"Tommy Turtle" in Bottineau, North Dakota
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Tommy the giant turtle in Bottineau, North Dakota

Bottineau is a cluster of tree-lined streets and stores nestled around a railroad track. It's an aberration in the surrounding perfect grid of county roads and Great Plains flatness that extends to the horizon and beyond. It's only a few miles south of the Canadian border. And it's the home of Tommy Turtle.

Tommy Turtle is 30 feet tall. He is the Largest Turtle in the World and he straddles the Largest Snowmobile in the World, which is even larger -- 34 feet long. He guards the entrance to Bottineau's municipal tennis courts. He weighs three tons. The large statue of Tommy Turtle riding a snowmobile is this area's local mascot.

Tommy was built by an Idaho man named Boots Reynolds in 1978 and moved here on a couple of flatbed trucks. He is featureless. His eyes and nostrils are inverted quotation marks. His mouth is a black slit slashing halfway across his head, curving upward into an alien grin. His feet and hands are blobs, dissolving into the handlebars of the snowmobile. His skin is a uniform shade of pea-soup green. Only six colors of paint are used on Tommy and his snowmobile: yellow, brown, black, green, red, and silver.

It may seem odd to have a turtle as a civic symbol up here, in a place where reptiles become blocks of ice nine months out of the year. Tommy supposedly marks "the gateway to the Turtle Mountains," a prime fishing and camping spot, but those mountains were obliterated sometime during the last ice age. However, Tommy, mighty turtle of fiberglass, survives.

Karen Duquette and Tommy Turtle in Bottineau North Dakota
Tommy Turtle in Bottineau North Dakota
Tommy Turtle in Bottineau North Dakota
Tommy Turtle in Bottineau North Dakota
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