It takes a certain spirit to handle the rugged terrain of West Texas. It’s a virtual desert with just enough vegetation to make a decent place to raise livestock.
That’s why Marvin McKinley Fisher Sr. moved from Arkansas to Andrews more than a century ago. He passed it along to his son, Marvin Jr., who passed it along to his son, Marvin Dan Fisher; Dan is still running the operation at age 67.
“We had to sell down to just 100 head just once in that time because of the drought, but we still haven’t bought a heifer since this ranch was founded,” said Dan Fisher, a two-time National Finals Rodeo team roping qualifier and 16-time National Finals Steer Roping qualifier. “We’ve bought bulls, but the cow herd has been the same since 1910.”
Now he is sharing that ranching legacy—and a rodeo birthright—with his sons while also competing with them in steer roping all across the country. Marvin Dan Fisher Jr., who goes by Vin, and J. Tom Fisher are happily carrying on a true family tradition on the ranch and steer roping, a unique event showcased in just about 50 rodeos a year.
They practice together, travel together and enjoy their time together, whether it’s at home in Andrews or on the rodeo trail. Vin is a 14-time steer roping finals qualifier, and J. Tom has earned five trips to the finale. All three have roped together at the national finals twice—in 2010 and 2013. In both instances, Dan has broken the record for oldest qualifier, the last time at 62.
Dan got the competitive bug from his father, Marvin Jr., who was a ProRodeo cowboy for many years. It’s a strong foundation that was formed decades ago.
“There’s a certain amount of family legacy that comes with it,” said Vin, 37. “I don’t want to say it’s pressure, but if you’re going to rope and compete, there’s a certain amount of pressure that you rope your best all the time and hold up the traditions that my father and grandfather were known for.”
They’re doing a bang-up job with it. Both Vin and J. Tom are strong contenders to qualify for the steer roping finals again this year.
“I was born in 1985, and my dad made the steer roping finals in 1986,” J. Tom said. “I’ve grown up with my dad as a steer roper.
“When I was about 16 years old, I just thought I should be a steer roper. I team roped pretty tough at that age, but in the back of my mind, I always knew I was going to be a steer roper.”
The family continues to play the game together.
“I get to rope with my boys every day,” Dan said. “I just still like it, and I still place a little bit going against some of these tough guys. I’d rather win second in a go-round at Ellensburg like I did (in early September) than win every seniors roping there is.
“You never quit living your dream.” —Ted Harbin
Ted Harbin is a longtime journalist who spent 22 years in the newspaper industry before focusing on rodeo. He owns Rodeo Media Relations and TwisTed Rodeo and is one of just eight individuals to be honored with media awards by both the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. He lives in Maryville, Mo., with is wife, Lynette, and their two daughters, Laney and Channing.