Grand Marshal

Dean Perkins

Days of the Old West Rodeo Grand Marshal 2022


Alvon Dean Perkins was born June 11, 1941 in Mesa, Arizona to Laverta Brewer and Chester Marvin Perkins. He was their second son and from the very start he had a mischievous sparkle in his eye and a grin that could soften even the hardest of hearts. He loved to work hard and play hard, and, at least the working hard part was a requirement in this family of twelve. As a child he went door to door selling honey by the gallon, and he worked for local farmers picking melons by the truckload when he was fifteen. In order to play football, one of his great loves, he was expected to milk the cows early in the morning and take care of the bees and harvest honey after practice. He loved playing football and played not only for Mesa High, “Hitting them so hard they’d remember it” but also for the Eastern Arizona Gila Monsters, a Junior College, where he played for two years (actor Nick Nolte was a teammate, and Dean found it hilarious that Nolte went on to be a movie star). Either he and his best friend, Larry Simmons, found trouble, or it found them, but there weren’t many days that went by without “PerSimmons” being called to the office. He worked for Mesa Sand and Rock as a seventeen year old and worked so hard his co-workers treated him and respected him like a man. He joined the Mesa Fire Department when he was nineteen and planned on making that his career when he married Cheri Dee Huber on March 24th,1961 at the tender age of twenty. 

Having a little more free time as a fireman than at almost any other time in his life, Dean found a hobby that turned into a lifelong passion when he talked his old friend, Jess Patton, into teaching him how to make saddles. It took a lot of work, and Patton wasn’t always a gentle teacher, once throwing the saddle Dean was working on in the dirt, telling Dean, “If you can’t do any better work than that, you can just go on home!” Dean did better. He has built hundreds of custom-made saddles since that first one landed in the dirt, and his children and many others cherish these beautiful works of art. Decorated with delicate oak leaves and acorns that became his trademark, he has saved the back of many a horse and mule and many a backside of cowboys and girls across the country. If you ever run across a saddle stamped with Corn Creek Saddlery, you’ve found yourself a true treasure. 

Continuing his habit of working and playing hard, Dean and his friend, Laron DeWitt started hosting calf and team roping nights at Laron’s arena for nearly ten years. It started out as just a lot of good, hard fun, but soon big names started showing up including the Camarillo brothers and the like. Dean never met a stranger. He had the philosophy that every person could prove him/herself to Dean; it didn’t matter what other people said. This ability to take people as they were earned him not only respect but also many loyal friends who love him to this day. He could visit for hours with every cowboy who swung a rope and loved sharing a laugh and a story with these people he called “friends.” 

In 1969 Dean, Cheri, and their three children moved to Kanosh, Utah to help Cheri’s parents with their farm. From 1969 to 2021, Dean has been a farmer and rancher, loving the wide open spaces, the smell of dirt in the spring and alfalfa in the summer, and the animals that came along with this line of work. Dean had a knack for training horses that were gentle and hard working. One of the first horses he trained was Cracker Crumb Cleo (JD for short), and he loved showing the picture and telling the story of his two year old son, Dale, sitting on the back of the two year old colt, gentle and even tempered as an old mare. This was just the beginning of a series of amazing animals that Dean worked with throughout his life. Horses that carried his children on their backs in the mountains and on the desert and others that packed his grandchildren around the arena for 4H. From the big, black horse he called “Snake,” to the Missouri Foxtrotter named “Sarge,” the horses Dean worked with wanted to please him, and his heart broke a little with the passing of these loyal co-workers and friends. In the mid 1980’s Dean found an appreciation for mules, and in 1986 he started Mule Days in Fillmore, Utah. It was a lot of work including a parade, a rodeo, an auction, and all kinds of fun activities. This was a labor of love for Dean and was yet another area where he made quick and life-long friends. Mule Days continued on for several years until Dean was called to be the Bishop of the Kanosh Ward in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

Another unique ability Dean had was working with the youth. Overheard in the Kanosh Merc was a comment that went something like this: “That Dean Perkins, why, he even likes teenagers!” And boy, was that true! Dean had a way of making the youth he worked with want to be the best they could be; yet they knew Dean would love them no matter what. He spent countless hours outfitting a whole group of young men to go on trail rides that spanned days, camping and cooking and working together, all the time enjoying each others’ company and the great outdoors. His children still have people tell them stories of a time when Dean made a positive impact on them as a teen or young adult. He had and still has a talent for loving people and believing in them. He has a way of making people believe in themselves, and while these outings took a tremendous amount of time and energy to plan and carry out, Dean counts these years as some of his favorites and the source of some of his fondest memories. 

Dean has used his team (whether it was his blonde Belgians, his black Percherons, or his Mammoth mules) and wagons on hundreds of hay rides, dozens of parades, and several funerals. He has hauled team and wagon to Cove Fort to carry strangers during Cove Fort Days. He has transported primary children, bishoprics, and youth groups in the Kanosh 24th parade, and supplies and Ma’s and Pa’s wherever the next “trek” might be traveling. He has loaded up mules for the long drive to Salt Lake City to be a part of the Days of ‘47 Parade. He has been known to hitch the draft horses up to a sleigh in the winter or a wagon in the summer and make his way around town, giving rides to anyone who was interested. The sound of the harnesses jingling as he came down the road was an endless source of joy to his own children and grandchildren as they stepped away from whatever modern-day gadget they had to step back in time with grandpa as he taught them to drive a team of horses or mules and whatever western song he might have on his mind that day. Which brings us to his pride and joy: his family. Dean Perkins was and still is the biggest fan of his 4 children, 17 grandchildren, and ten (almost 11) great grandchildren. He has cheered them on through successes and failures and held their hands during celebrations and disappointments. His heart has burst with joy and broken with grief as he has traveled through life with his posterity. Dean passed his love of working and playing hard on to his family and his fun-loving personality and ability to be silly, “Grandpa is my age” while still being a trusted and respected authority figure is a rare quality that he still possesses. He has loved his devoted wife, Cheri, for more than fifty years. They have served two full-time missions; one to Nauvoo and one to Tucson, and they have weathered every storm together, pulling together, like his team, through the toughest of challenges. He taught his children what love looks like, and even though he was, at times, a strict father, he has always been an even more loving dad. Dean Perkins is a hero to many and like the little boy who, in awe, stopped Dean as he walked down the concourse of a Vegas mall said, “You’re a real cowboy, aren’t you?” Dean epitomizes everything it means to be a true cowboy: love of family, love of country, and love of God.