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Coadys named Cooperator of Year

Don and Patricia Coady of rural Lawton have been named Cooperator of the Year by the local office of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Comanche County Conservation District.

David Kuntz, who manages the conservation district, cited them as examples of those rare individuals who are willing to spend their own money to improve their property, although they do participate from time to time in government assistance programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Both Patricia and Don were longtime employees of Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. and AT&T. Patricia cycled through several jobs in her 39 years: operator services, clerk in the plant department, then the central office and finally outside for the remaining 26 years, climbing poles to restore service after outages. Don started out as a lineman. Later he was an installer/repairman, a cable repairman and a pay phone repairman and then finished out his 37 years as just a repairman because he could see pay phones were becoming a thing of the past.

Prompted by their girls' love of horses, they bought a quarter section southwest of Lawton in 1999 while they were still working for the phone company. The place was planted in wheat at the time, dotted with mesquite and had only an old hay shed with no sides. They turned all the wheat into grass and native pasture land, increased the number of ponds from two to seven with their own funds, replaced all the fences, cross-fenced to divide the property into five pastures with one or two ponds each, and enclosed the shed. Don designed the house where they now live, and they've put up outdoor lights where there was none before.

"The east half is a combination of Bermuda and native, and then most of the west half is where we sprigged Bermuda and got that going," Don said. They used EQIP's help to sprig 80 acres in Bermuda.

Just this year, they bought another 12 acres across the road. It's all fenced now, and if Comanche County gets rain this spring they plan to convert it from wheat to Bermuda, too, which will help them raise cattle.

When they were still working for AT&T they raised Texas longhorns because they're "easy keepers." They mainly sold those as roping cattle, but a lot of the roping fell off when the cost of fuel skyrocketed. That's when they switched to Angus cattle.

They sold all their cattle in 2010, the first of four straight years of drought, because hay was so hard to come by. A 4-foot round bale cost $100, and they might have to drive 300 miles to get any. Once they got back home and broke one of the bales open to find a whole cow pelvic bone inside.

The Lawton Constitution

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