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WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

Howard & Mary Parks

By Jerry Lackey
J. T. "Tol" Rutledge was angry when he was forced to sell right of way to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe line ? the railroad was constructed between his ranch headquarters and the watering place for livestock on Spring Creek.
"My grandfather owned most of the land from the ranch to Mertzon, and the railroad took up a lot of the land," recalls Mary Clark Parks while looking through family scrapbooks.
Rutledge purchased the 320 acres of Irion County property for $3 per acre from Joseph Tweedy in 1903. He later added 6,720 acres to the ranch, which stretched northward to near Arden in the northeast corner of Irion County. An Irion County sheriff and cattleman, Rutledge was a trail boss for two cattle drives to Elgin, Kan., in 1879 and 1890.
"He added sheep to the mix in 1913," Mary Parks said, "and I ran sheep during my time after inheriting my land from my mother (Rookh Rutledge Clark). I loved those sheep, and when we had to sell them because of health reasons, I stood at the kitchen window and cried like a baby as I watched them being loaded on a truck."
There were nine children still living when Rutledge died. The land was divided, notes Mary Parks, and all the children sold their land except her mother. In 1950, Mary Parks and husband, Howard, acquired 165 acres of the original parcel.
The Parks built their home in 1978 on another tract of land originally inherited from the Rutledge land by her uncle, H.W. Clark. It is four miles northeast of Mertzon, 25 miles west of San Angelo. After H.W. Clark's death, the Parks purchased the property to add to their 165 acres.
Howard Parks, 92, who served eight years as Irion County judge, grew up on a ranch at Arden. There were about 100 residents in Arden back then, recalls Parks, and the two-story brick schoolhouse had up to 80 students at one time.
"I graduated from the Arden school and took a job with Joe Funk for $30 a month."
The Parks bought the neighboring Kinser Place in the 1980s. The tract of land is the location of an artesian well ? a well from which the water flows to the surface by natural pressure ? drilled in 1932 by a crew searching for oil.
"The well is 200 feet deep and has a flow of 2,200 gallons a minute," Howard Parks said. "The water pressure gradually slows down to 150 or 200 gallons per minute after I open it up for a while. It was a godsend during the drought as we irrigated about 90 acres of coastal hay."
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Parks Ranch
Founded: In 1903 by J.T. "Tol" Rutledge
Current owners: Brothers, Eric & Jason Parks
Location: Four miles northeast of Mertzon on U.S. Highway 67
Livestock/Resources: Hunting, Cattle, Goats, Hay, Caliche Base, Non-Potable Water