Mr. Allen was born Dec. 7, 1924 in Pine Ridge, S.D., eldest of three sons. He attended Pine Ridge schools before spending his final two high school years in Chadron, Neb. As a teen he was active in football, boxing, basketball, track and rodeo.
Upon graduation in 1943, Norm enlisted in the U.S. Army and volunteered for the new parachute infantry. He made the elite 517th parachute infantry regiment, which operated independently, with the 82nd Airborne Division and later, as part of the 13th Airborne.
Allen specialized in reconnaissance and demolitions. As a Pathfinder and scout, he was among the first to be dropped, and spent a lot of time up front. “I think I crawled halfway through Italy and halfway to Berlin.” The only time he rode a tank was during the attack that recaptured the Belgian crossroads town of St. Vith in January 1945, Battle of the Bulge.
Records indicate that during 15 months of overseas service, Corporal Allen participated in a beach landing and three airborne assaults. He was attached to an intelligence unit where he performed reconnaissance patrols, collected enemy information and road maps, made sketches, routed out patrols, and assisted in questioning enemy prisoners. Allen returned home in late 1945 after action in five major campaigns, with the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Fresh out of the service, Norm’s application to the U.S. Forest Service smokejumpers in Missoula, Mont., was accepted. His first jump was in 1946 near the Nine Mile Ranger Station. In 1954 he broke his back after landing in a 100-foot tree; recovery took two years. With the army plus 10 smokejumper years, he made 76 jumps. “I enjoyed doing it.” However, “I was sick anytime I got in an airplane.”
Mixing college with smokejumping, gold mining and rodeo bronc riding, in 1951 he graduated from Black Hills Teachers College in Spearfish, S.D. He married Fay Bentz Aug 15, 1954. They were teachers in Rapeljae and Arlee, Mont., before moving in 1957 to a ranch he named the N Bar A on the Blue Slide overlooking the Clark Fork River, 12 miles west of Thompson Falls. Norm later discovered the Koo Koo Sint Trail, used by tribes and explorers, crossed the property.
He and Fay raised a family: Michael, Tammie, Shawn and Patrick, and were supportive of their children’s’ school and athletic activities. Norm taught junior high social studies, where he was praised as a teacher and disciplinarian. In 1961 he took a fire control job with the U.S. Forest Service. For a generation of students, Norm was the local “Smokey Bear” expert. He retired in 1980.
Norm was an all-around outdoorsman, and land conservationist. Guiding hunters, he led strings of 25 packhorses into the Bob Marshall Wilderness. On his ranch, Norm raised a mountain-friendly appaloosa quarter horse cross, along with trees and hay. In 1976, he went to Missoula on a mission to buy a suit, and came home with a muzzleloader rifle instead. He began hunting only with black powder, and still bagged big game.
During the mid-1970s Norm focused on his memory of doing rawhide braidwork with his Oglala Lakota grandmother. He began duplicating Plains Indian artifacts, and developed a rawhide tanning method. One thing led to another, and Norm became a Mountain Man with the rendezvous handle of Rawhide. The items he produced are highly prized. Rawhide participated in school and special events throughout the U.S.
For the Blue Slide, Norm was an honest, dependable neighbor. For his town, he was school board chairman who helped ramrod construction of the campus opened in 1973. For friends and random visitors he was a source of black coffee, conversation – “come on in for a cup and we’ll swap some lies” – and a good game of cribbage.
Mr. Allen was preceded in death by his parents Edgar P. and Iris (LaFurge), brother Max, and son, Patrick; Fay Allen, and 13-year companion Lee Bristor.
Survivors include brother Chuck (Dottie) Allen and sister-in-law Yvonne Allen, daughter Tammie, sons Mike (Penny) and Shawn, five grandchildren, and numerous great grandchildren.
He was a member of the Masonic North American Order of the Beaver, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and the Thompson Falls Elks Lodge.
A Celebration of Life service starts at noon Saturday, June 8 at the Allen Ranch, 1379 Blue Slide Rd. Following the hillside ceremony, a potluck takes place around the ranch house. Potluck side dishes and dessert. Bring your own beverages.
In lieu of flowers, consider donations to the Thompson Falls Public Library District, POB 337, Thompson Falls, MT 59873.