Roy Parks of Midland : 28th President of TSCRA
The Cattleman Magazine – August 1962
Roy Parks of Midland, 28th President of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, is a cowboy from away back and looks the part. When he walks through a hotel lobby or down the street, dressed in a conservative dark suit, wearing a big white Stetson and good boots, smoking or chewing his proverbial cigar, folks just naturally know that a genuine Texas cowman is passing by. Most folks know him and say, “Howdy Roy, how are you?” They receive a firm, friendly greeting from hands that have done everything on the range from saddling broncs, to greasing windmills and putting up barbed wire fences. The long education that Roy has had in the great outdoors of Western Texas, working with cattle, riding in the Texas sun and wind, is written upon his friendly, sun-tanned face and is reflected in his twinkling brown eyes. When he talks, folks listen. He has a dry, friendly, Will Rogers type of philosophy that hits the nail on the head and brings a smile to the face. He says a great deal in a few words. He is a popular cowman and the only one of his particular mold. Some friends have dubbed him “the champion cowboy of them all.”
Roy Parks was born on a ranch six miles south of Breckenridge in 1896 and a mid-wife brought him into the world. He comes from a pioneer ranching and lovers-of-good-horse-flesh family. His grandfather, Leroy Parks, dealt in horses in Meridian Creek in Bosque county before the Civil War. At that time there were still hundreds of mustangs in the country and there were a steady demand for horses. They were needed for ranch and trail work, and later for the Calvary. The senior Parks ran his horses and cattle on open range and later when the country was fenced in, sent his son Jim, Roy’s father, to Stephens county to buy a ranch where there was still open country. Jim Parks ran horses and cattle on that ranch and can’t remember when he first sat a horse because he was a baby in his father’s arms. He had his own horse when he was old enough to ride and took to the saddle like a duck takes to water. He never cared much about the schoolroom; it was too closed in.
Roy and his sister Ruby attended school in Breckenridge, and later in Fort Worth where the family moved. When Roy was in his late teens he quit school and headed west in a Model T Ford, going as far as Ancho, New Mexico. He liked the wide-open spaces out there on the high plains and longed to have his own horses running free over such a range. When a ranch foreman offered to trade him some mares for his Ford, and promised to let him run them free on his open range, Roy took him up. There were some good mares in the group, sired by Rondo, a Temple, Texas, stallion, and Roy had great dreams about building up a horse herd like his grandfather had once run down in Bosque county. But it did not turn out that way. His money was gone and so was his car, so he hired out as a cowboy to Jess Jenkins at the Hip O.H. Ranch at Corona, at thirty dollars a month. He roughed it in a bunkhouse with other cowboys. “I still remember the cold mornings, below zero, when I had to crawl out in the wind for a long day’s work,” he said. He also worked a while for a New Mexico ranchman named Brenham. While working for him he did work with the Bar W and Block wagons as a stray man gathering Brenham’s cattle and seeing that they got back to his ranch. “Those were the biggest outfits I ever worked with,” Roy said, “and I gained a lot of experience. I felt educated in cow work,” he said with a grin.
“I never made over a dollar a day in my life working for somebody else,” Roy continued. “I shipped a carload of mares, colts and geldings from Ancho, New Mexico, to Eastland, Texas, and drove them to the ranch south of Breckenridge. Then I entered TCU in Fort Worth and prepared myself for a better job. I really applied myself for a while, but the range was calling me all the time.”
In 1918 when the Texas oil boom hit West Texas like a bombshell, Roy’s dad leased his ranch land for a sizeable sum and staked both of his children to a ranch. Roy chose Midland country and felt awfully proud when his dad settled him on a ten-section layout. He was twenty-one years of age then, and owned a hundred head of cows, which were driven to Albany, loaded on the railroad there and shipped to Odessa. From there they were driven to the Midland ranch. During those early years he branded with the Circle Cross, which his father had established for him when he was a little boy and also used the P brand, which his grandfather had used in Bosque county. He burned the latter on the left hip of his cattle and on the left jaw of the steer calves, which he planned to sell. He also burned it into the left shoulder of the good horses that he always loved and had around.
Roy’s first prairie house was a small frame house where he cooked his beans, bacon and sourdough bread, and mended his blue jeans. His ranch was between the budding cow towns of Midland and Odessa. There were 1250 people in Midland at that time and 250 in Odessa. Roy soon knew them all and called most of them by name. He seemed to fit naturally into the country and felt at home there. On weekends he polished his boots, put on his Sunday-go-to-church suit and rode into Midland. There was a pretty voice teacher there whose blue eyes and dainty manners had the cowboys, especially Roy, in a dither. Her name was Jojo Evans. It didn’t take Roy long to cut out the other boys and he and Jojo decided to become partners for life. They were married in 1923 and their first home was the little ranch house where Roy had been batching. Those were happy days. With Jojo’s help and encouragement Roy began to move steadily ahead in the cow business and gradually built one of the best Hereford herds in the country. He had always liked Herefords and after selling his first cows he bought several hundred top heifer calves out of top herds and began to breed good cattle, a program which he has steadfastly continued since. He bought more land as the years went by and the ranch began to spread out over the high, wind-blown country. At the peak he ran between three and four thousand head of cattle, about 2000 of them were mother cows. He owned sixty-five sections of land and leased enough extra acres to operate a combined spread of 200 sections. Ranch headquarters were established on “the Brown Place,” where he and Jojo spent most of their time. They bought a home in Midland later, so that their only son, Roy Jr. could attend school, and where they too began to live most of the time, but it was always a pleasure to go to the ranch. If they had a dollar for each time they have driven back and forth over that familiar road Roy might be tempted to buy a few more good Quarter Horses and a fine bull or two.
When the dry years came in the fifties, Roy, like hundreds of other cowmen felt reverses in the business. His range was depleted and the cattle had to be fed. He reduced his cowherd, but kept 200 fine heifer yearlings. “ They cost me plenty of money to feed, more than their worth,” Roy said, “but they became the nucleus for my present herd which now consists of around 500 mother cows, along with good registered bulls. I plan to build up the herd to around a thousand head,” he continued, “all eligible for registration. I am determined that they will be the same high quality cattle that I have run in the past.”
The greatest sorrow the Parks have ever known was when their fine son, Roy Jr. died in 1950. Today they find great joy in their three lovely granddaughters, Martha Ann, Charlotte and Ellen Parks. Roy and Jojo have sold and given most of the ranch to these girls, and Roy leases the spread from them.
On an average day, when Roy is not visiting some cattle show or attending a cattleman meeting, he arises early in Midland and drives out to the ranch where he enjoys breakfast with his two loyal foremen. You can rest assure that he has a cigar in his mouth as he rides along over the familiar road. Roy loves to entertain friends at the ranch and often has them out for chuck.
Roy joined the TSCRA in 1918 and has missed only one annual meeting during that time. This was when Roy Jr. was born. It was fitting, after serving as a director for many years, that he was honored with the presidency of Texas’ and the Southwest’s largest cattle raisers association. He listened to the problems and came back convinced that all cowmen had them, no matter in what section they ranched.
He presided at the Association’s 78th annual convention in Dallas in 1955 when the Texas Beef Council was organized, and was its first president. This newly organized association instituted a program to educate the American housewife to the value of beef in daily menus.
In 1959 there was a special Roy Parks Day at the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and American Hereford Association presented him a plaque with the following tribute:
“A western commercial Hereford breeder, and a leader in state and national livestock circles, Roy Parks has etched his name on the scroll of men who have devoted their lives toward progress in America’s Livestock industry.”
Roy has loved good horses all his life, and admires a fine Quarter Horse, which is the favorite animal of all active ranchmen. He is an enthusiastic member of the American Quarter Horse Association. He was honored with the presidency of that association in 1960 and at present is a member of the executive committee.
Roy has an office in the Scharbauer Hotel in Midland. There are some interesting plaques, pictures, and other souvenirs in this office, all having a special meaning for this well know cowman. Perhaps the one that brings him the pride reads as follows:
“During the two years preceding this date. Rou Parks, of Midland, Texas, has served as president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and during all of that time he has constantly and wholeheartedly devoted his time, his outstanding ability, and his great energy to the promotion of the best interest of the beef cattle industry. We are deeply indebted to him for his service, which began long before he became our president, and we know that his continued advice and guidance will be one of our valued safeguards for the future.
“In recognition of these splendid contributions to the cattle industry and as an expression of our sincere affection and respect for him personally we affix our names to this scroll and we express hope for a long, happy and a successful life for our friend, Roy Parks.”
The plaque is signed by many outstanding cattleman of Texas, and Roy is proud to call them all his friends.