By Alicia Alaniz
There’s something special about the way Monte Parks retells historical events that brings the past to life.
For more than 15 years, Parks has taught early Texas history, first as a programmer and tour guide at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center and now as assistant superintendent for the Harris County Precinct 4 Parks Department.
“I always try to teach what was going on in the world that led the earliest Texans to their decisions and what happened as a result. People respond much better to that type of history than just names and dates,” Parks says. “I also try to show how things going on in the world today relate to history.”
Although Parks has always loved history, he didn’t become an expert overnight. The process required years of dedicated independent study and an insatiable thirst for knowledge.
“I read about 200 history books over the past 15 years. If I was going to teach Texas history, I needed to know more than the park visitors or students,” Parks says.
He also started participating in historical re-enactments during festivals and field trips at Jones Park. As a re-enactor, Parks would outfit himself in authentic apparel and demonstrate the lifestyles of early Texans. Along the way, he picked up a few pioneer skills, such as woodworking and blacksmithing.
“I’m a better storyteller and have more appreciation for our early ancestors here in Texas thanks to re-enacting. When you’re working on a pioneer homestead or cooking over an open fire, you’re living the part of someone from history,” Parks explains. “The experience was eye opening. Life on the frontier was hard. Everyone in the family had to work to make it a success.”
A turning point in his career came when a group of senior adults touring the Redbud Hill Homestead at Jones Park asked him to speak at a meeting for the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Soon, his reputation as a lively presenter led to regular requests from various groups and organizations, including a class at Lone Star College-Tomball.
Today, his undeniable passion and refreshing approach to Texas history is present in every lecture, pontoon boat tour, and senior adult bus trip he leads.
Parks currently oversees Precinct 4’s Trails As Parks Division, which is a mobile team that works to connect people with nature through outdoor recreation, ecotourism, and environmental education.
You can also find him sharing presentations at Precinct 4’s community centers or at one of five Lone Star College campuses in between tours with senior adults to historical landmarks.
“There is so much to discover. I try to learn something new every day,” Parks says.
“I believe in lifelong learning, and I enjoy giving others an opportunity to continue learning too.”