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The Oklahoman's Richard Mize, From 2001, Property's value found in hearts

Richard Mize in 2001. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]
Richard Mize in 2001. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES]

EDITOR'S NOTE: Real Estate Editor Richard Mize is on one week of furlough. Here is a vintage column, one of his favorites, touched up slightly, from May 12, 2001.

MULDROW — The seat is a piece of furniture, but that is only a technical definition.

It's much more. There is a special comfort in the straightness of its back, the smoothness of its wood, the softness of its cushion.

The building is "nonresidential construction," a statistical distinction used by those who track such things.

It's much more. Amazing grace abiding within its walls caressed aching spirits gathered in the presence of God and family to celebrate the passing of our matriarch.

The ground I stood on, strictly speaking, is a very specific type of realty.

It is so much more. The parcels are tiny and clustered. Property lines follow family lines of generations, not mere title. The dirt, clipped grass, big trees and narrow lane combine in my heart and mind and experience in a way that's hard to explain.

The seat is a pew.

The building is a church.

The land is a cemetery.

Technically, it is all property. Its value is measured not in legal tender, but by tender mercies.

Tender mercies? Oh, this romantic view of mine.

The pew, after all, is just wood and fabric. The building is just a building; it takes people to make a church. The land is just dirt and grass and trees.

But it takes romanticism, or at least sentimentality, to create a sense of place. It takes a certain spiritual synergy to make a house into a home, to turn any piece of property into something more than the sum of land, bricks and mortar.

An architect's vision, a builder's intent, a developer's goal — these are matters of the heart as well as the head. There is a reason for putting the arts and sciences in the same college. Form does follow function.

But ask any Oklahoma City developer with a quarter-section of land the name of the creek running across his property. I ask every chance I get. No one ever knows.

Real estate pros deal property the way people deal cards: constantly shuffling, pairing, buying, selling, leasing, developing, then moving on and forgetting. Nothing wrong with that. The market sets property values. The value is the bottom line.

For some of us, the true value of property is found in other things.

At First Baptist Church, family and friends grieved the passing of my aunt, Orel (Mize) Fargo, 85, then gathered outside under a sad little blue tent at Muldrow Memory Gardens Cemetery. These are my family lines here in the southwest corner, representing generations of Mizes.

This is my place, the place I'm from, the one by which all other places are measured.

My house in Edmond is a home, because of my wife and child — and the dogs, of course. Without them, it's just a house. It has a certain just-passing-through feeling about it. The same feeling followed me for 10 years in Texas.

Wherever I lay my head, my heart is tethered forever to this place. But not because of the town of Muldrow itself. We didn't live in town.

Our place was a cluster of homes two miles east, "out on the highway" around what is still known by old-timers as Mize-Fargo Corner. It was the pasture land surrounding those homes, and the land in the nearby Moffett bottoms of the Arkansas River are where my dad and his brothers farmed.

It was the farm house where I started growing up and the "new" house built next door, in 1979, where I finished.

It is the fact that I know it is one mile north to Slab Holler, one mile south to Lone Oak, another mile south to Cottonwood. It's about 10 miles north to Long, another 10 north and east to Short. I know that the only thing left of the Paw Paw community, the Paw Paw Cemetery, is about a 10-mile drive south and east on dirt roads, but only five miles or so as the crow flies.

I couldn't tell you the monetary value of any of it.

But ask me the names of the creeks running through it. They are Camp Creek, Garrison Creek and Rabbit Branch, and I know them apart.

Richard Mize

Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked... Read more ›

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