If tin walls could talk
It’s not just a barn. Not to Lisa Fulton anyway.
The indoor arena at Fulton Ranch and Fulton Family Performance Horses burned down over the weekend after speculated power surges caused the barn to go up in flames. The barn held a lot of memories for a lot of people. The barn, which housed a bunkhouse that Brian and Lisa added on to after moving in, was built in 1969 by Wayne and Phyllis Cornish, and was standing strong when the Fulton’s purchased the place. They have replaced many buildings over the years, but there was never a plan to replace that old roping barn, until now.
“I can’t even imagine all the people who have traveled through that barn and that bunkhouse during the Cornish’s time and again in Brian’s,” Lisa said. The men that were friends of both Wayne and Brian that know this barn well are numerous, but to name a few, Don Fish, Keith Lockhart, Buck Buckles, Keith Whipple, Butch Tinant, Don Paulson and many more.
“There were many young men that lived with us in the early years. I know it’s just a building. We’ll rebuild. But it’s more than just a building. I have had phone calls and comments from people of all ages telling me their memories from the barn and then you add all our memories and the fact that my boys all learned to ride in this barn,” Lisa said. “For me, it is kind of hard. The memories will always be with us, but the visual is gone.”
This isn’t the first instance that the Fulton family has had to deal with memories going up in smoke. Brian’s family indoor arena, built in 1976, also burned down in 2016.
“I remember when that one burnt, Brian had said, ‘Oh my gosh, Grady Lockhart and I probably lost a million dollars in that barn.’ All the match ropings they had with fake money,” Lisa said, laughing.
While no animals were at risk and all of Brian’s tack and awards were safely in the new foaling barn where a memorial room had been built, Lisa still watched the barn burn, knowing there was nothing she could do to stop it. Last week’s snow storm had left 15 inches of snow, and the road into the ranch had not been plowed open yet. The Mission and Rosebud Fire departments were slowed down at coming to their aid, but their neighbor Mike Vavra was able to make a trail with his tractor for the fire trucks through the pasture about three hours after he got the call.
“When the barn blew, it was like the fourth of July. There were cinders everywhere,” Lisa said. “I was alone at the beginning, but the people that live and work with us quickly arrived.”
Lisa recalled favorite memories from the barn and around the ranch, something, she said, that happens to her as if she’s watching the video in her head. She remembers Brian bull dogging one last time in the barn after he had been diagnosed with his first brain tumor.
“He had a love for bulldogging. He was on a doggin’ horse tuning him up, and he backed into the box. Levi Wisness was in the hazing box and just thought Brian was just making the horse learn some patience in the box. He used to do that all the time, but then he called for the steer,” she said. “Levi was late, of course, and Brian dogged his last steer.”
Lisa can also picture when Jake was little, and Brian put him up on their 20-year-old bulldogging horse to cool him out. While Brian was briefly helping someone else, Jake had slipped the old veteran into the box, with steers still loaded. One of the steers rattled the chute, and that horse took off as he had done hundreds of times before. “That ol’ horse must have sensed there was a little kid on his back and just slowed right down,” Lisa said. “Those horses, they know when there’s a little one up there.”
The bulldogging wrecks are among the most memorable events in that old barn, Lisa said.
While the Fulton family has dealt with trial and tragedy before, from the loss of Brian and the passing of their nephew Dylan Fulton just last year, and now the barn burning, Lisa is forever grateful for the memories and the time her three sons had with Brian here at this ranch and in that barn. Her youngest, John Lloyd, was only five and a half months old when Brian was first diagnosed, and he was afforded eight and a half more years with his dad. Brian was diagnosed with his second brain tumor in 2009, which took the use of the left side of his body and the third in April of 2015.
“It was the people who lived in that bunkhouse and worked with us that helped us pull through all those years,” Lisa said. “We were 170 miles from Brian’s family and 100 from mine. We had a lot of friends and a great community, but we needed those people living right here in the bunkhouse to make it all work.”
“We’re a strong family; we’ve come through a lot and we are getting used to evolving,” she said.
It’s a year of change for the Fultons, with their horse sale moving to Rapid City, South Dakota, Aug. 9 instead of Valentine, Nebraska, as it had been in the past, but Lisa could do without some changes.
“I kind of like the old stuff,” she said, “but the reality is that things change, and we do go forward.”
Lisa will keep some of the old tin and wood that survived the fire to implement into the new barn.