemies went reverently silent, though, when ESPN played a Kramer highlight video and he took the stage with daughter Alicia to unveil his Hall of Fame bust.
"It'd be fun to be there, huh?" Bruce Edwards, another lifelong Jordan resident and Packers fan, offered as Kramer began to speak.
Ryan noted that at least two Jordan residents actually did make the trip to Canton, though one is a Bears fan — "We serve them here, but charge them double," Losinski said — supporting Brian Urlacher. The rest were content with the green-and-gold camaraderie at Ranchers.
Though many of Jordan's younger residents were unaware of their most famous citizen, there was little doubt Saturday that the Hall of Fame induction stirred community pride. At the Ranchers, they were still talking about it long after Kramer departed the lectern.
"It's hard to believe that you can get clear out in the world and all of a sudden here comes this guy who can play pro ball," Murnion said. "It kind of renews your belief in you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it."