Don Fullerton was born in Stuart, Nebraska on June 5, 1936. He grew up on a cattle ranch in Amelia, Nebraska, and rode a Shetland pony to school in his elementary school years. Don then owned a Quarter Horse and his sister took over riding the Shetland. He used the Shetland pony to pull his hay wagon he built from scratch. The pony was Don’s main source of transportation to the local fishing hole, which was about a ¼ mile from the family ranch. One afternoon, the pony was tied to a fence post and rubbed his bridle right off, and he just took off, leaving Don stranded at the fishing hole with his worms and cane pole, and no transportation to get home.
Beginning in the 7th grade, Don drove a Model A Ford with his brother and sister until the 10th grade. He also learned to drive an old Farmall tractor with direct gear steering. Luckily, Don didn’t break his wrist driving the tractor. He had to hold on tight – just in case he hit a frozen cow turd – the steering wheel could spin right out of his hand!
Don’s first job was a water boy in a “Blue Grass” yard, serving water where the bigger kids were turning the grass seeds. He was paid handsomely at 10 cents an hour. Graduating from High School at age 16, Don continued on to summer school at Wayne State Teachers College where he taught in rural schools for 3 years. In 956 Don moved to his Aunt and Uncle’s home in Lancaster, CA where he worked in the aircraft industry for a couple of years. In 1958 Don re-enrolled in college and graduated three years later with a B.S. in Engineering. Following his graduation Don spent the next 4 years in engineering and sales engineering.
Don married Carolyn in 1960 and had three wonderful children, Dale, Randy and Shari. In 1964, Don started working for State Farm Insurance until he retired in 1992. The family moved to Tustin, CA in 1971 where Don again became involved with horses. This time Don had to learn to ride with a saddle, because when he was in grade school, he rode bare back and couldn’t afford a saddle.
In 1973 the family moved to Corona, CA where Don became more involved in cattle and then switched to Quarter Horses. In 1982, Don attended his first World Team Penning in Hemet, CA, and a year later brother-in-law, Gene Skalo and Don started Team Penning practices at Riverside Ranchero Roping Club. They held practices every Tuesday and Thursday evening for many years. Don entered his first World Team Penning in 1983. From then on, he traveled all over California attending Team Pennings at least 1-2 times per month.
In 1985 Don went to the Cow Palace and won 3rd Place. In 1988 he won a World Penning in Las Vegas, and then in 1991 won the World Year-In Team Penning competition, which was held in Rancho Mission Viejo, CA. Don competed in the Pennings at the Lazy E. Guthrie, OK that were usually won by the Tellhams, David Hall, Donnie Winn, Shelly Fitzgerald, Johnnie Joseph, Larry Pencost, Jodi Hill, Bobby Atwood, and many other great Team Penners. Don won the Celebrity Challenge in 1993 at the Lazy E., and competed at Calgary, Canada in the early 90’s where he won 3rd place overall.
Don became the President of the World Championship Team Penning Association and was the United States Team Penning Western Regional Director for several years. In 1995, he won the Fort Worth Stock Show, and attended the Johnny Joseph Team Penning in Louisiana. Unfortunately, due to “adult beverages” and great food, Don failed to win anything significant at the Johnny Joseph event. Don now lives on his Apple Valley, California ranch and does his best to stay out of trouble. His last significant event was winning the 2015 San Bernardino County Team Sorting with 97 teams competing. Don still enjoys the cattle business, which is just enough to keep him out of the “pool hall”. Don stated “It has been a great ride, and the most important are the great friendships I have made over the years. Getting installed into the Hall of Fame makes it all just perfect. I am a very lucky guy”.