Royce Fort is the son of the previously honored Foy Proctor Cowman Award of Honor recipient – Byron Fort, now deceased– who received the award in 2008. Royce is the fourth generation of his family to ranch in Lea County, New Mexico just a few miles inside the state line. Both sets of his grandparents homesteaded there in the 1880’s, with both his father and mother being born on those homesteads.
His mother and father met at Prairieview School, a country school northeast of Lovington. Royce was born in August of 1941. He grew up on the Dickinson Cattle Co. Ranch near Tatum, NM where his father was the foreman. His early school years were completed in Tatum, after graduation, he went off to college. Royce said that his fondest memories come from growing up around the Old Timers of the New Mexico ranges.
The rural settings of a small town school, and the family values that his two brothers, Curtis and Jerry and his sister Laquita were raised with have provided him with a foundation to raise his own family in the “right” way. He said “we were taught to work, take responsibility for our actions, and to entertain ourselves. We developed great imaginations, visited neighbors in a setting where people took care of each other and did not live behind locked gates and doors. It was just a great time to grow up in.” “I really have no bad memories of growing up. I had such a great childhood that I wasn’t prepared for the real world.
In 1960 he met Sally Jean Baxter in the summer whom he married in Tatum, New Mexico in the summer of 1961. They celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary this past August. They have three children. Mark and wife Tammy live in San Antonio. Leslie and husband Monte live in Lubbock. Jeannie and husband Jimmy are in the field as missionaries with Young Life in Costa Rica. Royce and Sally have 7 grandchildren ages 9-17.
In 1968 Royce was tagged by Midland oilman and rancher L.R. “Bobby” French as his “wagon boss”, office manager, ranch manager, and oil and gas accountant. While working for Mr. French, Royce was in charge of day to day operations of the numerous ranches under the French family brands. They are cow/calf operations with summer grazing of yearlings, wheat pasture cattle and fed cattle in commercial feedlots. Royce says that those operations afforded him many great experiences. He worked for Mr. French until his death in 2013 and continues to work for the family today and is planning on his retirement to his own ranch this year.
In the 1980’s Royce was able to personally acquire some lands that were his great grandfather’s homestead that was sold in the 1920’s. Royce has also been able over the years to acquire additional ranch lands in Lea County, NM that he operates as a cow/calf outfit. He brands a 4_T. Son Mark partners with Royce on some cattle. Royce and Sally have a home in Midland and in Lovington, where they spend as much time as they can. Royce and Sally, both dedicated Christians, have been tireless workers through the years in their Midland church, Bellview Baptist Church.
In reflecting on his ranch work, he remembers his favorite horse, Streak, and how when he got big enough to handle him that his dad would let him start riding him, he thought he had made the “big time”. Now days, especially when horseback by himself, he tends to choose his granddaughter’s horse. More bomb-proof. His greatest pleasures over the years have been watching his children grow up, memories of people he has been fortunate to associate with, and to see people who were willing to work hard, better themselves, and make a good life for their family. Looking back, Royce said “If you apply yourself, work hard, have patience, and maintain the Christian values we were taught, things will work out OK. Technology changes, right and wrong stays the same.” His hope for his grandchildren is that they can grow up, raise their families and pursue their dreams in a free country with the opportunities that he experienced.