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Mon, Oct. 21

Local author traces life, love and loss

Clara knits in anticipation of a new baby while Bill draws water in the background.

The Parks traveled from place to place, doing whatever seasonal work was available.

"Bill was cowboy, guide, horseshoer, wrangler and host, while I was cook, maid, secretary, hostess and extra cowhand when needed," Clara said.

Through the years, they worked sugar beet fields in Idaho, mined for gold in a ghost town, staked claims in Cherry and worked cattle and guest ranches around the Southwest.

During all those years, writing was a large part of Bill and Clara's lives.

While working at the Grand Canyon in the 1940s and '50s, Bill wrote his first published novel, "The Mestizo," (Macmillan) and Clara wrote short stories and articles that made their way into print in Ladies Home Journal, Collier's, and other popular magazines.

All the while, Clara kept diaries of her life, and "Horizon Hunters" grew out of those life experiences.

To most any question about her life, Clara responds, "It's in the book…."

"You can tell it's true," she added.

How would one know?

"If you come across something you don't believe, call me," she said, a straightforward gleam in her eye.

The book does contain honest-to-goodness real life stuff, such as her and Bill's pre-marriage night in a cabin in Peach Springs on their way to get married in Kingman.

"That wasn't in the Ladies Home Journal version," she joked.

It also talks about the hardship of living hand-to-mouth with seasonal work, her joy at having two boys and the devastation of one son's murder.

"I don't like to write flowery, so I didn't have to embellish," Clara said frankly.

And indeed, she's lived a life so adventuresome that her truths are more exotic than any made-up story.

While writing "Winter Season," Clara was able to let her imagination run free, though she admits that it, too, is based, though loosely, on her experiences and the people she's met.

"Even though it's fiction, it's sort of true – truth mixed with fiction," she said.

Clara had a reason for writing "Winter Season," which is set on an Arizona dude ranch during the second half of the 1970s.

"I wanted to say something about dude ranches and cowboys that wasn't corny," she said.

Clara is adamant that the book contains "no foul language or raunchy stuff."

At 87-plus, "Parks writes with the energy of one who is driven by a personal passion for her subject," her publisher said. "As a result, her characters are alive with emotion and she vividly draws the atmosphere of ranch life."

In 1961, the Parks family moved to Prescott, where Bill spent 28 years writing a column, "Under the Southwest Sun," for The Daily Courier.

Clara was his editor and mentor.

With Bill gone, Clara knows that her writing is nearing an end. She doesn't intend to write any more books; she'll just savor the memories she's already written down.

The big adventures behind her, Clara has no regrets.

"I've had a really good life. I have lots of good memories," she said.

"Winter Season" is available at Barnes & Noble Bookstore in the Prescott Gateway Mall, online at 1stbooks.com or Amazon.com (ISBN: 0-75958-740-0).

Contact Sandy Moss at smoss@prescottaz.com

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