The rumors spreading in area fields, coffee shops and barber shops have become true, the now former owner of the Parsons Livestock Market said in a farewell speech before Wednesday’s auction.
Mark and Beverly McKee of Edna sold the livestock market on U.S. 59 on Monday afternoon to Wade and Kristi Dillinger of St. Paul.
“This market has needed a change for a while,” Mark McKee said.
McKee said he had been considering the sale of the livestock market for a while, and five people were interested in buying it, some who approached him and some of whom he approached.
“We didn’t want to find anybody to do as good as a job as us. We wanted to find someone who would do a better job, and we think we found them,” McKee said.
Wade Dillinger is taking over the operation of the market in McKee’s role while his wife is becoming the office manager, the job that Beverly McKee held.
Wednesday was the first sale for the Dillingers.
Dillinger said buying the market is a great opportunity for the couple. He plans to continue the business’ progress and make it bigger and better. Dillinger also said they were there to help the buyers and sellers and told them to let him know how that can be done.
McKee said it takes a lot to keep the livestock market going, and he knows that the Dillingers are up to it, but they will need the support of those who use the market. They are a good, young couple, he said, and they are involved in their church, community and 4-H.
For McKee, although he will still be around to help out, retirement from the livestock market industry marks an end of 53 1/2 years as he has spent all of his working life at a market.
“It’s been a long road,” he said.
On his 16th birthday on June 4, 1966, McKee went to work for the livestock market at Coffeyville.
“Little did I know 53 1/2 years ago I’d be doing this,” McKee said.
He and his first wife, Flora, bought the South Coffeyville Livestock Market in January 1976 and then the Parsons Livestock Market in January 1984. They sold the South Coffeyville, Oklahoma, market in June 1989. McKee said Flora made the market work for him, and when she died, his new wife, Beverly, made his dark nights happy. He also spoke fondly of his two children, their spouses and his grandchildren during his speech, at times holding back tears.
The Parsons market was established in 1933, making it one of the longest running livestock markets in the state, McKee said. He pointed out that the McKees have owned and operated the business for 43% of the time it’s been open. Many people leave the livestock market industry much earlier because of burnout or other reasons.
“We are proud to be able to be here that long,” McKee said.
The highlight of McKee’s career came on Dec. 2, 2009, when the market hosted one of four regional competitions for the 2010 World Livestock Auctioneer Championship. The Livestock Marketing Association asked him to host, and he was glad to do it. Longtime Parsons auctioneer Justin Dodson was unable to compete at his home site that year, but McKee said he finished in the top 10 nationwide for 10 years in a row.
McKee also mentioned the market’s clerk, Sherry Martin, whom he said has only missed one sale for as long as she’s worked there. Roy Hart still works at the market and is the only holdover from McKee’s days at South Coffeyville, Oklahoma, he said. More remarkably, Don Davied, who is in his 80s, is still employed by the market and still runs cattle. He was one of the workers McKee “inherited” from the old owners of the market, and he is the only one left.
McKee said he always tried to run the market as open and transparent as he could. He also tried to emphasize teamwork. He recalled telling a boy who started work as a sorter that he didn’t want the boy to work for him but to work with everyone in a team effort.
McKee said he always leaves the market by the north driveway before heading south to home because he wants to take one last look at the barn and reflect on the day’s work. He always wanted everyone to do the best job they could, and he thinks they did.
McKee also quoted Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s farewell speech to Congress in which he said, “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” Like MacArthur, McKee said he would fade away as the livestock market manager, but he still would be around to help out in the meantime.