Cowboys come with their own culture, own ways of life, and many times, their own quirks such as an appreciation for sunrises and a preference for blue barns.
Anyone who knew John Fisher would not discount the fact that he was a true cowboy and throughout his 80 years on this earth, his family and friends said he never met a stranger. The Marlow native and life-long resident passed away March 1 at the age of 80 and will be pulled to his final resting place in true cowboy style at 10:30 a.m. today from First Baptist Church in Marlow to Marlow Cemetery.
“He’s going to be pulled in a more than 100-year- old black carriage hearse that’s coming from Atoka,” said LeAnn Sellers, Fisher’s daughter. “It’s very fitting and I think he would be so excited for something like that.”
Born Aug. 26, 1932 in Marlow, Fisher was a graduate of Marlow High School and later received his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University, known then as Oklahoma A&M. He married Joy Janell Brown on Nov. 6, 1955 and together they ran an 1,800 acreage ranch, until Joy’s death just a short month ago on Jan. 30, 2013. The ranch was previously owned by his parents,
“They would have been married 58 years in November,” said Sellers. “When she died, I knew he wouldn’t last long because he loved her so much.”
During the last four to five years of her life, Joy was not able to take care of herself, so Johnny did the cooking and cleaning to the best of his ability. Sellers said one of her friends told of how they would pull up to church and Johnny would walk around to let Joy out and help her into the church.
“He was a very special man,” Sellers said. “My dad loved to laugh, he was precious.”
While running the ranch, Fisher started out raising Hereford cows, then moved onto feeder cattle, then to quarter horses. For the last 50 plus years, he raised Shoemaker Skipper W Quarter Horses, a bloodline which Sellers said she plans to continue, and will work the ranch, in her father’s stead.
When planning for a cattle drive, cattlemen were never hard to find, Sellers said, because of her mother’s cooking. Her homemade cinnamon rolls were well known among them all. However, Johnny got his share of ribbing because of the early schedule he’d set on drives. He would have them up before the crack of dawn and they’d all ask him why they were up that early.
“He’d tell them, ‘You can’t start until daylight, so we’re going to sit here on our horses and watch the sunrise,’” Sellers said. “He was a tall cowboy and skinny, so they’d call him a tall drink of water. His nickname was Slim.”
Once interviewed on why his barns were painted bright blue not the traditional red, Fisher simply said, “I don’t like red.”
In areas of his life other than farming and ranching, Fisher never turned down a chance to help others. From mission trips at his church, to organizations he was involved with, which were many, Fisher often offered help without being asked. He was active in the OSU Alumni Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the National Rifle Association, Texas/Southwest Cattle Raisers Association, Stephens County Livestock Growers Association, American Quarter Horse Association, OSU Animal Science Association, National Cutting Horse Association, Marlow Chamber of Commerce, and the Central High Booster Club.
Fisher joined the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association in 1956, only four years after it was organized, and became a lifetime member — number 43. Steve McKinley, director of operations for OCA, said he was a dedicated long-time supporter.
“He was in everything and he was passionate about it,” Sellers said. “He loved being a member of all the associations.”
One of his most selfless acts was when the Stephens County Fair & Expo Center had just constructed the large arena and was needing better soil to make it well-suited to rodeo events. Mike Anderson said Fisher donated semi-truck after semi-truck of some of the best soil from his land.
“The county couldn’t have paid for all of that,” said Anderson. “He did it because he loved rodeo and wanted to help the county.”
Anderson said that they are planning to honor Fisher at the annual Chisholm Trail Stampede PRCA Rodeo in May for all of Fisher’s contributions. Before his death, Fisher donated to several rodeo events at the fairgrounds and was planning on attending the upcoming rodeo.
One of Fisher’s long-time friends of almost 70 years, Bob Littrell first worked for Fisher’s father and kept on helping out at the Fisher Ranch for years. Littrell said Fisher was big-hearted and would go the extra mile for anyone.
“I never heard anyone say a bad word about him,” Littrell said. “He’s going to be dearly missed and he may be gone, but not forgotten.”
Laura McGouran, wife of Dr. James McGouran and their family are close friends with the Fisher family, said there is one vision of Fisher that is recurring to her and that sums the classic cowboy up in her mind.
“I would pass Fisher Ranch many times early in the morning and look out to see Johnny out on horseback in his spurs, his hat and doing business on his cell phone,” she said.
“He was always out there, he always had a smile on his face and a warm greeting. He took the time to make everyone feel important. He was always a gentleman, respectful and had a great sense of humor.”