Frosty Troy loves Oklahoma, but his love must go unrequited, for it would be wrong if the feelings were mutual.
Troy is that rare person who somehow found the job for which he was born. His purpose in life is to raise hell. As editor of The Oklahoma Observer, he raises it winter, spring, summer and fall as a cash crop, and he does so with unrestrained joy.
The wonder of being who he is, where he is, radiates from his face, his demeanor, even from the pen that is supposed to have all that poison in it.
The Oklahoma Observer is spiritual heir to a style of populist journalism that once was a powerful force in the Southwest, reaching its zenith with W.C. Brann's Iconoclast in Waco, Tex., in the 1890s, but has virtually disappeared.
The Observer is a bimonthly political tipsheet and journal of opinion -- Troy's opinion, mostly -- that abides by the populist slogan: Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.
Troy has never suffered from a shortage of the latter. The legislature meets down the street.
And in Oklahoma these days, the population of the former is growing at an alarming rate.
The oil and gas industry accounts for about 35 percent of the private economy and 25 percent of the state budget, an energy dependence far greater than that of Texas.
The oil price slump this year has brought another wave of unemployment and deficits to a state that only in the last decade started to address a half-century's worth of social and educational needs, and it has placed more than half of Oklahoma's banks on the "trouble" lists relied upon by federal examiners.
The tendency among politicians in the energy states is to blame the regional recession on the Reagan administration which, among other things, has refused to support an oil-import fee. Troy wants no part of the Reagan Revolution -- "I disagree with everything he stands for," he says. "I'm beginning to understand how Republicans felt under Roosevelt" -- but he thinks the enemy in this case is closer to home.
"This little ol' state is in a world of hurt, and it's nobody's fault but ours," Troy says. "We put all our eggs in one basket. Zowie! One of every four dollars the state was getting was from oil. That gave us a run for a while, and it sure was sweet while it lasted.
"We almost made it into the 20th century. We had a toehold. But nobody's going to save Oklahoma but Oklahomans. And now look at those cards over in the legislature. They're cutting and running."
The "running" is Troy's interpretation of events. The "cutting" is fact. In response to a projected $500 million deficit, the 1986 legislature decided to cut most state programs up to 13 percent, including funds for the poor and disabled, and for public schools and universities.
Only a year earlier, the legislature had approved a $268 million tax increase to help the public schools and vocational programs. This year those programs are shrinking.
The establishment press, led by The Daily Oklahoman, has endorsed the budget cuts, saying that state residents and corporation -- who rank 43rd in the nation in property tax rates and in the bottom 10 for income taxes -- are overtaxed. Troy, who calls the city's big paper "The Daily Disappointment," has gone characteristically bananas in his opposition. One might say this has been a banner year for Frosty headlines.
His first 1986 issue, on Jan. 10, arrived on the eve of the legislative session. Troy devoted the entire paper to one theme, entitled "Look Up, Oklahoma! A Bragging Guide." In his front-page commentary, he wrote that it seemed Oklahomans were reacting to the oil slump by panicking, choosing to "return to a dust bowl mentality" instead of remembering all the achievements they had made since 1970, which he proceeded to list page after page.
Hope springs eternal.
Troy's lasted two weeks.
By Jan. 25 his boldface headline blared: "A Cold Day in Hell: Oklahoma's Agonizing Retreat," and Troy, typically understated, opened with the line: "It was a cold day in hell. It was the day the leadership in state government said would arrive when they let Oklahoma's education slip further into mediocrity."
Month by month, as Democratic Gov. George Nigh and the legislative leaders, also Democrats, slashed away at the state budget, Troy fired back on his front page the only way he knew how. On Feb. 10 he was writing "Back to the Future in Oklahoma," accusing the legislature of waging war on its own children.
By April 25 he had given up on the leadership, calling them "Kamikaze Democrats," and saying that they had "turned out the lights on Oklahoma," and in so doing made this "The Year of the Republican."
Through it all, Forrest (Frosty) Troy, a third-generation Oklahoman who grew up in the shadow of the state penitentiary in McAlester, never lets political setbacks stop him from having fun. What good is raker, after all, without the muck? Hardly a week goes by without a state legislator seeking special privilege on the floor to introduce a resolution condemning Frosty Troy.
It is an honor that he tries to witness from his perch in the balcony. Perhaps the ultimate compliment came a few months ago when a senator who had been subjected to more than one "Frosty Troy suppository," as his commentaries are called, bought the building Troy operated out of and expelled only one tenant: the editor of The Oklahoma Observer.
Troy and his wife, Helen, who has served as his record-keeper and publisher for the last 18 years, moved to a basement office across the street and kept at it. "Love it. Love it," he says. "I love to zing their butts."