Ranchin’ and Rodeoin’: The Tale of the Parsons Fathers

Arizona beef truly is raised by families, for families; and, Father’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to showcase a family of strong men who not only make major contributions to the beef community and the sport of rodeo but also portray the traits of an outstanding father. If you’ve heard of Marana Stockyards, you’ve probably heard of the Parsons.

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Clay Parsons with his wife Karen, son Clay Buck, and daughters Mallory, Carly, and Haley.

Clay Parsons was born in 1961 in Carlsbad, New Mexico to Charlie Parsons and Cookie Paddock, and this is where their strong father-son relationship began. At three years of age, Clay began riding horses and helping on their small ranch (well, at least he thought he was helping, you know how helpful most three-year-olds are, much less when on horseback). He fell in love with the lifestyle and for the remainder of his childhood he continued working on family ranches in New Mexico, and later in Arizona.

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The Parsons have always been passionate about passing down the cowboy way of life and giving opportunities to younger generations.

At the age of five, Clay’s rodeo career began. His father, who rode broncs, introduced him to the rodeo world, and Clay tried everything! He learned how to rope in New Mexico, where he grew up around cowboys who quickly became his role models. Clay shared, “They had the greatest influence on me. They were real cowboys. I did not want to just be a rodeo cowboy, I wanted to ranch AND rodeo.”

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As most young cowboys do, Clay followed in his father’s footsteps and for a little while tried his hand at rodeo rough stock.

Throughout his life, Clay had a strong love for cattle. Whenever he was driving around with his father or anyone else, he was always looking over the fence line at cows, studying them and calling out the breeds. “My room was full of pictures of cows. Not rodeo champions, but cows. I just loved cows,” recalled Clay. He was overjoyed when, at seven years old, his father bought a small ranch in Oracle, AZ. Money was sparse at the time so they would buy roping heifers then later turn them out on the ranch, building a small herd. Clay remembers when their random assortment of roping heifers finally reached maturity and was ready for a bull: “Dad and I went to Wentz Livestock Auction in Tucson, and we bought a bull.”

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Years later, the Parsons still love to be out on a ranch. Without it, Clay knows something is missing in his life.

Clay would walk home from school, either on foot or by horseback, as often his horse was tied up outside the school waiting, and then go check all the cows. “I checked those cows every day except on the weekends when I was rodeoing,” explained Clay. This is where the story hits his favorite memory with his father: “I was nine-years-old and two-thirds of those cows had calved. We had family and friends at our place to help gather the herd and brand. As we were bringing in the herd, I said ‘Dad, we’re missing three.’ Dad said not to worry about them. We would take care of them later. As soon as he went over the ridge, I went back for them.” Clay remembers everyone wondering where he had disappeared to with the answer to the question arising as he came up over the ridge with the three missing pairs. He was scolded at first but then brought to the side where he heard the words he’ll never forget, “Son, good job. You’re gonna be a cowman.”

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It’s no wonder they have a love for their lifestyle, Clay Buck and all the Parsons grew up in the saddle.

Although there were years when Clay and Charlie did not have a ranch of their own, the Parsons continued to be a strong father/son name in the cattle world. Clay married the beautiful love of his life, Karen, at eighteen, who quickly jumped right into the lifestyle. Later, there was no ranch for Clay to run and he worked for his father’s business, Parsons Steel Builders. He hated it, and went out on the road to rodeo, with a dream of making it to the National Finals Rodeo. He recalls being in Livermore, California at a rodeo where he sat in the top fifteen for calf roping and was almost there for team roping. His dad called Clay asking him if he wanted to lease and run a ranch and Clay’s response was a simple, “I’ll be there in 14 hours.”

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Clay continues to pay tribute to the New Mexico ropers who were his role models by being a role model of many young ropers today.

Today, the love for cattle and ranching stays strong in the Parsons family. They built Marana Stockyards after many years of learning and hard work, and still, raise cattle on a ranch near Picacho Peak. If you’re ever around Marana, or at a big rodeo, you’ll most likely see Clay or maybe his father Charlie. If you’re out on their ranch during branding season, you’ll see his brothers Joe and Cutter along with other members of the Parsons family. Maybe at the stockyard you’ll find one of Clay and Karen’s lovely daughters (who all showed cattle as youth). Carly, who helps during the cattle sale, or his son, Clay Buck, who keeps the place running. If you’re lucky, you’ll even catch a glance of Clay’s grandson Cooper, who sometimes helps call out pen numbers to the riders out back putting the sold cattle back in the correct pens (don’t worry buyers, Carly makes sure the pen backers know where to put your cattle).

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Cooper loves cattle as much as Clay, but he sure loves Grandpa even more!

We start with a father like Charlie, who had a strong influence on his son’s self-sufficiency and taught him to not only do what he loved but also to do it successfully. Next, we move to a father like Clay, who never runs out of words to express his pride and love for his hard-working son, a genuine man who everyone loves and respects, or his beautiful daughters. Finally, we end with a little grandson, Cooper, who never ceases to bring a smile to Clay’s face and attributes to why the Parsons men are so dedicated. Clay says, “I see Cooper liking the same things we like and I want the next generation to get to grow up the way we did.” These men exemplify what it means to be a father. Clay kindly advised, “There are some things you won’t understand until you have a grandson.” Well, Clay, there are some things the world only understands when they look at generations of amazing ranchin’ and rodeoin’ fathers like the Parsons.

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Since day one, Clay and Charlie have been an inspiring father/son team.

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Intern.

Father’s Day Favorites Features… BEEF!

Father’s Day is fast-approaching, and what better way to appreciate the role of a father than by preparing him a hearty, home-cooked beef dinner. While it does not have to be Father’s Day, nor do you have to be a father to eat beef, a day like this calls for special attention to this beloved red meat. We asked some local ranch dads what their favorite beef meals are as they should know how to best prepare a hearty, tasty beef meal after spending all day out on the range!

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Bas Aja with his grandson.

“A thick and juicy RIBEYE,” stated Dan Bell who picked the cream of the crop while many others attested to its supremacy as their favorite meal. “Do you need any time to think?” “Nope! Ribeye on mesquite, with salt and pepper. Garlic salt” was the rapid reply of Bas Aja, Executive Vice President of the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association and a rancher in Southwestern Maricopa County. Dean Fish agreed, also specifying over mesquite. Maybe we need to check this one out in the office!

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Dan Bell and family all dressed up at the annual Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association convention.

Of course, all beef is great and some fathers had a little harder of a time settling on one beef dinner. Jim Webb of the Scottsdale, AZ answered, “Anything that comes with beef is good. If I had to pick one, it would be a steak dinner. Steak with potatoes. No vegetables…well, maybe asparagus.” Out on the V Bar V Ranch in Rimrock, AZ, Bopper Cannon gave a vote to the rib steak. His son, Keith Cannon, who is also a dad, was raised right with good beef cooking and wasn’t even willing to specify a cut, “Anything!”

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Dean Fish with his son, Garrett, and daughter, Laurel, receiving his president’s buckle from the Arizona National Livestock Show.

Wes Kerr from the Kerr Dairy in Buckeye, AZ followed suit in loving all cuts of beef, but managed to narrow it down while proving to be a fan of his mother’s cooking by saying, “Ooooh I like it all!! Hmmmmm, well my mom makes THE BEST meatloaf.” And in case you’re reading this Wes, we’re expecting an invite over for dinner to prove this true!

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Wes Kerr and family at their family dairy, Kerr Dairy.

Some other popular favorites include grilled tri-tip, volunteered by Patrick Bray, rancher from Goodyear, AZ and a vote for grilled brisket from Joe King of Green Valley, AZ, who also informed us, “We are actually having that for our dinner on Sunday [Father’s Day]”.

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Joe, Sarah, and Evelyn King.

With ground beef, steaks, ribs, roasts, and more, there are endless combinations for delicious and nutritious beef meals that fit you and your family. Beef, It’s What’s for Dinner can help you plan your next meal. The Interactive Butcher Counter allows you to explore the different meat cuts while providing information on how to cook those cuts, the nutrition facts, and some tasty recipes.

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A great example of an Arizona ranching family: proud of each other and proud of their beef! Pictured are the Aja and Bray families.

Every dad enjoys a delicious home cooked meal, and what better dinner foundation than beef, packed with powerful protein and 10 essential nutrients? After reading some favorites from fathers out in the beef community, we hope you gain some inspiration and enjoy beef as much as they do! From Arizona Beef to all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day!

Blog post by Nicole Van Eerd and Shayla Hyde, Arizona Beef Council 2017 Summer Interns.