I was recently challenged to answer this question: What does it mean to be Lawton Proud? I found no answers, for with all great questions, there are none, only a cascade of images and sounds and emotions. Being Lawton Proud cannot be defined, only experienced.
If the prairie grass has tickled your palms as you walked through fields of wildflowers. If you have caught the wink of the sun over Mount Scott from the Holy City on Easter Morn, you are Lawton Proud. You have seen smoke burst from the nostrils of bison on cold winter mornings. You have heard the haunting peal of Elk echoing through the tors. You have seen the sun setting between Crab Eyes. The chirps of tiny frogs on the lily pads in Quanah Parker Lake and the shimmer of river otters gliding through hidden waters. The longhorn calves in mock battle. The clatter of a rattlesnake’s tail and the warning barks of prairie dogs. If these things stir your heart, you are Lawton Proud.
Children slipping in and out of Bath Lake. Sailboats leaning in the wind at Lake Lawtonka. You have swooned at the site of rock climbers clinging to sheer granite in The Narrows or feared for hikers skirting the vortices of Forty-Foot Hole. The whir of a fishing reel when a bass strikes on Lake Helen. The smell of international cuisine and the rumble of racecars on still, summer nights. The roar of crowds at Cameron Stadium. The steady gait of nervous graduates traversing the Coliseum. The solemnity of worship on Sunday mornings.
You are Lawton Proud if you have peered skyward to discern the rolling of thunder or the Fires of Excellence. If you have struggled to reconcile the history of the frontier with the sovereignty of our Native nations. You have heard the crack of the bat alongside the clatter of machine guns. You have watched children march to recess and recruits march to training. A community lining up for parades, soldiers lining up for deployment, and families lining up for their return. Our history is tattered and unrequited. Our present is resilient and reticent. Our future portends glorious adventures. We are a place of paradox and contradiction, yet in all things, hands snap to hearts or brows in honor of Old Glory and knees bow in reverence to the Creator.
Lawton Proud means embracing a community hungry for a vision but wary of promises. A community beholden to tradition yet defiantly tolerant of individuals. Every nation, tribe and tongue gathered together, a peculiar people sharing a vibrant oasis. We are strangers and pilgrims seeking a country – all fortunate victims to twists of fate and happy accidents that brought us here, to our quirky sanctuary where there are no foreigners, no outsiders, and no unwelcomed. We are all newcomers and all natives. Whether by birthright or serendipity, we make Lawton home because Lawton once called us home.
What does it mean to be Lawton Proud? No one can truly answer but all can sincerely respond, just as we respond to bugle calls, our National Anthem, and requests for prayer. Our pride stirs us all equally but moves us all differently. We share that dance in the Western Oklahoma wind, our pride rippling across generations like the rolling fields before the harvest. This is what it means to be Lawton Proud.