James F. Cotter — Texas tycoon, millionaire mogul, pick a superlative because the shoe, or custom cowboy boot, fits — made a big splash in 2004 by buying Chase Tower, Oklahoma City’s tallest skyscraper.
Before that, he made a different kind of splash in downtown Cherokee. It was a muddy one, to hear people tell it in Cherokee, population 1,437, almost spittin’ distance from the Kansas state line and 150 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. That’s just what some people are in Cherokee: mad enough to spit. One of Cotter’s companies, based in San Antonio, wound up with a couple of old but usable buildings along Cherokee’s Grand Avenue. Cotter didn’t want them, but got them in the settlement of a lawsuit in the mid-1990s. Cotter, 75, doesn’t much care what happens to them, from the looks of it — and that’s what has people in Cherokee spittin’ mad when his name comes up. "One has completely disintegrated. The roof has collapsed. It is a facade only,” said Susie Koontz, Cherokee Main Street manager and Chamber of Commerce director. "The other has hope. It is a cute little storefront (but) the back has broken-out windows ... termite damage ... bird droppings in the window. Birds enter where the awning has fallen off.” Koontz has been talking off and on — mostly off — with Brad Simpson of Cotter & Sons in San Antonio. "We’re looking to sell or lease those properties,” he said.