Charles Raper said he could see all the way to Fort Gibson Lake from his house south of the Arkansas River.
It had been a great vantage point for generations.
“Fort Davis, a Confederate fort, was built here,” Raper said in his living room. “When it was built in 1862 or 1863, the Confederates moved here because there were pre-Columbian Indian mounds. They could stand on the mounds and see Fort Gibson, the Union fort. We had never studied anything about the Confederacy in school.”
Part of the Rapers’ 32-acre spread once belonged to early Muskogee settler Redbird “Bird” Harris, Raper said.
“The acres I bought belonged to Bob Pitchford,” he said. “He had inherited it from his father, who bought it from Bird Harris. He (Harris) has a descendant living 100 yards from here, the artist, Joan Hill.”
After buying the property, Raper enlarged a pond.
“It wasn’t much. I dug it to make my hill better,” he said.
He built his home atop the hill 19 years ago.
“I wanted the property to build a house on, not to develop a subdivision,” he said. “Then I decided I wanted to build my father and mother a house. I figured the best way to build them a house was to develop a subdivision.”
Raper said he developed much of the subdivision around his home but kept the riverside natural.
“We have animals you wouldn’t believe — deer, fox,” he said. “My wife even met a badger. He jumped up on the brush hog.”
Raper says he’s had a “sickness” ever since he was 14 — and he’s not ready to get over it.
That sickness involves cars.
“When I was 14, I wanted a motor scooter real bad, but my folks would not let me have one,” he said. “I had $35 saved up. My father said I could not have a scooter, but he did not tell me I could not have a car.”
So, young Raper bought a 1933 Plymouth.
“It didn’t run,” he said. “We had to take a chain to pull it home. We took the body off the frame and put it on a 1932 Ford frame and put an Oldsmobile V8 engine in it.”
Raper kept going.
“When I turned 15, I bought a 1948 Ford, and later I bought a 1951 Ford convertible,” he said. “When I was 16, I had three cars; two of them ran.”
He said he drove the 1951 convertible most of all.
“When I got out of high school, I had to sell the car to pay tuition for college,” he said.
Raper has never since been without a number of cars, he said. His collection includes cars from 1917 to 2010. His favorites are his Corvettes.
His favorite ’Vette is a slick blue model from 1963.
“That was the first year for the Stingray,” he said. “It has a fastback slanted back. It is the only one with split back windows.”
Raper said he didn’t know exactly why he collects so many cars.
“The ones I have, they’re fast and they’re pretty,” he said. “They’re mostly sports cars.”