Oklahoma Resident Shows ‘True Grit’

Oklahoma Resident Shows ‘True Grit’

July 25, 2016

Oklahoma Horizon

Crawford, Oklahoma is home to a total of 133 people. That’s an average of one person for every square mile of the town. Yet it was no surprise when nearly all of those people gathered in the community to celebrate the 40th birthday of Eric Coogle, affectionately nicknamed, “The Mayor of Crawford.”

Coogle has a special place in the lives and the hearts of nearly everyone in town. His resilient, genuine, ear-to-ear smile is famous in Crawford.

“Eric is a very social person,” Nyla Coogle, Eric’s mother and caregiver, said. “He loves to be around kids. He loves to be around other people. He never waits for someone to speak to him first. He’s always the first one there to tell them hi and give ‘em a big ol’ smile.”

According to his mother, Coogle has cerebral palsy, with both athetoid and spastic characteristics. This places Coogle in perpetual motion, yet forces him to fight for control. 

While the disease physically constrains the favorite Crawford resident, it leaves his sharp, caring, and enthusiastic mind intact. Coogle serves as somewhat of a guardian over the public schools in Crawford.

“I call him the assistant superintendent now,” Superintendent and Nyla’s boss, Rick Garrison said. “He takes care of a lot of things that you don’t think he really does take care of. He’s a hall monitor. He goes outside and takes care of the grounds. And so being in the condition he does, he brings a lot of value to our school. He’s really been an unexpected blessing.”

Garrison believes that Eric has changed his life, along with the children of Cheyenne’s public schools’ lives, for the better. 

Coogle has become a day to day fixture for the children of Crawford. He watches over them and makes sure they’re playing by the rules. 

“He’s on the lookout every day when my kiddos leave for lunch – making sure they’re not doing what they’re not supposed to be doing and hot rodding in the parking lot,” Cheyenne High School Principal Whitney Moore said. “Boy, he’ll be the first one to come tell me on ‘em, when they do that.”

In Coogle’s eyes, his role at the school is akin to John Wayne in one of his favorite Westerns, “True Grit.” He sits high on his horse with his reigns in his mouth, ready to fight the bad guys. He’s a cowboy and a protector. 

“That’s really how Eric Coogle sees himself,” Garrison said. “He’s larger than life. And a guy that, he can’t talk very well, his body has denied him in several ways but yet, he sits high on that horse, and, man, he takes on the bad guys every day.”

Coogle’s role in the Crawford community brought him support and love from nearly everyone in the town on his big day. Even the most famous Cheyenne graduate, world champion bull rider Sage Kimzey, came out to wish Coogle a happy birthday.

Birthday wishes weren’t all that Kimzey brought with him to the celebration. Thanks to fellow bull rider Jay Morrow and an organization called Western Wishes, Kimzey carried a special gift with him to Crawford: Coogle’s invitation to the National Finals Rodeo.

“Eric’s been so good to us,” Kimzey said. “And he’s helped us out for so long that, you know, I really felt that if we could do something like this for him that it would just, it’d be amazing.”

John Wayne said, “True grit is making a decision and sticking by it, doing what must be done. No moral man can have peace of mind if he leaves undone what he should have done.” 

With this definition, it seems that Coogle passes the test. He’s a humble cowboy, riding high in the saddle. 

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