The 2012 census counts just 596 residents of Terry, Mont., but it’s still the biggest dot in the 75 or so miles between Miles City and Glendive.
The Kempton Hotel is still open after more than 100 years. Russ Schwartz, whose grandmother worked at the Kempton around 1910, runs it with his wife, Linda. In 1991, having moved from Terry to Alaska, Schwartz says, “my mother called and said, ‘we’re buying the Kempton Hotel.’ What I didn’t know is that it was Linda and I that was buying it.”
Agriculture is still the driving force in Terry. “The two largest roots to the irrigated production we have on the Yellowstone River are the water itself, and fertilizer,” says Farmer’s Union Oil Company Manager Larry Keitner while Junior Fischer moves fertilizer pellets with a small tractor from bin to elevator to truck. Local farmers grow grains, hay and beans, Keitner says, using water from the Yellowstone to increase productivity and using chemicals to replenish nutrients in the soil.
Around Terry, ranchers still raise sheep, though more are turning to cows. “We’re an endangered species,” says Les Thomason of sheep ranchers. Once a mainstay of the area economy, Thomason says sheep have seen a steady decline since World War II. He guess that the 800 or so sheep he and his brother own constitute 90 percent of the Prairie County sheep stock.
And even though the Milwaukee Railroad line has been abandoned for decades, travelers can still use its old Calypso bridge to cross the Yellowstone and see the Terry Badlands.