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Hi-Line Living: Small Towns in Focus: Turner

Determined to survive and thrive


Eric Seidle

Turner has a population a little higher than 60, and the people who make up the citizenry of the town employ a sense of community and family rarely found in larger towns.

Fifteen miles south of the Canadian border, on State Secondary Highway 241 north of Harlem, Turner sits as the first town in the gateway from the border through the Turner Port of Entry.  

A fun fact about Turner, according to Craig Robinson, the author of "Flip Flop Fly Ball," is it's the town in the United States that is the farthest away from any Major League Baseball team.

"As the crow flies, its nearest team is the Seattle Mariners, some 646.93 miles away," Robinson's book reads. "But, loyalties in Turner could be split with their other 'local' team, the Colorado Rockies, who are 649.05 miles away."

Lenny Erickson, the former postmaster of the Turner United States Postal Service office, said he loves life in Turner.

"It's very comfortable," Erickson said. "It's quiet."

Erickson was born and raised in Turner and was gone for 10 years as he served in the military and attended college. He came back to Turner because of the people in it.

"I don't know why I wouldn't want to leave here," Erickson said. "There's a lot of friends here. Everybody knows each other. It's a friendly town and there are a lot of nice people around here."

Tricia Kimmel was born in Turner, moved away with her parents and then came back in 1999 when she married her husband.

"When something needs to happen in this town, it just gets done without any mumbling or grumbling," Kimmel said. " ... It's amazing to see the spirit of cooperation that happens here."

Kimmel said she believes the future of Turner is strong. With factors such as farmland bringing younger families to the area and the Big Flat Community Grain Bin, which is a community foundation that supports initiatives like awarding scholarships to students, the future is solid.

"There's a lot of people here who are invested in the community," Kimmel said. "They're determined to see it survive and thrive. That commitment is not always evident everywhere. It's kind of a 'do whatever it takes' attitude here."

The law in Turner is enforced by Blaine County Sheriff's deputies stationed in Harlem. It usually takes a deputy around half an hour to get to the town.

Turner employs its own ambulance crew, on the other hand. Erickson said he worked with the crew for over 30 years until he gave it up this spring.

"I see some of these other towns have trouble keeping people," Erickson said. He said that Turner is able to keep a great ambulance crew because they like each other because Turner's residents are friendly by nature.

Turner has a Lions Club, an American Legion, three churches - Catholic, Lutheran and nondenominational Christian - the Big Flat Grocery Store, the Border Bar and various agriculture-based businesses.

Turner also has its own airport hangar and runway.

Eric Seidle

"There's an awful lot of people here who fly," Erickson said. "There's a lot of planes in the county that are kept here."

Turner residents always find something to do, Kimmel said. The closeness of the families create a sense of community that brings them together.

"If you're bored, it's your own fault," she said.

The children of Turner and the neighboring town of Hogeland attend Turner Public School, home of the Turner Tornados. There are 70 students who attend the kindergarten through 12th grade school.

Though Turner has slowed somewhat since its days as a railroad town, it has still held strong its place in Montana and the United States. The friendly, hardy people of the town and area are not the type to give up and turn tail, and Turner will live longer yet.


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