BONNER — A two-horse wagon loaded with frozen tom turkeys pulled up to each of the neatly trimmed homes in Bonner.


That was 100 years ago.

On Thursday evening, a week before Thanksgiving 2019, Mike Heisey and crew delivered 10-pound butterballs by pedicab, with Kelley J. Stobart manning the pedals and weaving around the parked cars along Highway 200.

It was the eighth consecutive November that the tenants of the 43 houses here — all neatly trimmed once more thanks to Heisey, Stobart and Bonner Properties — opened their front doors to find free turkeys from their landlords.

Steve Nelson and Mike Boehme revived the longstanding tradition instituted by the bosses at the Anaconda Company mill in the early 20th century after they formed Bonner Properties and bought the mill site and houses in December 2011.

“The only difference this year is we don’t have any (Grizzly football) athletes helping us,” Nelson said before the deliveries began with two pickups and the pedicab from Coaster Cycles, one of the booming businesses on the mill site. “They’ve got a big game coming up Saturday, and to be honest, we didn’t ask them.”

The 119th Brawl of the Wild matching Montana and Montana State in Bozeman was less than two days away.

Appreciation showed on the faces of Rebecca Hartley and Rachel Davies when they got their turkey, just as it must have on all the previous tenants of “the last house on the right” past the Bonner Post Office. Appreciation, but not the surprise.

“I saw the email,” admitted Hartley, who works security atProvidence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.

There’ll be a debate in their house over what to do with the turkey come next week.

“She (Davies) would have to cook it. I don’t know how,” Hartley said.

“You’ll have to dress it because I don’t know how to do that,” said Davies, a UM student who works in registration at St. Pat’s.

Jacob Barrett knows exactly what he'll do with his turkey.

“I’m going to deep fry it. Yeah, man,” he said, licking his lips above a long red beard. “Bought myself a turkey fryer this last year, tried it and I don’t think I’ll ever eat a turkey any other way. Honestly. They’re so juicy and delicious.”

A construction worker who once worked across the street at the giant chipper operation, Barrett said he’ll be joined next Thursday by his girlfriend Alyssa Gee, his dad from Missoula and a couple of friends. They’ll eat deep-fried turkey and have a fire in the backyard.

It took barely 30 minutes for Heisey’s Pedicab team and two “truck teams” to deliver their frozen gobblers as darkness enveloped the old mill town.

“This was a tradition and we wanted to continue it,” Nelson said. “But bigger than that, it’s just our way to let the community know we care about them. We want them to be a part of the community, and we want to be part of the community.

“It’s a thank you, a we appreciate you. It’s the good old American way.”

Get local news delivered to your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.