Fern Sawyer

“She died in the saddle, surrounded by friends.” said Peter Holt, as quoted in the October 21, 1993 issue of the Lincoln County News, Carrizozo, New Mexico. Most recently Ms. Sawyer had resided in Nogal, Lincoln County, New Mexico.

Fern Sawyer was born at Buchanan, De Baca County, New Mexico, on May 17, 1917 to Uyless Devoe Sawyer and Dessie Lewis Sawyer and was raised on the family ranch at Crossroads, near Tatum, New Mexico. She passed away at the age of 76 on October 16, 1993 near Blanco, Blanco County, Texas while visiting friends. Earlier in the day, Ms. Sawyer had been riding with friends and herding heifer cattle when she told another rider she was feeling tired, and shortly thereafter, she passed away.

A funeral service was held the following Tuesday at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Roswell, officiated by Rev. Robert L. Williams. The service was attended by her many friends, including Governor and Mrs. Bruce King. According to a newspaper report in the Roswell Daily Record, the eulogy was given by Mr. Holt and the service included the singing of “Amazing Grace.” After the service, she was interred at Tatum Cemetery, Tatum, Lea County, New Mexico where her mother and father are also buried.

At an early age, Fern had exhibited her talents in the area of horsemanship and became well known for her abilities. She was encouraged by her parents to work on the ranch and inspired by them to perform as well as any of the men. She began a rodeo career by competing in events previously confined to male contestants. Her many accomplishments include winning the cutting horse championship at the 1945 Southwestern Exhibition and Fat Stock Show in Fort Worth, Texas. She won the Cutting Horse competition aboard her horse “Belen.” In the competition, she eliminated Grady Blue on “Tom Cat” and R. W. McClure on “Smokey” who were second and third place finishers. She is shown below looking up at Belen.

Image credit: University of Texas at Arlington, Digital Collection, Special Collections Identifier: AR406-6-27

Fern’s honors include being inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and the National Cutting Horse Hall of Fame. She won the All-Around World Champion Cowgirl title in 1938 and the Cutting Horse World Champion title in 1947.

4 thoughts on “Fern Sawyer

  1. My mother and Fern Sawyer were good friends in the early 1950’s. Their commonality was horses, and they both were superb horsewomen. As in her picture, Ms. Sawyer always wore white western suits. I thought she was the most beautiful woman (besides my mother) in the whole world. The last time I saw Ms. Sawyer was years ago when she, as an honored guest, led the racehorses to the gate before the race at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico. I understand that my mother’s picture was at the Lea County Museum. In a parade in the early 1950’s, Lois Trimble was always first with the Lea County Sheriff’s Posse.

    Another note, I understood from my father, Charlie Trimble, that his parents, Willie and Elizabeth Trimble, were one of the early homesteaders at Maljamar, New Mexico, ,and their neighbors were the Taylors.

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  2. I was a contestant in the Miss Rodeo Texas Teen contest in the mid 70s when the contest used to be held in Stephenville, Texas. Fern Sawyer was one of the horsemanship judges. I will never forget her. I won horsemanship at Miss Rodeo Texas Teen when Fern was a judge. I almost fell off my horse when i saw her with a big wad of tobacco in her check and she spit right in front of me. I knew then that she had to be someone very special and one of a kind. She made a lasting impression upon me. On the final night of the contest when the announcer was announcing who won, something traumatic occurred which involved another contestant not being where she was supposed to be and our horses collided. The contestant on the horse that ran into me should not have been on the horse she was on and she had leased the horse for the contest. It was way too much horse for her inexperience. After the horses collided, we were outside of the arena making sure the horses and riders were allright. Fern Sawyer was there. The other rider’s parents were screaming and yelling at me, accusing me of causing the horses running into each other and they threatened to sue me. Fern gave them a piece of her mind. She told them to shut up and told them their daughter could not ride and should not have been riding the horse. My horse was fine. The leased horse limped around a minute or two and then Fern reached down and pulled hard on the horse’s leg and the horse was fine. The announcer announced me winning horsemanship and best speech out of all of the contestants, teen and older and I was very upset and Fern told me to get my ass on my horse and go get what I came for. I did what Fern said. By the way… my Father is an attorney so when i was being told that I was going to be sued, i did not get upset about that. Now I am an attorney. I only met Fern that one time when she judged horsemanship and I never saw her again, but she will forever be remembered by me. If Fern had relatives that read this, please drop me an email. Long live the legacy of Fern Sawyer.

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