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Empowering Communities: Four Generations of Co-op Membership

When all the photos are black and white, it’s sometimes hard to remember that life was happening in color.

The infamous land runs had come and gone, but large swaths of Oklahoma and Indian territories were becoming available every day. Tom Camp, a young man with a taste for Manifest Destiny, left his new wife in Arkansas for a chance at a spot of heaven along the North Canadian River. Leaving everything and everyone behind to start over in No Man’s Land was not Luna’s idea of a good time.

“It wasn’t until he brought her here and she went down and looked at the river, looked at the dirt floor of the house, and she finally took her hat off and said, ‘This will do.’” The story was recounted by Tom and Luna’s great grandson, Brandon Burnett, while standing on a piece of that land Tom had purchased all those years ago.

They planted sweet potatoes, paper-shell pecans, and rows of peach and apple trees. The children lent a hand in each year’s harvest. The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, World Wars I and II, all passed while the Camp family worked their land. Despite the hardships they faced, Edna got a chance few farm kids of the early 20th century dared to dream. She attended Oklahoma A&M.

While at college, Edna met Linnon Johnson. The two started their own life, with daughters of their own in nearby Castle, Oklahoma. When the Camp Ranch dissolved with Tom and Luna’s passing, Linnon and Edna took her inheritance and combined it with the purchase of a nearby piece of property to found White Lightning Ranch. The ranch was named for a still that was found hidden in the trees at the back of the new property.

Throughout most of that history, the owners of Camp and White Lighting Ranch have also been member-owners of East Central Electric Cooperative.

“East Central has always been there for us,” Brandon said. “We’re on the end of the line and they are always there to get us hooked backed on with electric.”

The organizations have grown and changed in parallel over the last 80-plus years.

“We’ve evolved from farming to what we do today, which is have cattle and raising bison,” Brandon said. Brandon and his wife Shawna added bison to the ranch in 2015.

“We’re still learning about the business side of it. Right now we just consider it to be a really expensive hobby,” Shawna joked. “EcoLINK is really going to help with our business, being able to reach more people, quicker, and in a way that’s with the times. That’s really very exciting!”

East Central Director of Member and Public Relations Katherine Russell said, “The history reminds us of the mission that has always driven us to provide the best service we can, ‘Serving our Members and Communities.’”

East Central Members who are interested in sharing their story of how co-op membership empowers their community or business are encouraged to reach out at krussell@ecoec.com.

See how members like White Lightning Ranch fit into the larger Cooperative story by viewing the full 11-minute film:

 

 

 

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