Alternative History
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State of Cimarron
— state of the United States
Timeline: 1983: Doomsday

OTL equivalent: Oklahoma Panhandle
Flag of the State of Cimarron
Flag of the State of Cimarron
Location of the State of Cimarron
Cimarron - 14
Anthem "The Ballad of Cimarron"
Capital
(and largest city)
Guymon
Other cities Goodwell, Beaver
Language English
Religion
  main
 
Secular State
  others Protestant, Roman Catholicism
Demonym Cimarronese
Government Semi-parliamentary republican state
Chairman Tim Leonard
Area claims 5,700 sq mi
Population 15,000 
Established 2014 (territory)
Admission July 4, 2020
Currency NAU Dollar
Abbreviations CN

The State of Cimarron comprises the old Oklahoma Panhandle. It is made up of the towns of Guymon, Goodwell, and Beaver, with many scattered farms, communes, townships and ranches. It is the most recent state to be admitted to the restored United States and the smallest by population.

History

Background

The Oklahoma Panhandle appeared in the 1850s. The northernmost parts of Texas were lopped off to avoid crossing the Missouri Compromise line. Then the southernmost part of what would become Kansas was trimmed to avoid encroaching on Cherokee country. The land between, and which lay west of Cherokee lands, was thus simply left over, not part of any state or territory for forty years. Government agencies called it the Public Land Strip or the Neutral Strip; locals called it No Man’s Land.

A series of booms and busts characterized the Strip’s history. In 1885 the US government ruled that “squatters’ rights” applied there, which prompted a minor land rush - but most of these people left just a few years later when the government offered squatters better land in central Oklahoma. But during those few years, the residents made an effort to self-organize a government, which they called the Cimarron Territory. Their government found some support in Congress but in the end failed to win official recognition.

The creation of Oklahoma finally brought an organized government to the area, which now became known as the Panhandle. This and the railroads led to another boom of new farms and villages, which only collapsed again when the Dust Bowl hit in the 1930s and thousands of migrants left the state. Beginning in the 1950s, new farming techniques brought thirty more years of strong, steady growth. By 1980 it was a leading producer of wheat and sorghum, as well as cattle. These good times, too, were doomed to end in the catastrophe of the Third World War.

Doomsday

September 26, 1983 will forever be known as Doomsday. Oklahoma, though not densely populated, was crippled by Soviet nuclear strikes. The capital was wiped out, while the radiation from attacks on various military targets isolated the different regions of the state from one another. The missiles also ignited wildfires that tore through wide expanses of prairie.

The Panhandle was spared the destruction not just of the missiles, but also of the fallout and wildfires that damaged many other parts of the West. Its infrastructure and its people’s lives were left physically intact. In the absence of a state government, individual counties largely took on the challenge of holding things together until everyrhing could come back to normal. Securing basic necessities - food, water, fuel - and maintaining some sense of order became the top priorities.

For water, the Panhandle communities could use the North Canadian River, Coldwater Creek, and Lake Optima. It was a struggle to maintain access to water as the infrastructure slowly wore out. Lake Optima, whose water level was already very low, was completely drained over the next few years. For fuel, the only option was to conserve. Horses, donkeys and bicycles were put to work in order to save what was left.

The Panhandle’s role as a grain producer served it well at this point. There was a good deal of stored grain that could be distributed, enough to feed not only the local population but also the moderate tide of refugees that began to arrive from places like Amarillo, which had been hit by a missile. The town of Goodwell, 11 miles south of Guymon, hosted a large refugee settlement managed by Tom Palmer, president of the state university there.

Breakdown of county society

However, the cascading social breakdown created difficulties. Those who had the food wanted some kind of compensation. Most landowners were persuaded to share what they had - no one wanted to be the cause of mass starvation - but things got ugly sometimes. The mid-80s are remembered as the days of the Grain Riots, when hungry people clashed with those hired to protect the food stores.

Similar scenes played out across Oklahoma and in many other agricultural counties in a similar situation. The county governments, sheriffs and courts continued to issue rulings and manage their territory. But strapped for resources, they had to depend more and more on committees of vigilantes, civic-minded people who banded together to enforce the courts’ rulings. But it didn’t take long for less civic-minded people to realize that they could form their own committees and flout the authorities. In neighboring Kansas, some semblance of state government endured that commanded universal respect in the surviving regions; but in Oklahoma and northern Texas, this cohesion was lacking. Gradually, everyone shed the illusion of continuity with the prewar society and found an accommodation with the new world.

The Panhandle had contained three county governments. The westernmost, Cimarron County, disintegrated fairly quickly. Its rugged terrain could not support a large population without extensive irrigation. In the late 80s, its court closed down and its records brought to Guymon, the seat of Texas County and the Panhandle’s largest and most centrally located town. The court of Beaver County, in the east, ended in a less organized way, in a fire in 1990. After that, the people of the county also looked to Guymon as their center of government. By the 90s, Guymon had become in essence the capital of a loosely governed city-state.

Settling in

For the next twenty years, Guymon and the Panhandle settled into the rhythm of an isolated, half-lawless farming town. Its governing structure was oligarchical. Political power was in the hands of the families who controlled the food supply - the big farms and big herds. The vestiges of government continued to function: the sheriff, the deed recorder, and especially the court. All were under the control of the leading families. The holders of these offices for the most part named their own successors, and the people they chose had to be acceptable to the town fathers. Again, these sorts of arrangements were not at all uncommon in rural survivor communities all over America.

The one nod to democracy was the office of mayor of Guymon, whose holders continued to be duly elected every four years. But the power of the mayor was limited to the town itself. Outside, he commanded some prestige as the highest-ranking official in the region, and he had certain royal prerogatives: he encouraged, warned, and was consulted by prominent citizens throughout the area.

Outside the large farms and their hired workers, many properties came to be farmed communally. This was a common arrangement for refugees to the area, or for non-farmers who wanted to grow food but had to pool their resources with others in order to obtain land. Guymon’s government adjusted its practices to more easily allow for this kind of arrangement. By the late 90s, a substantial portion of the region’s food was grown in this way, and communal farmers formed an important social stratum.

The committee of vigilance and the posse comitatus remained the key institutions of law enforcement. The justice they dealt was merciless but effective, and tempered somewhat by the common dependence of everybody on the landowners. For the most part, they kept bandits at bay. While Guymon and its surrounding villages became known as a place where fugitives from justice could safely run - a stereotype carried over from frontier days - these newcomers had to behave themselves. The Panhandle was kept in relative peace.

On the other hand, vigilantes could be quick to label with the charge of banditry anyone who seemed like an outsider - particularly if they happened to speak Spanish. Over the course of this period, a growing number of traders from Mexico and open-range herders from New Mexico were passing through the Panhandle, but many found this to be dangerous territory, suspicious and prone to violence.

Trade was indeed growing all over the region in the 90s and 00s. The Panhandle again became an exporter of grain and cattle. Trails came down from the growing states of the Provisional USA and continued southward through Texas to the Mexican border and the Gulf.

American Spring

Fireworks.jpg

In 2009, the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand finally explored inland North America, for the first time bringing the survivors of the interior into contact with the outside world. The contact proved to the people of the Provisional United States that there was no American government "out there": they were it. So the following year, the government declared itself to be the legitimate restoration of the United States of America.

Though only a symbolic change, this declaration had a galvanizing effect on the whole continent. As the news spread, it inspired a wave of demonstrations in towns and villages early in 2011: the so-called American Spring.

The citizens of Guymon joined in this outpouring, and it represented the first large-scale political manifestation in the region since Doomsday. This of course made the town leaders rather nervous, well served as they were with the status quo. But they also couldn't well come out against American restoration. Conservatives had to content themselves with casting doubt on the plausibility of the movement and the legitimacy of the government claiming to be the new USA.

The American Spring had no immediate impact on Guymon's government, however. People gathered, spoke, sang, lit fireworks, and went home. No concrete plan emerged to form ties between the Panhandle and the United States.

But in the wake of the Spring came the Cimarron Movement. At first, this was little more than a name and a flag. But it did much to change the consciousness of the region and paved the way for its eventual transformation. From the end of 2011, a new flag appeared outside farmhouses and shops. Its main feature was a red stripe with dimensions of 1:5. This was meant as a rough map of the Oklahoma Panhandle (dimensions 1:4.88). Set on white, the stripe also evoked the American flag. Some supporters said that this represented the idea of a new foundation for America, and the desire to be a part of it.

Everyone called it "the flag of Cimarron Territory". It's not known who first revived the historic name, but it proved a powerful symbol. The original settlers of Cimarron had built a government from scratch in the hope of joining the United States. Now, the new Cimarron Movement hoped to repeat history. At this point, the movement was diffuse and vague. No two supporters wanted exactly the same thing from it. Some emphasized connections with the states of the northern Plains; others hoped for restored democratic government; others dreamed of a well-ordered system of public schools. Some mostly seemed interested in sticking it to the Texans. As of yet there was no program, no agenda.

As with American Spring, this was not the kind of movement that town rulers could overtly reject. Quietly, the Cimarron name entered official usage, and the flag appeared outside the courthouse.

The next occasion for participatory politics was the thirtieth anniversary of Doomsday in September 2013. Once again, large crowds converged in Guymon and engaged in patriotic displays evoking the old republic. But this time, the demonstrations included calls for concrete change. The people of Cimarron were ready to pursue the dream of America. The town's leaders realized that they couldn't stand in the way any longer.

Building the territory

A new Cimarron Territorial Legislature met in early 2014, its function to be both legislative and constitutional. It assumed power over important government hires and instituted new tolls and sales taxes to pay for them. But the ad-hoc nature of the old system did not totally go away. For one thing, there was no separate executive, nobody formally in charge. Civil society was returning but it was still weak.

Late that year, the Legislature arranged for a committee to go north to meet with US and state leaders, inaugurating a new era of more formal diplomatic ties. Touring the federal and some state capitals made it clear just how undeveloped Cimarron's institutions were.

The emissaries' report prompted further reforms in the next few years: a map of electoral districts, more independence for the judiciary, and an executive branch to manage the territory. Both conservatives and many democrats were wary of a fully independent governor. Instead, they established an Executive Committee, chosen by the Legislature, to divide these powers among a small group. In this way, a territory near the center of the old United States adopted, of all things, a parliamentary system of government. Cimarron also joined the North American Union in 2017; its membership in the alliance signaled its commitment to U.S. foreign policy goals.

Toward statehood

The American government was immediately interested in this little territory having a vibrant and hopeful moment. Besides advancing the country's general mission of reuniting the fractured states, Cimarron offered a foothold in Oklahoma before the Texans could get there. The Republic of West Texas had rebuffed efforts to link up with the US, and it was becoming something of a geopolitical rival.

The United States now sent aid hoping to get Cimarron ready for statehood. Surveyors accurately traced and mapped the entirety of the Panhandle region, including the wild western end. Soldiers came south to train a new Militia to replace the vigilantes as the guardians of the borders. The U.S. even facilitated the construction a railroad through Guymon.

The old landowning and ranching class did what they could to harness these profound changes. They held on to a great deal of influence over the evolving government, but they had to rely on more subtle and informal kinds of power.

By 2020, Cimarron was perhaps not functioning as a truly modern state. The lawless frontier still characterized life for many outside the capital. But it was ready enough for the Congress and President. On July 4, in simultaneous ceremonies in Torrington and Guymon, Cimarron became the fourteenth state of the new United States.

Territory and borders

Bison are much more common on the Plains today than in 1980.

Federal surveys since 2016 have laid out Cimarron’s claim to the entire Panhandle. Stone and metal markers indicate the border. However, the state’s actual control is still patchy in places.

This is especially true at the western end of the state, the former Cimarron County. Here there are very few permanent farms and settlements. Many of the people who do live here are Spanish speakers who moved in from New Mexico. This population still occupies an uncertain place in the state’s society. For the most part they were not part of the movement to create a territory and state. Many Cimarronese citizens question whether they should be included among the citizens, or even if they should be forced out of the state entirely. The federal government strongly discourages such ideas and insists on equal citizenship for all who live inside the state borders. In the most recent election, a single legislative district was created for people in the west end, but the people there remain under-represented.

By contrast, the east end of the state, the former Beaver County, is experiencing rapid growth. A few years before statehood, what was then the Cimarron Territory made a deal with the United States: tracts of farmland for new settlers in exchange for infrastructure aid. Many parts of the U.S. were going through a land crisis - a wave of immigrants, inspired by the same events that had prompted Cimarron's push for statehood, had come to the United States seeking to become part of the rising nation. Most of these people were farmers; the U.S. needed more places to put them; Cimarron had plenty of available land. Several new villages have appeared there along the Beaver River and continue to grow quickly.

At the southern border, people and cattle move freely back and forth. It is hard to imagine that a well-controlled border will ever be able to exist in this open-range grazing land. Some people dream of annexing the northern edge of the Texas Panhandle, whose plains form a continuous region with Cimarron. But despite the frequent movement over the border, there is actually a considerable rivalry between the two sides. Texans have been far more reluctant to strengthen their ties to the new United States, and in Borger, the largest settlement of the Texas Panhandle, this isolationism extends to many of their fellow Texans. Expansion in this direction is unlikely, and the federal government certainly does not support it.

Likewise, across the eastern border are communities that are very similar to Guymon in their culture and social structure. This part of northwestern Oklahoma has also been suggested as a zone of future expansion. Already some planned settlement projects in the Beaver County region are on the verge of encroaching on this border. However, an American restoration movement here might seek to create a separate state rather than join with Cimarron.

Now that Cimarron forms the new national border, some US Army troops have been stationed there. Construction is underway for a permanent fort at the old townsite of Texhoma.

Government

Cimarron’s government lacks distinct branches. Most power ultimately rests in the state Legislature, which functions almost as a parliament. The Legislature names the Executive Committee, five leaders who collectively act as the executive. Members of the committee do not sit in the Legislature; if sitting legislators are named to it, their seats must be filled by special election.

The five committee members must decide among themselves which of them is to serve as Chairman, the closest thing that Cimarron has to a head of state. The chairman has begun to encroach on the traditional ceremonial roles of the Mayor of Guymon; both are respected officials throughout the state.

In the federal government, Cimarron has one representative and two senators in Congress. All three members of the first delegation were independents. The national political parties assume that they will establish themselves in Cimarron soon, but for now they have very little presence in the state.

For now, Cimarron is not divided into counties. Some, particularly in the far west, have suggested restoring the three prewar counties, but this has very little support. Municipal government, however, has been expanding under United States guidance. More villages and townships now have organized governments with elections and budgets, but this process is far from complete. Many settlements are still governed informally.

So while Cimarronese civil society has made strides in recent years, make no mistake: it’s still the Wild West. Its admission vote in Congress received more “no” votes than any of its predecessors; what they objected to were Cimarron’s immature institutions and politics. The naysayers weren’t necessarily wrong. Cimarron’s democracy is a work in progress. The leading landowners and ranchers can still manipulate the workings of government to suit their own ends, despite the big changes that have happened to those workings.

Economy

The economy of the state centers on farming and ranching. Many farms and communes feed the population of the state and grow enough to export. The main crop is wheat, with some corn and sorghum. A few large, fenced-in ranches anchor the cattle industry. Hitch Ranch, a large pre-doomsday cattle ranch, is the main hub for cattle and dairy farming. Another is the re-opened Anchor D Ranch, located right near the city of Guymon. Other livestock are raised in the communes or on open ranges, which cover a large portion of the state’s area. Some of the largest herds on the open range roam freely back and forth across state and international borders.

Citizens of the state have restored many oil and gas pumps in the Panhandle. Historically the area was also an important zone for helium production. With airships again growing in importance, this is considered an important resource, but exploitation has not yet begun.

Infrastructure

Wind power has long been essential for irrigation.

Traders travel along the pre-Doomsday highways, many of which have been restored to a much better condition. A railroad now begins at Guymon and heads northward into the rest of the USA.

Cimarron has excellent conditions for wind power. Wind-powered pumps and mills have always been ubiquitous on local farms, but in the last fifteen years, many new wind turbines have been built. The town of Guymon now has electricity most of the time, as do a few smaller villages and many of the biggest farms, though the power can be unreliable. Rural electrification is high on the wish list of the new state government.

A radio station reopened in Guymon in the early 2000s, when increased trade with Mexico made radios and batteries more available. A second station has opened in the last few years, as has a newspaper. The news is rather gossipy and perhaps not up to the highest journalistic standards. Kansas newspapers and radio have long been available in the area.

External relations

For most of the period in which Guymon and later the Cimarron Territory were independent, the most powerful neighbor was Kansas, together with the rest of the new United States. Kansas was the largest intact state in the vicinity and became an important trading partner. Law enforcement was occasionally a source of tension, as Guymon as a rule declined to arrest Kansas criminals who escaped into its territory. But the relationship between the two neighbors was crucial for Cimarron’s eventual statehood.

To the south, the nearest major settlement is Borger in northern Texas, which today forms part of the restored Republic of Texas. Hostility from that direction has mostly squelched any ideas about encroaching on Texan territory. Cimarron exports grain to Borger, largely in exchange for cattle-derived products. From Borger, the trade route divides, with one branch going to the Gulf ports and another to the Rio Grande. Mexican exports brought in along those routes have historically been the most widely available consumer goods in Cimarron, but the growth of American industry is balancing this out somewhat.

Cimarron’s geographic situation means that it trades far less with other Oklahoma communities than with Kansas and Texas. The nearest significant Oklahoma town is Stillwater, which some consider to be the legitimate successor to the state of Oklahoma. Some wagon and vehicle trade moves back and forth, but western Oklahoma is still not always safe to travel through.

For a few years before its admission as a state, Cimarron was a member of the North American Union. It joined as a way to show its commitment to the United States’ policy goals, in preparation for its joining the country. Other NAU members are ambivalent to have the Union play the role of “the USA’s front door,” but it's also true that American expansion is good for the entire alliance. Cimarron’s brief period in the Union brought it into contact with nations as distant as Provisional Canada and the Pasco Free State.

Within the wider political context of North America, Cimarron serves to demonstrate the long-term importance and vitality of the American Spring movement. It shows that the restorationist cause can renew and revitalize survivor communities. Some Cimarronese leaders have promoted this message of unification in other parts of the west.

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