On The Trail with Tyson Durfey
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Tyson Durfey is making his tenth appearance at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, defending his world champion title from last year in the tie down roping. Tyson grew up in Savannah, Missouri, training horses and ranching with his dad, Roy, and older brothers, Travis and Wes. “It was a miniature boot camp for guys. It was always me, my brothers, dad and at least one or two people there roping with us.,” said the 34 year old, who makes his home in Weatherford Texas with his wife, Shea Fisher, and 14 month old daughter Praise Royal. “We lived in a single wide trailer house – 10 feet wide by 75 feet long, with 75 spare tires holding the tin on the roof.” He remembers waking up to ice in his water glass. “Keeping the fire going was a huge part of life. Dad would wake us up and we would feed, then eat breakfast, then doctor cattle – ropers and feeders. We always said yes ma’am and no ma’am, but it was a bachelor pad. We’d rope from 9am until midnight every day, riding about 25 head of horses. Most Sundays were jackpot days at the Durfey Ranch and everyone would come by – we were the calf roping hub of the Midwest.”
Tyson’s parents divorced when he was 2 and he spent the first five years with his mom. “I was pretty rotten – I would skip school. By the time fourth grade rolled around, I was hanging around with rough kids, riding skate boards. It wasn’t looking so good for me in school, and my dad told mom that we needed to come with him and he would straighten us out. My dad ruled with an iron fist – what he said was the way it was.” Tyson was in every learning disability class, and was getting Ds and Fs. His dad told him he was going to get straight As, and was expected to work as well. “I didn’t believe him, and one night I’d fallen asleep studying, and he gave me a whooping and it put the fire in me. I graduated with honors and it was because I had the motivation to apply myself.” Roy roped in the PRCA and passed that to his boys. At nine, Tyson competed at his first rodeo. “I wasn’t a stand out, but by the time I was 12, I would match people roping for money. I would sell horn knots, and sell pop cans.”
That also gave Tyson a taste of money. “We grew up poor; we would light the hot water heater once a week and all share the same bath water,” he explained. “I wanted the fancy truck and Capri camper.” By the time he was 16, he was making $30,000 a year shoeing horses plus what he was winning. “Dad gave me the resources; cattle, horses, and ability, but never gave me a dime. I kept track of it all through FFA in a notebook.” His life was pretty routine – he’d get up around 4:30, flank and tie calves, go to school, get out and go shoe horses, then go home and rope.
Tyson competed in Missouri High School rodeo, winning state his junior and senior year. “There was no prom or sports or extracurricular activities.” He went to Missouri Valley College in 2003 on a full ride rodeo scholarship. “I stayed in college for two months. I’ve always had a sense of urgency to be the best I can be, and I didn’t like the college atmosphere, so I left and cracked out rodeoing.” At nineteen years old, Tyson hit the rodeo trail, living in the back of his truck, and crisscrossing the country. “That first year was tough for me. My very first pro rodeo was Indianapolis, Indiana. I drove 14 hours to get there and the barrier rope wrapped around the stirrup, ripping it off and I fell off my horse.” He remembers the crowd laughing at him. He drove 45 hours to get to the next rodeo in Portland, Oregon, and broke the barrier. He won second in Spokane, and then drove straight through to Brent Lewis’s house in Arizona where he stayed for a few months working for him and learning from him. “From there it was history, I was off.” His achievements include three Canadian World Championships (the first ever non-Canadian resident to achieve this feat), winning “The American” in 2014, Winning Houston Rodeo in 2015, qualifying ten times for the WNFR, and 2016 world champion with well over one million dollars in PRCA earnings.
His dad played another major role in Tyson’s career. “In 2007, before the Reno rodeo, I had a family friend call wanting to sponsor me,” he said. “It was my first sponsorship, and that $10,000 helped propel me to win Reno and another $25,000 over the week. I found out later that my dad had given this guy the $10,000 because he knew I wouldn’t take it from him.”
Tyson met his wife, Australian country music singer, Shea Fisher, at Rodeo Houston in 2010. “I saw her in the hospitality room. For me, I knew I was going to marry her right then, but she didn’t know for a few years. I had gone to a movie after the rodeo, and I saw her in the horse area after the rodeo. I walked up and visited with her again. We sent Facebook messages back and forth for six months. She kindly rejected my request for her phone number nor would she agree to go to dinner with me. I was persistent – she never told me to get lost. I finally got her phone number and we visited for another 9 months on the phone before she went out on a date with me.” He flew to Nashville with roses in a shoe box in his suitcase to spend one day with her. “She told me if we are going to be official, you have to ask my parents. That couldn’t happen for four more months, when I met her parents at the WNFR.” They dated for one year, were engaged for 10 month and were married October 6, 2013 at Vista West Ranch, in Dripping Springs, Texas.
The couple have launched several businesses together including Shea Michelle Buckle Designs which was launched by Shea in 2010. Designs by Shea and Designs by Durfey were launched in 2015. Shea’s dad had started a buckle company in Australia and Shea brought that knowledge to the company.
Shea Baby is the latest launch. “It’s a baby boot line that we designed,” explained Tyson. “We had planned it out a couple years from having kids. My wife is very talented with design and how things come together. I had seen a pair at a store in Brazil, and knew we could make them really cute and neat. As fate would happen, we put a lot of time into it, but we stumbled onto really good manufacturers and sourced a really good leather, so they are all natural.” Praise Royal is a great model for the company.
Tyson has also designed and launched his own line of boots TD Performance through Corral Boots that are available now at Boot Barn. “I like to credit myself as a pretty smart guy because I named all the businesses after my wife! The businesses fit my wife’s personality she is the workforce behind getting things done.”
They travel as a family to all the rodeos. Shea has started entering as well, pocketing just over $20,000 this past year. “Now that I have a family, rodeo is not my main priority anymore,” he said. “At the end of the day I compete because I love to and I love the fans.” They travel in a pickup and Cimarron trailer. Most of the summer, they were traveling with Shea’s parents, who helped with Praise. “I get tired of the road sometimes, but when I get to come back to the trailer and see Praise smiling at me, it makes it all worthwhile.”
The family has recently purchased some land in Texas, and Tyson is excited to get back into hunting, something he used to do a lot. “My family has a pheasant and deer hunting property in South Dakota, and deer season opens next week in Texas. I’m looking forward to setting up some feeders on that property in Texas and disappearing after the WNFR for a few weeks.”
Tyson has his sights on one more world title. He is preparing for the NFR by training a lot, working out, spending time in the Bible. “We all go out there expecting to win. The way I train and prepare is to prepare for everything. It’s easy to win when you’re on a hot streak, but after you’ve been cold, it is hard. I’ll envision my emotions and body language if the calf kicks and how do I prepare for the next round. A lot of people will think they have to push … I like to go back to the basics and not push. If you have a bad day and push harder, then you could have a worse day.” He falls asleep listening to audio Bible readings. “It just downloads information in my mind and allows me to handle situations in my flesh. My overall favorite book is Proverbs – there is so much wisdom in there, second is James – I’m Irish, pale skin and have a temper. I’ve known that for a long time, and I have been able to train myself how to act.” James 1:19 is one of his favorite verses. My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
“I want to be a motivator for people – I want them to look at me and say that if you can do it, I can do it too. I’ve read or listened to a couple hundred self-help books – Tony Robbins is my all-time favorite, I’m obsessed with processes that can make people better human beings and understanding why people do certain things. “A wise man learns from other people’s mistakes and avoids his own.” Tyson continues to help people wherever he can. “I will always share what I learn and continue to learn about how to become the best reflection of myself. The greatest failure of all is to reach the pinnacle of your career and still be unhappy. I can use my title to motivate and help other people. We are put here to inspire, encourage, and help others.”