Monday, April 16, 2012

Turner, MT and the Wall Street Journal


I grew up a bit like a gypsy child, moving a lot.  Mike,  however, grew up living in the same house.  In fact, after we were married, we lived for about 4 years in that same house.  That house was on a farm about 7 miles away from Turner, MT, very close to the Canadian Border.  I moved to Turner when I was 15, attending 3 years of high school there.  When someone asks me where I am from, I usually just say Turner.  However, among my former classmates, I am likely still known as the "new girl".

The first time our family pulled into Turner I saw a vision that still sticks with me today.  The last several miles into Turner weren't yet paved and all streets in town were gravel only.  It was a windy summer day and tumbleweeds were blowing down main street.  I was instantly charmed!  Looking back I am kind of surprised that I loved it so easily.  I'm guessing most 15 year old girls would have thought they were being punished to have to move there, but I was very excited, not sure why.

My first day of high school I found that I made #13 for our class.  There were only 3 other girls and they all lived about 30 miles from Turner so I usually only saw them at school or school functions.  The boys had known those 3 girls probably their entire lives so I got more attention than I deserved.  Those girls could have hated me but they were nothing but sweet and welcoming to me.  I still think of them quite fondly.

There are some serious advantages to attending a small high school.  In Turner I was able to play basketball.  My first year there was their first year to have a girl's basketball team and there were only 7 girls on the team.  I did not make the starting 5.  I really didn't have a full understanding of basketball and I also had very little natural ability.  Nevertheless, I was welcome to play and I came to really enjoy it.  We didn't win a single game that year but we had a blast!  I do want to tell you that the girls' basketball team did end up having some very good athletes and some very good years.

I was also a cheerleader for 2 years.  Although some of the cheerleaders were truly athletic, I couldn't even do a cartwheel!  I got to run in track and I'm not a runner by anyone's standards.  One the way to one track meet I remember the coach saying he had no one entered in the long jump.  I volunteered.  Then, I asked him to tell me how to do it.  No, I didn't do it well but I did indeed do it!  What do you know?  Sometimes sports can be about fun, even for those who aren't particularly talented.  What a concept!

When Turner held a prom, everyone from junior high age on up would come.  Yes, kids went to prom with their parents and grandparents.  That was the only way to be able to afford a band!  I don't think that was necessarily a bad thing and I imagine to this day it is still open to all.   Like everything else, the whole community is involved.  I've never lived anywhere that knew how to develop a sense of community like Turner, MT.

When Mike & I were ready to be married, my Dad had been unemployed for a time and my parents had struggled financially.  That was no problem.  One kind lady, Bella Sanguins,  made our wedding cake as a gift.


  I think anyone would agree that it was absolutely beautiful!  She even incorporated some of the little silk flowers I'd made for the wedding party bouquets and boutonnieres.

Another lady, Darlene Erickson, volunteered to play for our wedding without charge.  The church ladies put on the rest of our reception in the church basement.  Money doesn't matter so much when you've got a whole community helping you put on a wedding.  Weddings out there are a big social event and everyone comes; funerals are the same.  You see, in a small community, every person is important, valued and known.

To put into perspective a bit of how isolated we were in Turner, we had to drive about 80 miles to get to the nearest McDonalds.  It was about that far to deliver our first baby, Maria.  I will tell you that it is not a fun drive when in labor, but I made it to the hospital.  Not all mothers have been so lucky.

The weather up in Turner can be pretty brutal.  The first year I lived there I remember high school graduation was postponed for a week because a big blizzard had knocked out the power.  That was when I learned how to melt snow to put water in the toilet tank.  Another year, after we were married, Mike & I were snowed in for quite a few days in June!  I guess that is why Turner produces such sturdy people; they grow up learning how to handle tough situations.

Everyone from Turner has stories of people helping each other out there.  My favorite from Mike's family is the story of his Mom driving a bunch of kids to Vacation Bible School or something and having a flat tire.  I may have mentioned that before but it is worth a re-mention.  A local farmer, flying overhead in his small plane, spotted her.  He landed to help her change her tire!  Although the community has built a nice little airport, people out there also land on the roads or homemade runways alongside fields of wheat when needed.

Recently we learned that Turner was given some national attention as it was discovered to be the town in the contiguous US furthest from a major league baseball team.  What a funny thing to discover!  Apparently author Craig Robinson published a baseball trivia book called Flip Flop Fly Ball.  I don't really understand why but sports bloggers then started making some less-than-flattering remarks about Turner and the Turner Community spoke up about that.  I guess all that internet action is what led to the Wall Street Journal's interest in Turner.  It looks like they even sent a reporter out to get info and shoot this video.   The video itself made me a bit homesick, but I also realize it makes Turner look a bit bleak.  The things is, though, in the winter much of the character of the town takes place indoors and wouldn't be seen from this video.

I'd have never guessed that Turner, MT would end up as the lead story for the Wall Street Journal but here it is.  What a weird claim to fame, huh?

Now, having learned all that about Turner, MT, isn't it strange to know that particular town produced this particular fan?  You can read more about him here.





7 comments:

AKM said...

Ah, I'm so glad to see that he has the Cardinals toaster. He needs it.

I had to Google Turner to find out more. I'm fascinated by your part of the country, as you've probably guessed. Turner sounds like Montana's version of Lake Wobegon, in a way. They have a community potluck and dance on New Year's Eve? See, that's so charming. I love that...and snow in June. I would love that, too. The baseball thing is kind of sad, but I suppose that's what road trips are for, right? ;-)

And yes, your wedding was lovely! Yellow and orange...no surprise there! I love those late-70s/early-80s wedding dresses and hats. Should I ever marry, I may resurrect that look.

Michelle said...

Oh, I love small towns. Gillette was small when I grew up and my favorite places we lived after I was married were Torrington, WY, and Bayfield, CO. Bayfield had very much the kind of community spirit you write about in Turner. Big towns and big cities have some advantages as far as accessibilty to stuff, but you can't beat a small town for raising kids and feeling community.

Maria Rose said...

Turner is a special place to this family.

affectioknit said...

I loved reading about Turner...and seeing your wedding photos...precious!

Have a lovely day!

Victoria said...

Love this post!! What a cake!!

Emily said...

So what brought your family to Turner? I suppose whatever it was, the bigger reason was for you to meet Mike! I love small towns and their charm. :)

Susan Struck said...

Thank-you all for your lovely comments.

AKM, yes, Mike NEEDED that. Our older son and his wife just sent that for Mike's birthday. I'm wondering if you need one as well?

Michelle, I agree. There are disadvantages to living in a small town but I find there are even more advantages. I felt I flourished there.

Maria, yes indeed!

Affectionknit, thank-you. I picked out my wedding colors when I was in junior high. Originally it was to be orange, yellow and lime green!

Victoria, I'm so glad you are able to comment again! I'll probably occasionally revert to the flipcard style of blog but only for a few days at a time I think...at least until they get the bugs worked out. And I did love that cake. I'm sure that Bella was self-taught. People out there learned to do whatever was needed.

Emily, my Dad was a pastor called to a little church up there. I do think it was mainly so I could meet Mike. :-)

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