now browsing by author


Valerie Hammer named MHS Teacher of the Year


Mustang News staff reports,

When Valerie Hammer was young, her heart would race every time the teacher passed out the worksheet displaying little Johnny’s grammatically incorrect letter. She couldn’t wait to get hold of the red pen to underline every run-on sentence or circle every uncapitalized proper noun. Hammer, head of the English Department and one of Mustang High School’s Teachers of the Year, seemed destined to be an editor or a teacher.

She was so good at debating, though, she was on the path to be an attorney via a bachelor’s in business. An advertising professor believed she had a flair for communication, though, and suggested an English major on the way to law school.

“As all my friends know, I am one who likes a bargain. So I figured I might as well grab a few education hours along the way just to get practical experience,” she said. “Little did I know, this would be the turning point.”

The classes were not particularly captivating, but the student teaching sealed the deal. It was a challenging, changing environment and she was hooked. She took her first teaching job in a small town south of Dallas. She was handed a student textbook, a ream of paper to ration for the entire year, and was thrust into a classroom of hand-picked struggling students.

For the first two months, she cried every night.

One day at the end of the class, she found a hateful note written about her laying on the classroom floor.

“At that point, I decided to either figure out the secret or get out of the field,” she said. “I’m not sure I have discovered the full secret, but I have made strides toward success. After my first three years in that school, I learned to teach with humor and high expectations. Eventually I gained enough respect to earn Kaufman Teacher of the Year. Today with 20-plus years of experience at Mustang High School, I refuse to ease educational standards in my classroom. I prepare my students for the future and I expect their best.”

She serves as the English Department head and takes part in the Leadership Committee, Climate Committee, Hospitality Committee, Retirement Committee, as emcee of various school events and more. Hammer likes her students to be honest, accountable and to simply try. Grading can be tedious and bad attitudes trying, but Hammer loves her students.

“They make me laugh, even when I’m having a bad day,” she said. “They make me happy when they learn. They are my paycheck. I’ve had a few opportunities to leave the profession, but my heart just won’t let go.”

A few years ago, she signed up for Remind 101, a service that allows teachers to send text messages to groups of students. The students can sign up or opt out of receiving messages. Hammer sends out typical class reminders plus a few witty messages about life. The majority of her former students, long graduated, have never stopped the service. One of them, who wasn’t particularly fond of school, flagged her down at a stop light recently.

“Mrs. Hammer,” he yelled, “you were the only teacher I ever liked in high school. Keep it up, and I love reading your text messages.”

Hammer is one of 14 Teachers of the Year for Mustang Public Schools. In March, one of the teachers will be chosen as District Teacher of the Year and will represent Mustang Public Schools in the state contest.

Wrestling team competes in 11 duals in three days

Ryan Dickson One

By Sports editor Kyle Salomon,

It was a busy three days for the Mustang wrestling team last week as the Broncos competed in district duals and then traveled east to Owasso to compete in the Owasso Dual Tournament.

The Bronco grapplers competed in 11 total dual matches in the three-day span with three on Jan. 22 at district duals and eight duals at the Owasso Dual Tournament.

Mustang won seven out of those 11 duals, winning two duals in the district duals and five in Owasso.

The Broncos beat Norman North and Choctaw in the district duals and lost to host team Southmoore. There was a three-way tie between Mustang, Choctaw and Southmoore at the end of the day, with Southmoore winning the tiebreaker.

The Sabercats won the tiebreaker because Choctaw was the only one of three to lose a team point, so they automatically dropped out of the tiebreaker, so it became just Mustang and Southmoore tied.

Southmoore beat the Broncos head-to-head so they won the outright district dual championship.

“We wrestled really well at district duals,” Mustang coach Will Allen said. “I thought we started a little sluggish with Southmoore, but we responded well against Norman North and Choctaw.”

Mustang opened the Owasso Dual Tournament on Friday with the Owasso “B” team. The Broncos won that dual easily by a score of 60-21.

The Broncos then turned their attention to Glenpool. Mustang won that match as well, 47-31. Mustang defeated Enid 56-19 in its next dual. MHS then took down tournament host Owasso 39-30. Bartlesville was the Broncos’ next opponent and they made it five in a row with a 59-20 win over the Bruins.

Mustang lost three consecutive duals to end the tournament on Saturday. MHS fell to Catoosa 33-30, Pryor 36-32 and Claremore 42-25.

Sophomore Trey Edwards had a great three days on the mat for MHS. He competed in the 126-pound weight class and 132-pound weight division, going 11-0 throughout the weekend.

Senior 182-pounder Zach Butler was having a strong three days but was forced to sit out the final day because of an illness.

“It was very similar to district duals,” Allen said. “We started out really sluggish, but we were able to get some wins against some really good competition. We lost our last three duals, but they were against the first-, second- and third-place finishers. I thought we wrestled well overall.”

Mustang was back in action at Westmoore on Tuesday night and then they host Putnam City at 6 tonight on Senior Night for the Bronco grapplers.

Tom Wolfe named Canyon Ridge Teacher of the Year

Canyon Ridge TOY

Mustang News staff reports,

With fanfare and a giant paper snake of notes from the students, Canyon Ridge Intermediate Center announced science teacher Tom Wolfe had been voted Teacher of the Year. Wolfe has been a teacher for seven years, all of them in the Mustang School District.

Although the announcement was made in December, he’s still surprised by the honor.

“Let’s say you go to the car lot and here are all these nice, new cars,” he said. “They’re sporty and shiny and elegant and cool. Those are the teachers I work with. Then there’s always this rusty station wagon at the back. That’s me. I see all of them as these great things to aspire to. I don’t perceive myself this way.”

A day in the classroom is not a day at work for Wolfe; it’s a day to lead young people through hours of exploration. He said he’s not sure he’s ever had a bad day teaching because he simply can’t remember one. It seems he was made to teach at an intermediate center.

“Sixth-graders are the coolest,” he said. “They are at that age when their minds are opening up. They’re beginning to see how fascinating the world really is. They’re always asking questions. I love that about them.”

Wolfe likes to take advantage of professional development opportunities during the summer. There was one during the summer after his second year in a classroom that revolutionized the way he teaches. He was selected to tour the state with 14 middle school students and experience how scientists teach science in the field. When the tour was over, his classroom was no longer a place to meet to discuss science, it was a tool to prepare students for learning.

“I stopped looking at my class and seeing what is,” he said. “I started seeing what could be.”

To set a tone and raise the students’ expectations for what’s possible in Wolfe’s classroom, he has Bitey, a Florida king snake, and Oreo, a California banded snake. There’s a pair of salamanders and some crawdads. The students’ interaction with the class pets becomes a continuous lesson in conservation.

If he wants to take the class outside, he puts on athletic “toe” shoes and a hat, once again raising the expectations and increasing the interest in the lesson.

“If I put that on – and my hat on – they go crazy,” he said. “They think it’s going to be the greatest day of their life. Whatever is about to go on must be crazy for me to dress like that.”

He has kids who step in the door and it’s obvious to Wolfe they have a knack for science. They’re not always the students who make straight A’s, but they bring in wasps nests for him to examine and do experiments at home. One student this year routinely brings bugs in from the playground. From what she’s learned in class, she points out to him the characteristics that make each one a different species.

The way he sees it, he’s learning right along with the kids.

“If I come in and I don’t know something, I can tell them, ‘Hey, I’ve got this question and I don’t know.’ If I throw it to them, maybe we can put together a quick experiment and explore something. All of a sudden, they’re doing science instead of hearing me talk or doing worksheets.”

Wolfe posed a question to the class recently based on something he heard: Does cold water or boiling water freeze first? They devised an experiment and put a cup of near boiling water outside with a cup of cold water. Each class went outside to measure the temperature of both cups and the air. They also measured the ice once it started to form. They made a chart of their results and then followed it up with a graph. They discovered the hot water formed ice crystals first, but the cold water had thicker ice at the end of the experiment. Once the results were tallied, they wrote about their findings. Wolfe prefers for the experiment to come first, and then vocabulary is built on the lessons rather than studying vocabulary and then hoping to squeeze in time for a hands-on activity.

His goal is for the students to learn to think, write and explore like scientists. His philosophy for teaching is evident throughout his classroom.

“I’m culturing microbes growing over there,” he said, gesturing to the far wall. “While I’m teaching myself, I’m teaching the students. We’re doing an experiment on radishes. I’m having the time of my life every day. I work with great teachers and great administrators. I can’t picture a better place to be than right here, right now.”

Lady Broncos beat Lawton MacArthur in Deer Creek tourney

Addy Lawson Posting

By Sports editor Kyle Salomon,

The Mustang Lady Broncos basketball team went 1-3 last week in four games, with the lone win coming against Lawton MacArthur.

The Bronco girls defeated Lawton Mac 65-58 last Friday on day two of the Bruce Gray Invitational at Deer Creek High School.

“It was good to win a close game after we have lost quite a few close games this year,” Mustang coach Kevin Korstjens said. “The difference was we got a lead early, so we were able to play with a lead for the majority of the game. Lawton Mac made several runs at us during the game, but we made some key plays down the stretch and we were able to get a good win.”

In their first game of the Bruce Gray Invitational, the Lady Broncos took on Putnam City North and fell to the Lady Panthers by a score of 56-48.

“We got behind early and we could never recover,” Korstjens said. “Putnam City North had a lot of height around the basket, so it made it tough to take ball inside and try to score. I thought we played hard to get back into the game, but we couldn’t get out of the hole we dug ourselves to start the game.”

Mustang played its final game of the Deer Creek tournament on Saturday against Bishop McGuinness and fell to the Irish by a score of 57-49.

“We actually got up early on Bishop McGuinness, but we let them come back and take one from us,” Korstjens said. “This one is hard to swallow because I felt like we played well enough and hard enough to win the game, but we didn’t make the plays down the stretch. Hopefully, this one sticks with us a little more because we don’t want this feeling again.”

Junior guard Addyson Lawson was the highlight player of the week for the Lady Broncos. Lawson was named to the All-Tournament team. She scored 16 points against Putnam City North, 13 points against Lawton MacArthur and 16 points against Bishop McGuinness.

“Addy really played great in all three games,” Korstjens. “It wasn’t just her scoring, but it was everything she was doing. She was passing the ball really well, she was defending really well, she was just playing well in all areas.”

Senior guard Madison Maxwell and sophomore forward Logan Haller had solid tournaments for the MHS girls.

In the first game of the week last week, the Lady Broncos hosted top-10 Edmond Memorial. The Lady Bulldogs handed Mustang a 61-51 loss.

“The Edmond Memorial game was the main problem we have had all year,” Korstjens said. “We got behind way too much to start the game, and the hole was too big to crawl out of.”

The Lady Broncos were back in action at Norman on Tuesday night and then they host Moore at 6 p.m. Friday on homecoming night at MHS.

OU hits homerun with OC hire

Lincoln Riley

Following the most disappointing season in the Bob Stoops’ era at the University of Oklahoma, OU decided to part ways with longtime receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell and former national championship-winning quarterback and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.

Stoops’ decision to let Norvell and Heupel go was not an easy one for the 16-year Oklahoma head football coach, but it was one that needed to be made. It was the first step in a two-step process on the offensive side of the ball that needed to be addressed. The second was finding the right guy to replace Heupel as the play-caller on commentary new.qxd

It didn’t necessarily need to be a splash hire, but it needed to be someone who was a good fit and would help lead the way in getting the Sooners’ offense back to where it belongs, among the elite of college football.

For more than a week, rumors circled around the state and even the entire college football world on who Stoops was trying to lure into Norman. Names from Texas A&M’s Jake Spavital to Oregon’s Scott Frost were mentioned as possible Heupel replacements at OU, but none of those ever gained any traction.

It’s hard to say how many phone calls and how many offensive coordinators across the nation were poked by Stoops to see if there was any interest in the vacant position, but the guy that Stoops was able to land will be one of the best assistant coaches hired in OU football history, and that’s saying something.

Lincoln Riley from East Carolina was announced last week as Oklahoma’s new offensive coordinator, play-caller and quarterbacks coach. Riley comes from the Mike Leach system of throwing the ball all over the field with tempo, but a running game with the right pieces can be very potent as well in this offense.

There are many reasons to be excited about Riley heading to Norman, but the main one I want to focus on is the offensive talent Oklahoma already has on its roster waiting for their new offensive coordinator to coach them up.

Now I could sit here like every other reporter that covers Oklahoma football and spew out statistics about Riley’s offenses over the years, but I’m not going to do that because numbers don’t always tell the whole story when it comes to offense.

It all starts with the quarterback. Quarterbacks have to be the guys that lead the offense on and off the field. They have to be the ones who step up and make a big play when it counts the most for their team. Each style of offense has a particular style of quarterback it needs to be successful.

For the Riley offense, Baker Mayfield is a perfect fit. Mayfield ran this style of offense in his true freshman season at Texas Tech, and after having to sit out last season, Mayfield will undoubtedly be the guy to run this system for the next several years while he is eligible to play college football.

Mayfield will have a stable of play-makers to distribute the ball to as well next season. The notion that this offense doesn’t fit running backs is purely that, a notion. Reality is that Quentin Griffin ran for nearly 2,000 yards in this offense. With the number of big-time running backs Oklahoma has, getting them the football in a variety of ways in open space will be vital to the Sooners’ success.

Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon, Alex Ross and Keith Ford all have the ability to not only run the ball out of the backfield, but catch the ball and make plays in open space. The Riley offense with the running back firepower OU will possess next season will be scary to watch.

Finally, receivers are a huge part of Riley’s offense. Oklahoma already has an All-American caliber receiver in Sterling Shepard, but the development of Durron Neal, Michiah Quick, Jordan Smallwood and others will be crucial, as well as the addition of junior college transfer Dede Westbrook.

If the Sooners can find several other big time play-makers at receiver other than Shepard, look out for the Oklahoma offense next year. With Riley leading the way, the sky is the limit.

Feb. 10 vote on county tax canceled by commissioners


By Mustang News reporter, Daniel Lapham

Canadian County commissioners have canceled a Feb. 10 election that could have changed the way a .35 cent county sales tax is allocated and are again tossing out the idea of forming a county jail trust.

The action came in a special meeting last week. The idea of forming a jail trust had been mentioned in November, but commissioners did not believe there was enough time to thoroughly research the issue. Time became less critical after last week’s ruling by an Oklahoma County judge that returned full funding to the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center.

That funding was interrupted after an Oklahoma attorney general’s opinion said the permanent sales tax, approved by voters in 1996, was not following the original ballot language.

Because of this opinion, commissioners had to move quickly to keep the doors open at the juvenile justice center. They voted to spend “use tax” funds to pay for salaries and programs at the center until the language in the resolution was fixed. A ballot was drafted and approved by commissioners that would have set aside 86 percent of the .35 cent tax to fund salaries, operations and programs at the justice center, while the remaining 14 percent would be allocated for the justice center or for other county needs as determined by the commissioners.

Disagreement surfaced and a lawsuit was filed against the commissioners and the AG opinion by Sheriff Randall Edwards, two former commissioners and members of the citizens advisory committee to the juvenile center.

Oklahoma County Judge Roger Stuart disagreed with the AG opinion, calling it too narrow, and ordered the sales tax be used to fund operations, including salaries and programs operated by the juvenile center.

It was that ruling, commissioners said, that now gives them time to further study the idea of the jail trust authority that could oversee the county jail as well as the juvenile center.

“I believe this temporary injunction allows us to step back and develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the problems with the juvenile justice center,” said Commissioner David Anderson.

Anderson said the issues the AG opinion brought to light need time to be resolved and go deeper than the wording on a ballot.

“I believe one real problem is a clear defined structure of government,” Anderson said. “There seems to be misunderstandings in the organizational structure of the juvenile justice center.”

Anderson said one example of that came through a phone call he received on Jan. 10 asking him about a press release issued by the juvenile justice center.

“I did not know anything about a press release issued from the county,” Anderson said. “Who is in charge of approving press releases from the county? Are we not the governing authority of the county,” Anderson asked. “Another example is a statement from Judge Bob Hughey while on the stand. He said if the injunction was not approved by the judge, he would have to fire employees at the justice center. Are they his employees or are they our employees? These are just a few of the things that have happened to bring awareness that there is confusion as to the structure of government in the county.”

Commission Chairman Jack Stewart said he too received a phone call last weekend from “a television station” asking for his response to things he had not heard about.

“We apparently got slammed on the news,” Stewart said.

District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader said he wanted to stress that the public understand the injunction is only a temporary fix to deeper issues.

“This injunction doesn’t answer these questions,” Hader said.

Anderson agreed, saying this gives “everyone an opportunity” to address the issues.

“We had talked about forming a trust authority that would govern the justice center, but there just wasn’t enough time,” Anderson said.

The idea of forming a county jail trust authority first came up in November. At that time, Anderson said he had done some research, but not enough. Stewart said he had little knowledge of a trust of this nature. Hader had not yet been sworn into office.

Anderson said at the time, Tulsa, Grady, Pottawatomi and Rogers counties all operated with county jail trust authorities. The idea drew cautious support from Sheriff Edwards, but Undersheriff Chris West said at the time “the details would have to be worked out.”

Canceling the election will cost the county just over $12,000 for the ballots, which have already been printed, and an additional cost for new ballots that will include school district elections.

Curtis Haywood II puts No. 1 Mustang over the top

Curtis Haywood II Shooting

By Sports editor, Kyle Salomon

Last year at this time, Curtis Haywood II was a sophomore at Mustang High School and having to sit on the end of the bench and watch the Broncos varsity basketball team play games without him helping them on the floor.

A year later, Haywood is one of the main pieces to Terry Long’s puzzle, as the Class 6A No.1 ranked Mustang boys are the favorites to bring home gold in March at the 6A state tournament in Tulsa.

Haywood had to sit out of all varsity sports during the 2013-2014 academic school year because he transferred to Mustang High School from Oklahoma City Cassidy High School as his dad, Curtis Haywood, joined Long’s staff as an assistant coach.

Haywood said having to sit there and watch his teammates compete and knowing he couldn’t go out there and help them was one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do.

“It was very tough for me,” Haywood said. “Every time we lost I was mad I couldn’t go out there and help them because I knew I could help my team out if I could have played. I wanted to go and help my teammates win because I know they would do the same for me.”

Haywood is making the most of his junior season thus far. The 6-foot-4 combo guard is one of the most talented players, not only on the team but in the state, and is also one of the most highly recruited. He is averaging in double figures in points and is close to that in rebounds.

Long said having Haywood available this season has made a difference for his team.

“He’s put us over the top,” Long said. “He has the ability to beat teams from the outside with his shot and take it to the rim with his athletic ability. He also is a great rebounder and plays really good defense with his length and quickness on the perimeter. He makes us a different basketball team, there’s no question about that.”

There was one benefit to Haywood having to sit out of varsity action last season. He was able to learn about his teammates by watching them play and learn also about the opponents he would be facing a year later.

“I learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of not only my teammates but players on other teams,” Haywood said. “I think that was important so I could help my teammates as much as possible and know how to attack other players we go against. Another thing that I learned is that everyone plays a little harder when they play us. We have a target on our back.”

Haywood said he doesn’t try to model his game after anyone, he just plays his game, but he does have role models.

“My dad is my main role model,” Haywood said. “Of course, Lebron (James) and KD (Kevin Durant) are guys I really look up to, but my dad is my main role model.”

Haywood’s father, Curtis, played basketball for U.S. Grant High School and then was a star at Oklahoma City University. He then embarked on a professional career, both in the NBA and overseas, as he played for the Toronto Raptors and for several years overseas before calling it a career.

When it comes to future goals, Haywood said he has big plans for his basketball career and even his career after basketball.

“I want to go to college and play,” Haywood said. “I would love to play in the NBA, but if that doesn’t work out, I want to be a criminologist. That’s something that I have always been interested in.”

Haywood said his personal goals for this basketball season don’t just lie on the basketball court but off the court as well.

“I want to become a better all-around basketball player, but also a better all-around person as well,” Haywood said. “Obviously, we want to win a state championship, that’s our main goal as a team.”

Haywood said this team is special for reasons that go beyond how much talent they have on the roster.

“Our team chemistry is really good,” Haywood said. “We all like hanging out together and doing things together outside of basketball. You have to have that to win a state championship, and we do.”

County youth speak out at Redlands Community College

Listening Conference Mustang Girl

By Editor, Ray Dyer

The annual Youth Speak Out Conference was held Wednesday at Redlands Community College. The event brings together teens from throughout Canadian County for one reason: to tell adults what’s going on in their lives and share concerns about the issues they face on a daily basis.

Organized by the Mustang Prevention and Coalition Team, El Reno Leadership Class, and the Yu Can Coalition, students addressed the audience made up of educators, lawmen, political leaders and professionals on a variety of issues.

Some of the topics covered by the students were drinking and driving, bullying, religion and cultural awareness, school and stress, sex education, high stakes testing, texting and driving, drug testing, community service, leadership and college prep.

Some other areas included in the discussion were 7th hour sports, lunch issues, fine arts facilities and snacks in schools.

The mission statement for the event reads: To provide a structured forum for youth to present their views, opinions, and solutions on issues that they face to a listening panel comprised of elected officials and community leaders who are in a position to take action based on the presentations of the youth.

Chestnut receives Michele Smith Award at star-studded banquet

Jayden Chestnut and Clayton Kershaw

By Sports editor, Kyle Salomon

Mustang senior Jayden Chestnut was one of five high school softball players across the state of Oklahoma to receive the Michele Smith Award on Jan. 14 during the Warren Spahn Award Gala at the Jim Thorpe Hall of Fame Museum in Oklahoma City.

The Michele Smith Award goes out to the top five high school softball players in Oklahoma.

The other four high school softball players to receive the Michele Smith Award were Michelle Brandon from Piedmont, Caleigh Clifton from Wayne, Berkley Faulkner from Duncan and Kristen Prieto from Moore.

Michele Smith was an Olympic gold-medal winning pitcher, who also played softball and pitched for Oklahoma State University. Smith is also a member of the Softball Hall of Fame.

The high school softball coach honored at the event was Newcastle’s Mike Crossley.

Los Angeles Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw was at the gala to receive the 2014 Warren Spahn Award.

The five top high school baseball players were also honored at the Warren Spahn Award Gala last week with the Ferguson Jenkins Award. Those baseball players honored were Thomas Hughes of Norman North, Keegan Meyn of Yukon, Trevor McCutchin of Owasso, Kyle Tyler of Westmoore and Corey Zangari of Carl Albert.

The high school baseball coach honored was Carl Albert’s Wayne Dozier.

Chestnut was the key piece to the puzzle for the Lady Broncos softball team that captured the 2014 Class 6A state championship last October, sporting a 36-4 record.

Chestnut finished the 2014 season with a record of 24-3 and an ERA of .92 in 159 innings pitched, with 242 strikeouts, 38 walks, 15 shutouts and eight no-hitters.

In her four years at Mustang, Chestnut had a record of 80-21, an ERA of 1.39, pitched 613 innings, had 744 strikeouts, walked 160 batters, had 40 shutouts, 10 no-hitters and four perfect games.

Chestnut saw her team win 117 games in four years, in which she won 68 percent of those in the circle for the Lady Broncos.

Chestnut signed a letter of intent to play softball for the University of Oklahoma this past November and will attend OU this coming fall where she will officially join one of the top college softball programs in the nation.

Four county farms earn Ranch Award

Centennial Farm Erin Carl Schroeder Farm 3 2013

By Mustang News reporter, Daniel Lapham

Four Canadian County farms have been named recipients of the Oklahoma Centennial Ranch Award.

The Jimmie D. Miller Ranch, located northwest of Calumet; the Michael Rott Farm, located southwest of Okarche; the Herman Schroeder Farm, located south of Okarche; and the Woods Homestead Farm, located southwest of Union City join the 58 farms located in the county that have been family-owned and operated for more than 100 years.

To qualify for a Centennial Farm or Ranch Award, a property must be owned by a family member for at least 100 years and must be operated or occupied by a family member or leased out by a family member over the age of 65. The property must include a minimum of 40 acres and gross annual sales of at least $1,000. The Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry have sponsored the Centennial Farm and Ranch Awards for 25 years.

Jimmie Jack and Bridget Smith of Geary own the Jimmie D. Miller Ranch located northwest of Calumet. The family has grown wheat and milo and run cattle and horses there since great-grandfather, James Eli Small (also known as James D. Miller) purchased the land in 1913.

Jimmie Jack Smith, 62, said he is humbled and honored to receive an award that represents so much history and deep roots in the land he grew up on.

“My mother, Jimmie Miller Smith was raised here,” Smith said. “My grandfather was raised here. My kids were raised here. It’s the best way to grow up. You learn responsibility and hard work and reward and it’s how you learn the value of things and the importance of taking care of things. If you take care of it, it will last and take care of you.”

Minnie R. Schroeder of Oklahoma City owns the Michael Rott Farm and the Herman Schroeder Farm, both near Okarche. The family has grown wheat, milo and run cattle since father-in-law, Herman Schroeder purchased the land in 1914. The family has worked the Michael Rott Farm since grandfather, Michael Rott, purchased the land in 1894. Schroeder, 87, said her son, Carl Schroeder, currently runs both farms.

“I am overjoyed with receiving this award,” Schroeder said. “It’s exciting and I hope the kids will continue to keep it in the family. Farming draws us closer to God. We can till the ground and sow the seed, but the rest is up to God. It makes us trust Him more.”

William Woods of Union City owns the Woods Homestead Farm located southwest of Union City. The family has grown wheat, milo, corn, barley, hay and cotton since great-grandparents, Peter B. and Minnie Woods purchased the land in 1910.

Smith said many farmers and ranchers hold their land as an extension of themselves and to be recognized for working the land through the generations generates a great deal of pride.

“I thought it was kind of an honor and I am quite proud of it. The land is important to us out here,” Smith said. “It’s everything. I tell the kids I have been bucked off of my horse on every square foot of this place at one time or another. We have 160 acres right here and then adjacent, my mom still owns a couple thousand acres that was purchased later on.”

When land is passed down from generation to generation it becomes a part of who you are and a living historical record that connects the generations, Smith said.

“The land was purchased from an Indian named Bad Buffalo,” he said. “We still have the original warranty deed. You know I often walk around out here and it’s something to think about. My great-granddad and granddad all walked in these same footsteps. They walked this same land.”

When families have those kinds of roots it serves as an anchor, Smith said.

“I can’t necessarily speak for the community, but I can speak for me. I can’t hardly express to you what this land means to me. I’d rather lose an arm than lose this land.”