Tempers flare, tears and money flow, at school land auction

by C.F. David

There was a hum, from the small crowd; it was as if an engine was idling in the Cimarron County Fair Building on Tuesday morning. Cimarron County residents were gathered, as they have for years, for the school land auction. But today was different. There was a new and unfamiliar face in the crowd.

With Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers standing nearby, James Parker, consulted paperwork, as an entity called the Cimarron river Ranch, through Roy Young leased just over 22 thousand acres of Cimarron County land, in four different tracts, for an estimated $267 thousand a year on a five-year lease.

The bidding began briskly as Young bid against longtime rancher Bobby Apple. The first tract, with just over five thousand acres, brought $29 thousand a year.

The second tract, seven thousand acres, brought $76 thousand; the third, six thousand acres, brought $73 thousand and the fourth, four thousand acres brought $89 thousand.

As the bidding began, the signals were subtle, but as it continued, all subtlety disappeared as arms flew into the air with each bid.

Spectators, both men and women cried; Apple was restrained when the bids went high.

“Go home where you come from,” screamed one young woman.

The crowd cheered.

“Where'd you get your money?” one man asked.

A rumble of questioning yeahs(?) echoed through the building.

With emotion in her voice, one rancher's wife said, “The state of Oklahoma is effectively helping to destroy our community.”

When the bidding ended at least four families went home with less land than when they'd arrived.

As Parker, Young, and attorney Stan Manske moved toward the exit, and more words were exchanged, the Troopers escorted them to the door.

Asked for a statement after the auction, Parker insisted that he had not leased any land; that instead, the Cimarron River Ranch, owned by his son Samuel Parker had purchased the leases, and that he [James Parker] was only a consultant.

A check of courthouse records indicate that Parker's name was first connected to a land purchase in the year 2000, when a company called Itech, from Carefree, Ariz., (a Phoenix suburb) purchased a tract of land comprised of about six one-quarter sections, from Kenneth Kohler for a mortgaged price of $60 thousand. The same tract was sold in 2004 to the Cimarron River Ranch for $295 thousand.

The Cimarron River Ranch is the site of a recent flurry of construction, including a building going up on the south face of Black Mesa. (Parker refuses to discuss its purpose.) The ranch also recently purchased another tract of land totaling nearly 400 acres, just south and east of the mesa.

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