Raised on a cattle ranch near Walsenburg, Colorado, Mary Parks learned the cowboy trade at her mother’s side. Her father, a grocery store owner, left the ranch chores to the ladies, and Mary was a seasoned bronc buster when she entered rodeo at age 19 in 1929.
In a career that spanned three decades, Mary Parks competed in saddle bronc riding all over the United States and Canada, as well as in Mexico and Cuba. She won trophies at Pittsburg, Boston Garden, and many other venues. One of the toughest women contestants in early rodeo, she once rode at Madison Square Garden despite a broken foot. She was also known for designing and making her own perfectly tailored and trimmed riding outfits.
Mary Parks quit riding broncs in 1948, but she continued in barrel racing and, with her husband Bill, in the quadrille. She retired in 1962 to a home in Florida, where she died in 1997. For her contribution to the sport, Mary Parks received the Tad Lucas Memorial Award in 1991.