To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Observercast

Thunder, But No Water

on

BY BO COX

Kevin Durant held the trophy and the camera panned over the crowd; people were openly weeping. You can’t go anywhere in the metro without seeing OKC Thunder flags or decals. It’s great. Good for the city and good for the state.

Or is it? I’m as hopeless a sports’ fan as anyone and definitely have Thunder fever, but I have to question the seemingly unspoken but widely-held philosophy of what’s good for OKC is good for the state.

Why? Maybe I just think too much, maybe I’m a rebel. Maybe I just oversimplify things. You decide.

One thing’s for sure – I’ve learned lots of my lessons in places other than institutions of higher learning. One of those less than ideal think tanks was the Oklahoma Department of Corrections where I spent 17 years of my life. In addition to coming to accept the fact that I needed to be there, I also learned a lot, saw a lot and heard a lot.

One of my lessons has to do with a fella who lived by the principle of what’s good for OKC is good for all of Oklahoma; in this case, southeastern Oklahoma, the water there and OKC lawyers.

One of the original OKC lawyers was a guy named Carroll Gregg. Back in the 1950s, OKC began an imminent domain lawsuit against landowners in southeastern Oklahoma in order to condemn land for building Atoka Lake to supply water for OKC. Gregg was one of the lawyers who helped OKC obtain the land for as little money as possible.

Forty years later, this same Carroll Gregg showed up in prison. He’d been all over the news; a hotshot OKC attorney convicted of a whole laundry list of sex crimes with a minor. Call me naïve but there’s no way that happened in a void and no one knew there were improprieties.

One day Gregg was sitting around the prison compound laughing about how easy it had been to fleece the old “dirt farmers” out of their land. He bragged, “A bunch of us got together in OKC and met [closed doors, anyone?] before we went down there. By the time we left, we had the land and they were still scratching their heads and blinking.”

Thing was, he didn’t know he was bragging to a grandson of one of those old “dirt farmers.”

Yes, me. I was shaking when I got up and walked over to him; leaning down so no one could hear, I told him, “Mister, one of those men you’re laughing about screwing over was my Grandpa.”

It’s easy to get caught up in OKC fever and forget that Oklahoma does not begin and end at the crossroads of I-40 and I-35. Isn’t it time to dispel the “myth” that Oklahoma City must continue to grow? Shouldn’t their goal be directed toward quality as opposed to quantity? Wouldn’t the state be better off as a whole if OKC focused on better managing the plentiful resources that they have and allowing southeastern Oklahoma to develop its resources? Or do we continue to let that unsustainable mindset dictate our future and the demise of SE Oklahoma while OKC continues to go to any length to “take” what is deemed necessary for OKC and its continued, unabated growth?

Knowing our true history and how we got there – people like Carroll Gregg being the architects of today’s OKC water supply – will better enable the whole state to move forward without leaving such damning evidence in the wake.

Bo Cox lives in Norman, OK

 

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Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.