Ranching is important to Ron Fischer. “You bet it is!”
“We’ve been out here 25 years. When we bought this place, there was nothing here. We built up everything from scratch. We purchased the land from Dean Holmes. It used to be part of the Tierney Ranch. But, the soil level was too shallow so we turned it all back to grass. Then, we began building a Red Angus herd.”
That’s not quite how things really started. Fischer’s father was a plumber and electrician. “Vic Fischer was born in Melville and learned his trades in the military. He also found his wife there. Dad (Vic) met Mother (Clara) during the war at Chanute Field, Illinois. They came back to Montana and the family (eventually five children - Ron and four sisters) moved to Harlowton in 1955 when I was starting school. Dad thought Harlowton would be a good place to work as natural gas was brought into town at that time.”
“My father always loved history. Warren Elwood helped draw up the plan for the Upper Musselshell Museum to present to the County Commissioners after Dad bought the Times Block building. But then, Dad passed away in 1984. Mom and the family continued the project. I worked for nine months to put the building together for the museum.”
“Dad had built the Corral Motel in 1960 and we ran it until 3 years before my father’s death. We made the beds and cleaned pots while we growing up and going to school.”
Fischer graduated from Rocky Mountain College with a degree in business administration and political science in 1973. But, he had already bought his first property when just a senior at Harlowton High School. Ron’s grandfather owned the house which had been damaged by a small fire and remained empty for four years. Having helped his father in some construction while growing up, Fischer was intrigued with building and decided to take on the project. Then with his father’s help, he gutted and renovated the house. He finished the job during the summer after his first year in college.
He also owned four nearby lots and thought he would build a NEW house. Numerous people told him, “You can’t do it. It won’t sell.” But, Fischer plowed ahead. By the time the foundation was poured, the house was sold. Ron completed the construction in the summer following his second year at Rocky. The next summer, he repeated the process, although it took longer to sell that house.
While Fischer was building his first houses, he did business with Midland Lumber which was located north of the high school. “But, they were hard to work with.” So, he opened Central Lumber across from its present location in 1973. A friend from Rocky Mountain College ran the business for the first two years while Ron finished log homes south of Melville starting in February 1973. That was the beginning of Fischer Construction (later Fischer and Sons Construction).
By 1975, Ron hired Lola Russell to run the lumber company when his college friend left. She was running back and forth across Highway 12 for six years until Fischer put up the new and present building north of the road in 1978. Fischer recalls 1978 as a BUSY year. He became the first single president of the Kiwanis Club that year AND got married.
Esther says, “We had a whirlwind romance.” They met in 1974 and married in June 1978. A candlelight wedding was planned and candles ended up being needed after a tornado landed that day in Harlowton.
In 1983, “Art Sell came up from Big Timber and asked about buying Central Lumber. It was a tough time running two businesses and since ‘Anything’s for sale,’ we made a deal that was advantageous for both of us.”
“That was the same year we bought our ranch property southeast of town. We finalized the deal on Esther’s birthday. We had been living down the block from Central Lumber. Dr. Frank Michaels came to our Open House after we finished building the Bair Memorial Clinic. (Alberta Bair had financed the structure with a $100,000 gift). He really liked our house and asked if we would sell. We took a few days to come up with a price. He accepted. Within two weeks the house was sold and we started ‘moving’ to the country.”
The Fischers then had until April to vacate their house. They bought an 8X30 camp trailer, parked it in town, and the family of four lived in it until a cold October drove them into an apartment. They moved into their ranch house on Christmas Day, 1984.
That began a new chapter in Ron and Esther’s lives. “Esther had some cows to start our herd. We really loved Red Angus. We like their disposition. Early on, we bought five registered cows and slowly began to build a herd. We eventually sold our comercial cattle and, now for the 19th year, we have been only purebred breeders.” Their herd generally runs around 70-80 cows and three herd sires. We feed out the calves until they are yearlings. We usually have about 30 bulls and 30 females. We plan and work for our bulls to gain two to three pounds a day. And, we do.” They can be a lot more exact than that. Like 2.73 lbs/day.
“We used to sell our animals at the Midland Bull Test Sales in Big Timber. But, we decided we wanted better control our situation. So, we started our own Red Angus sale.”
This year’s Fischer Red Angus Sale occured Saturday, March 24, with 28 bulls and 13 heifers for sale. Customers are mostly from within a radius of 150 miles. Eighty percent of animals go for commercial use. They expect five bulls to go to registered herds, this year. Out-of-staters have a chance to view and buy through videos and telephone connections. During their annual Red Angus Sale, the Fischers have three telephones operating much of the time to take outside bids.
Sounds intense, but it’s still “A gentleman’s auction.” Ron does the auctioneering to make the event low key and low pressure and provide better communication. They have a base price set for each animal on the auction block and move up in $100 increments until the sale is done.
The Fischers also have had good luck over the past 14 years with the Red Angus Sale at NILE in Billings. They generally sell their calves in the top ten percent at the sale. Most animals go out of state. Ron has coordinated that sale for the last five years.
Both the Fischers have been deeply involved in the Montana Red Angus Association. Esther has been secretary for three years, vice president for one year, and president for two. She is presently a national director for the Red Angus Association of America. Ron was director of the Montana RAA for two years and is currently vice president. The Fischers have won numerous awards through their work with the Red Angus associations.
Kiwanis has been another important outlet for Ron Fischer’s adult energies since 1973. He has filled most of the local chairs and been elected as Lieutenant Governor and Governor for Montana Kiwanis. Fischer was part of the HHS Key Club many years ago when it was #1 in the entire nation. He was also Club President for Circle K at Rocky Mountain College.
Ron Fischer’s many interests and activities eventually turn back to construction and Red Angus ranching. Most of his life has been focused on construction projects, but Fischer has found something of a happy medium to make time for both.
Fischers and Sons Construction (Esther often calls the business Fischer and Wife now) has built 42 houses and 60 barns, garages and steel buildings over the past 35 years. Both sons worked in their father’s business. Dallas worked from 7th grade through college. He now works as a software engineer for Doebek Performance in Bozeman. Derek is more of a farm and mechanical type and put more time in on the family ranch. Derek now owns his own business, Pure Logic in Ogden, Utah, making “big boys’ toys go faster.” The Bair Clinic, Painter’s Ace Hardware and many other commercial structures have gone up in the area thanks to Fischer’s hammer. Ron has been “pounding nails for 43 years. But, we’re slowing down. I’m not retiring, though. I’m just being more selective.”
Also, thanks to Fischer’s hammer, he has been able to spend a large part of his life as a rancher.
“My dad always wanted to have a ranch. And, I was always an animal lover. We raised bum sheep when I was a kid.
“Then, Esther’s love is being out here with the animals. She got me out here. The odds of my being out here without my wife are nil. When we had our 25th Class Reunion and held a party on the ranch, my classmates said they never would have guessed that I would become a rancher.”
“But, my two occupations (construction and ranching) complement each other.” And, Ron and Esther complement each other as well.
Esther says, “That’s how he ends up chasing cows and I sometimes pound nails.”