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Land dispute along Red River pits claims from Oklahoma, Texas landowners against each other

An Oklahoma woman and a Texas man both have claims on a piece of property along the Red River, but finding out who the real owner is has become tricky.

BY MICHAEL BAKER Published: May 16, 2010
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/> It’s something landowners along the river are accustomed to, said David W. Kelly, a Durant attorney familiar with river law.

"In law school they say easy come, easy go because somebody gets some and somebody loses some,” Kelly said. "It goes from one side to another, depending on how the river moves. This has been going on forever.”

Rushing said the land was once in Oklahoma, but the Red River shifted north and the property is now in Texas.

"We’ve got some old plats (maps) here that show where the river has flip flopped from one side to another,” Rushing said. "Right in that area it is a pretty large shift, right in that section. We looked at that rascal.”

Rushing said he couldn’t put a specific date on when the property shifted from Oklahoma to Texas.

Ledbetter said the river hasn’t moved. The land’s descriptions haven’t changed since before Oklahoma statehood and significant timber runs along the river, at least one tree is 100 years old, Ledbetter said.

"This piece of property that she claims is hers, that 10 acres, never was in Bryan County,” Ledbetter said. "This piece of property has a deed of trust dating back to 1901 and the boundary has not changed since that time.”

Anyway, Ledbetter added, now "the land is in Texas.”

Who pays?
Lamar County appraiser Bryan said whether the river has shifted could answer Bullock’s question.

"It’s an interesting dilemma because the course of the river over 100 years or so may have changed that much, I don’t know,” she said.

"As far as the Texas taxation goes, we’ve got deeds to back up what we’re taxing in Texas,” Bryan said. "If she’s paying taxes in Oklahoma, why would they continue to collect taxes from her if the land is not there?”

Bullock had the same question and said she might seek reimbursement on the taxes if the land does not belong to her mother. The most recent tax bills have ranged from $14 to $16 a year.

Rushing said with all the possible questions of river landownership, his office usually won’t take people off the tax rolls unless the landowner requests it.

"Even if it looks like it’s in Texas, we’re hesitant to take people off the tax roll especially as long as the people are still paying taxes,” he said. "If the river shifts again” they may want to keep their claim.

Officials on both sides of the Red River said the only way for Bullock to get a definitive answer may be by getting attorneys involved.

Bullock said she’s not decided on a solution involving attorneys because it could cost more than the land is worth.

Ledbetter said it’s his land and he’s not likely to pay for it again.

"To use cliches, she has not one leg to stand and is barking up the wrong tree,” he said. "You can check on my reputation, and I do not lie.”

It’s a Red River standoff that Bullock said she would as soon see resolved as anything else.

"If I could get this one little part of it dealt with for my mother, I’d be willing to go away, forever.”