MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 25, 2012

Thirsty? Thank him

Science lover helps keep city’s water drinkable

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A few drops of solution turns water in a beaker from clear to a cherry Kool-Aid red. Stephen Morton adds another solution and the cherry color turns grape purple.

“This is probably the coolest part of the day because you’re actually doing chemistry,” Morton said.

As a maintenance supervisor and interim chemist at the city of Muskogee water treatment plant, Morton has several opportunities to do chemistry. It’s a scientific passion that Morton, 40, has enjoyed since he got his first chemistry set.

“I probably got my first set when I was 11, and I realized this science thing is pretty cool,” he said, recalling that the first set had a microscope, various stones such as iron pyrite or fool’s gold and a small set of basic acids and bases. He started mixing things together and marveled at the reaction.

Morton said simple acids such as vinegar and bases such as baking soda cause a chemical reaction when they’re mixed.

“In large amounts you get a large chemical reaction, you get a volcano, you get a science fair project,” he said. “Why do they react the way they do?”

Morton recalled entering science fairs at Fort Gibson, usually with volcanos because “volcanos are easy to construct, easy to erupt.”

“In high school and junior high I was very interested in science,” he said. “One of my favorite subjects was earth science in junior high. Chemistry and physics intrigued me once I got into high school.”

Morton has worked for the city of Muskogee for at least 17 years. Although his title is maintenance supervisor, he has filled in as an interim chemist “a couple of times.”

He conducts several tests including the calcium carbonate test, the one that caused the water to change colors.

“The calcium carbonate tests lets us know if the water is on the corrosive side or depository side,” Morton said, explaining that “depository” means the amount of deposits in the water.

Meet Stephen Morton

AGE: 40.

HOMETOWN: Hulbert.

CAREER: Maintenance supervisor at city of Muskogee water treatment plant.

EDUCATION: Hulbert High School, 1990. Associate degree, Connors State College, 2010.

FAMILY: Wife, Paula; five kids.

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Pentecostal.

HOBBIES: Hunting, fishing, camping, “anything outdoors.”

Sharing a love

of the outdoors



Whether it’s fishing, camping or hunting, Stephen Morton loves to be outdoors.

“I love dove hunting, and when I’m deer hunting, I’m always on the hunt for wild pig,” he said. “But it’s not just about hunting. It’s about being outdoors, enjoying nature, being outside. I do not like being confined to four walls.”

 Morton’s family shares this love.

“Maybe it’s not hunting so much, but we like to fish and go camping,” he said.

He said the family has no special place to go.

“If there’s a park we might like to try, we will do it,” he said. “But it seems like we always go back to Sequoyah Bay.”

Sequoyah Bay, on the banks of Fort Gibson Lake, is a convenient drive north of Muskogee.

“It’s a great place to camp out, and the fishing is good,” he said, adding that he especially likes bass fishing.

Morton also is passing his love of the outdoors to a new generation.

“My 2-year-old likes being outside,” he said. “If she could, her choice would be to be outside 24-7.”



The challenges

of hunting deer



Fall is a pretty cool time for Morton. The changing colors of the leaves mean it’s deer hunting season.

“Deer hunting is my love,” Morton said. “If I wasn’t married, I’d spend every waking moment deer hunting.”

With a bow? “Yes.”

A rifle? “Yes.”

Muzzle loader? “Yes.”

“If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be archery,” he said. “The main challenges are that you have to bring the deer in closer. It’s like a game of hide-and-seek. Deer are so in tune with their environment that any strange move, any strange smell, any strange sound and they’re out of there.”

Another challenge is to make himself odorless.

“I spray myself down with scent eliminator. I bathe, shampoo and wash clothes in scent eliminator,” Morton said. “When you’re on the stand, you’re a statue for however long it takes.”

Morton’s best deer was a seven-point buck shot with black powder.

His secret?

“If I knew that, I’d have a lot more deer on my wall,” he said. “If I knew, I’d probably not let you report it.”



Learning to become

more employable



Morton started a family soon after graduating from Hulbert High School in 1990.

After raising his family and working for the city, Morton eventually decided to go back to school. He earned an associate’s degree in arts from Connors State College in 2010, mostly attending night school.

He said he originally sought a degree in science, but most of the science classes were at night. Classes for the arts degree were mostly during the day.

“So it was either go to school or go to work,” Morton concluded.

He said he sought a college degree because “a degree makes you more marketable in the employment field.”

He said he plans to stay with the city in the immediate future.

“But on down the line, it affords a better opportunity,” he said. “With a college degree I’m pretty much wide open. But now, I’m perfectly content.”

Morton said his life right now focuses on his family. His children range in age from 2 to 27.

“I have no plans on leaving, but who knows what tomorrow brings,” he said. “I try to make my decisions based on what’s best for my family as far as a career goes.”

Q&A

HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?

“I grew up around Muskogee my entire life. I spent a majority of my childhood in Muskogee. After graduating from high school, I met my wife and we started a family in Muskogee. It’s a good fit for us.”



WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?

“Muskogee is just the right size to me, not too small, not too large. It’s not as congested as Tulsa or Oklahoma City. It’s a lot easier living.”



WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?

“More economic growth, increase in jobs.”



WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?

“Maintenance supervisor, city of Muskogee water treatment plant.”



WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

“Being involved in my family. Whatever they want to do, that’s what we do. When I’m not hunting, I spend my spare time with them.”

WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?

“My wife. She’s independent. She doesn’t need me, but I sure need her. I find something else to love about her every day. I find something new about her every day. She makes me want to be a better person.”



WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?

“It has to be my graduation from Connors. It’s one of the biggest achievements of my life next to my family.”



HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?

“Wonderful place to work and raise a family. A wonderful place to play.”