The Hometowner

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

photo by Matt Cohen / Cowboy Journal

Year after year, me and Brady never had any luck at the Ellensburg Rodeo.

by Riley Minor


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It was Labor Day weekend, and me and Brady, my brother and team-roping partner, were back home in Ellensburg, Washington, for the Ellensburg Rodeo. As much as I’d wanted to win my hometown rodeo, I never had any luck. Neither of us had, in all the years we’d been roping there.

They say there’s something about your hometown rodeo. It’s hard to win at it. But then last year, I finally won maybe fourth or fifth in the average. That got the monkey off my back.

Ellensburg is a three-head average. My goal at a three-head rodeo is to try to make the short round. Just try to place in the two go-rounds. I’m not one of those guys who tries to sling it across there and win first. I try to be solid and keep my horse working. I rope for a living, and at the end of the day consistency usually wins.

This year, there were sixty or so teams roping. In the first round, we were the ninth team out. We drew a pretty good steer. I got a good start, and we made a nice run. We were 5.2. For a minute or two, we were winning the round. But then you sit there and watch those slacks with all the teams. Normally a 5.2 might win first or second in the first round, but we ended up splitting seventh and eighth. The competition this year at Ellensburg seemed tougher than ever. Maybe the cattle were better. I don’t know.

We hung out all weekend seeing friends and family. It was kind of nice. We were up again on Sunday afternoon and drew another good steer. I planned to execute and make the run and see where it put us for the short round. We ended up 5.3 in the second round. Again, we split seventh and eight. So going into the short round, I had placed twice but only won about a thousand bucks. We came back third callback.

Justin McKee is the announcer at Ellensburg. I love Justin. He’s a great announcer. He explained to the crowd that me and Brady are brothers and we’ve been roping together for at least ten years and Ellensburg was our hometown rodeo. Some of those people are from Seattle, so they don’t know who’s up or what’s at stake. Justin just wants to make it exciting for everybody. By the time we rode into the box, he had the crowd pretty pumped up.

“The Minor brothers have to be better than 5.6 to take the lead,” Justin announced.

Another smooth run. We were 5.4 and had the lead, but only by two-tenths. There were two teams to go. I didn’t want to celebrate, because they were both tough teams. I didn’t want to wish them any bad luck, either, but if they would sure go a little slower than us, it would be neat to win the hometowner.

Ellensburg’s a big arena. I got my rope off and was headed down the arena when Dustin Egusquiza and Kory Koontz rode into the box. Dustin is the fastest header in rodeo, so if he caught, I knew there was no way we were winning that rodeo.

He missed.

Me and Brady were in the arena off to the side, waiting, when the last team, two-time world champion header Matt Sherwood and Blaine Vick, rode into the box.

Matt nodded, the gate opened, the steer ran and Matt missed.

The crowd went wild! During the victory lap, they gave us a standing ovation. That was one of the coolest laps I’ve ever taken.

I’ve been roping in the Ellensburg arena since I was a kid doing county exhibitions. I’ve entered the rodeo twelve times as a professional. Our parents have seats right above the roping boxes. The whole town knows us.

Two years ago, I won The American, the biggest, richest one-day rodeo in the world. I won a check for a hundred grand and got a victory lap in a Polaris Ranger. That was cool. And at the National Finals Rodeo, you take your victory lap in front of seventeen-thousand cheering fans. But when it’s your hometown, and they all know you, it doesn’t get any better than that. That was the coolest win of my career.

I didn’t get to celebrate long that day. After the team roping, I was entered in the wild-cow milking. I got drug around the arena until the whistle blew. We may have gotten a few drops of milk, but we didn’t win, and it wore me out. I might be getting too old for the wild-cow milking. But I’ll be back for the team roping, and I’ll be wearing my Ellensburg buckle.

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