We Western Okies have very narrow comfort zones, geographically speaking. The slightest rise in the soil qualifies as a hill, and four gopher mounds in a row make a mountain range. Roads are straight lines allowing us to see our destination long before we arrive, and “S” turns make us a little dizzy. We are flatlanders, accustomed to wide open vistas and treeless plains. So understandably, our perspective on mountains is a bit limited, but that is no excuse for visitors from exotic places to disrespect our beloved Wichita Mountains when we proudly take visitors for a tour. They appreciate the buffalo, longhorn, and prairies dogs. They even admire the beauty of our little refuge, but there is no need to scoff when we take them to the top of Mount Scott: “You call this a mountain? This is just a big rock back home!”
We know it’s not the Matterhorn or Everest, but it’s ours, and we are darn proud of it. Mount Scott is visible for miles in every direction, and since it is surrounded by endless plains, it sure looks impressive to us flatlanders. It has endured for millennia and will be here when we are all forgotten. Mount Scott defines this land we share as home. It may just be a big rock to some, but it is our big rock. Our mountain. Our standard. Our true north. It endures, for it is unshakeable.
Our community was recently shaken, however, by a story carried by USA Today which ranked our home as the 4th worst place in the United States to raise a child. This article included data from Comanche and Cotton counties – the Lawton Metropolitan Statistical Area – everyone from Indiahoma to Elgin and from Fort Sill to Temple. As locals, we all see distinct communities, but this article painted our entire region with one, indiscriminate brush.
I am beginning my sixth year in Lawton, and although I am not homegrown, I wanted to live here ever since college. Now that I am here, I self-identify as a Lawtonian by choice, just like many of you. And like many of you, we have heard every conceivable rumor about Lawton, so this sort of thing is nothing new. People have been taking pot shots at Lawton since statehood, it seems. Everyone from football coaches to USA Today. Nevertheless, Lawton endures. Southwestern Oklahoma endures.
The pot shots hurt, however, for we know our community. Wherever you are in the Lawton Metropolitan Statistical Area, I hope you love your community. The next step is to agree to love our community – from Indiahoma to Elgin and from Fort Sill to Temple – because like it or not, we are all in this together. If Lawton suffers, the whole region suffers. Lawton is the big rock for Southwest Oklahoma, so Lawton must endure for Southwest Oklahoma to endure. Just like Mount Scott, Lawton will survive, no matter what comes. Lawton is immutable and unshakeable. Tough and proud.
I can forgive the authors. They are certainly entitled to compare communities from their cubicles on the East Coast. I will not, however, validate this click-bait. We may not have the best perspective on mountains, but we know a great community when we find one, and this is a great community, from Temple to Fort Sill and from Indiahoma to Elgin. Maybe Lawton is a tough place for tough people, but our people have soft hearts and soft touches. The same can be said of all military communities, I suppose. Maybe Western Oklahoma has its challenges, but I would not swap them for east coast problems. And perhaps, Lawton is just a quirky, urban-rural anomaly of diversity that the likes of USA Today cannot comprehend: “You call this a great city?” Yes, we do, and so much more: we call it home. And if Lawton doesn’t suit you, join me for a short walk up Mount Scott, for a fresh perspective.
For more of Tom’s articles, visit tomdeighan.com