After only a few years in Muskogee, Russell Sain already has deep roots.
Some of those roots are fruit trees Sain grows on a spread south of town. He also raises chickens and other animals there.
Sain also is active in promoting and preserving the historic Founders' Place neighborhood. He recently hosted Big Dawg's Crawfish Boil to raise money for the neighborhood. He and his wife live in a house that dates back at least 99 years.
"We're trying to make our house really, really nice,” he said. “Hopefully, the houses around us will improve."
Sain said his dog, a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Sam, has become fairly well known. The dog even has his own Facebook page, Sammy the Chessy. Sain said he's had Sam, a medical service dog, for nearly six years.
"We go all over town, but he's most famous at Lowe's,” Sain said. “The cashiers or the stockmen or manager has this basket for him. He goes in and they hand him his basket like he owns the place."
Sain said Sammy loves people.
"I have had this breed of dog for decades, but he's just amazing,” he said. "There are people who are terrified of dogs, and they just come up to him and they're not afraid of him."
Sam also has a self-sustaining talent. He can drink water from a fountain, and can even press the button.
Sain said he grew up in Atlanta, but didn't like the big city or suburban life.
"I lived in affluent area of Dunwoody, and I wouldn't see anyone in the grocery store I knew, maybe 15 people over 15 years," he said.
He moved to the Muskogee area when his wife got a job at the VA Regional Office.
Russell Sain said he sees himself as a "frustrated farmer."
He originally bought 23 acres south of town to store stuff for rental property. However, he now has two horses, a mule and a sheep, plus dozens of chickens. He also keeps fruit trees.
Sain said he and his youngest daughter have ridden horses in the Okie-Arkie Cross Country trail ride, between Tahlequah and Fort Smith, Arkansas. He said he fell in love with mules on one trail ride.
"They had these big mules with big ears, and they would hee-haw," he said, adding that he wanted a mule with big ears, loud color and one that would "hee-haw and make a bunch of mule noises."
Sain raises his fruit trees through a sustainable method called permaculture. The trees and other crops are planted in swales, or low marshy hollows.
"We do the swales with the fruit trees, then we plant many other crops there," he said. "There's berries. There's herbs. There's all kinds of other crops with the swales. We do nitrogen-fixing trees. Nature all works together."
He said nitrogen-fixing plants include the thorny honey locust, strawberries and clover.
"In our fruit orchard, we have an apple tree, a nitrogen-fixing tree, a pear tree, a plum tree, a nitrogen fixing tree," he said.
using natural method
Sain has raised grass-fed chickens for about a year and a half through a natural method called tractoring.
"We buy baby chicks, we feed them and grow them," he said. "When they get big enough, we process them, put them in the freezer and we have chicken."
Sain has 60 chickens that are grown out for 12 weeks. They are kept in two bottomless, movable coops, or tractors.
He said he's able to avoid genetically modified foods. The chickens help fertilize the soil, he said.
"We move the tractors every day," Sain said. "We come out, we open the things up, and drag the whole thing. So, they get fresh grass every day."
The family processes the chickens together.
"My daughter comes in from college in Arkansas, my son-in-law comes in from from Tahlequah," he said. "We butcher them, process them, put them in the freezer, then we have chickens. They are amazing chickens. The flavor is just out of this world."
Sain and his wife bought their Founders' Place home as a foreclosure about two years ago.
"We spent a lot of time and money and effort in bringing it back," he said.
Although restoration remains a work in progress, Sain said he's seeing a wonderful transition.
"Our bedroom is like a separate building, kitchen is a combination of one building and a porch, laundry room is another building," he said. "It's just a groovy house. It's got 12-foot ceilings, crown molding and an amazing wrap-around front porch we spend most of our time on."
He said he doesn't know the house's exact age because records were destroyed in a fire.
"But we think it was built around the infancy of the last century," he said. "The courthouse records have it at 1920, but there's a plat that shows the house in 1905, so it could be older than that."
Sain said members of the pioneer Fite family lived in the house while building the Fite mansion, and other Fites lived there until the mid-1980s.
"We think it was originally a school because there was a school in Founders' Place," he said. "The house is actually a combination of four or five different buildings. We think there was the original school house and they built four rooms onto it."
Q & A
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
"I had an electrical contracting business, Camille works for Veterans Affairs. We were wanting to get out of Atlanta, because it was getting so big and so crazy. Something happened in my business, that I was going to end up selling my business. And people here in Muskogee were asking Camille to apply for a position in the area office. We loaded up our daughters, our dogs and our baby raccoon and we came to Muskogee, did a whirlwind tour. We fell in love and we decided we were moving."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
"The people. I love Oklahomans. I love people of Muskogee. I am so excited about the future of Muskogee. I feel investment-wise, it's almost like a ground-floor opportunity."
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
"If people start believing and start appreciating what we have because it's an amazing place."
WHAT PERSON IN MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
"Melony Carey. She is one of the most organized, philanthropic people I've ever met. She's just born to serve. What's so amazing about Melony is she lived in Founders' Place in the heyday and she's been battling to bring it back."
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
"I've had so many amazing memories and met so many amazing people, I would be hard pressed to think of one thing. Most of my best memories are centered around doing stuff outside, like the Okie-Arkie Trail Ride and going to the lakes and the rivers and duck hunting, riding horses in this amazing beautiful country we live in."
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
"I don't have any spare time, but my life is fun."
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
"Old outlaw town that is reimagined as a funky, groovy, magical place to live."
NAME: Russell Sain.
EDUCATION: Degree in business from University of Georgia.
PROFESSION: Commercial real estate, rental properties, investments.
FAMILY: Wife, Camille, four daughters, two grandsons.
RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Jewish.
HOBBIES: Horseback riding, permaculture, training dogs, duck hunting, motorcycle riding, being with family.