Rodeo legacy: Like father, like son


Vin Fisher made sure that he mentioned his father Saturday while being presented with the championship saddle for winning the 2014 Ben Johnson Memorial Steer Roping.

It was only fitting when he mentioned that his father is a past winner of the annual event which was held Saturday for the 61st consecutive year at the Osage County Fairgrounds Arena.

It was a unique way to say Happy Father’s Day to Dan Fisher, a 16-time National Finals Steer Roping qualifier who won the prestigious Pawhuska invitational in 1992.

Vin Fisher, a 34-year-old Texas Tech graduate, entered the final round with a 2.14-second lead. On the last roping of the competition, he registered a routine 18-flat effort to claim the championship by nearly a five-second margin.

Fisher’s four-steer time was 64.09 seconds.

Second-place finisher was another former champ, C.A. Lauer of Buffalo, Okla., who had a final total time of 68.78 seconds. Third place went to Kim Ziegelgruber of Edmond (71.47) and Bryce Davis of Ovalo, Texas, placed fourth (74.05 seconds).

Event honors for the fastest roping of a steer went to Jess Tierney of Hermosa, S.D., who recorded a time of 10.87 seconds to win the third round.

Fisher is currently No. 5 in the 2014 money standings for Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association Steer Roping events. Pawhuska’s Chet Herren, the leader on the list, and eight other top-15 PRCA ropers competed in this year’s Ben Johnson.

From an original field of 36 contestants, six Oklahoma ropers and six Texans reached the championship round. The six entries who managed to rope all four of their steers included the top four placers plus Dee Kyler of Pawhuska and Texan Joe Wells.

Father-and-son legacies are an innate tradition the Ben Johnson Memorial, which was started in 1954 to honor recently-deceased champion roper Ben Johnson — who was the father of late cowboy actor. Ben Johnson Sr. was longtime foreman at the former Chapman-Barnard Ranch, which today is part of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.

Generally referred to as “Son” by old-time Osage County residents, Ben Johnson (the Academy Award-winning actor, who died in 1996) also was a noted roper. He won a team roping world crown in 1953 and finished second in the 1957 memorial event, losing out to another former world champion from Pawhuska, Jim Snively.

The Fishers are the third father-and-son champions of the Ben Johnson. First to accomplish the feat were the father and brother of entertainer Reba McEntire. Clark McEntire won the 1958 title and his son, Pake, took the crown in 1990. Brady Garten fulfilled the other legacy in 2008 by claiming the local championship his dad, Pawhuska’s Shorty Garten, had won in 1993.

The two Gartens both competed Saturday. Although Dan Fisher was absent, his younger son, J. Tom Fisher (who finished fifth in last year’s world standings) also participated. Four other father-son tandems were included — K.W. and C.A. Lauer, Bryce and Jim Davis, Joe and Randy Wells and Brady and Marty Poppino of Big Cabin.

Osage County Cattlemen’s Association sponsored the annual event as part of its 80th-annual convention.

The championship saddle was created by Yocham’s Custom Leather and Saddlery of Bartlesville.

For having the fastest single roping of the event, Tierney was awarded a pair of commemorative spurs — which were presented in memory of the late Ted Wells.