T.C. Hammack is a rookie. Jason Duby has been a bridesmaid twice at the RAM Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo.
Riley and Brady Minor have more than a decade of NFR qualifications under their belts, as well as a handful of championships within the circuit that encompasses Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho.
Both teams will represent the Columbia River Circuit at the 2023 NFR Open after finishing their circuit finals rodeo held Oct. 20–22, 2022, in Redmond, Oregon, as the average and year-end champs, respectively.
When Preparation Meets Opportunity: T.C. Hammack and Jason Duby
T.C. Hammack and Jason Duby were ready when opportunity presented itself to them by virtue of getting the chance to rope in Redmond this year.
Hammack finished the regular season ranked 16th while Duby was 13th. However, several ropers ahead of them failed to compete at the minimum required number of rodeos and were, therefor, ineligible to rope at the circuit finals. The oversight opened the door for Hammack and Duby, who only roped together at one rodeo in 2022 prior to Redmond.
“We entered Sisters and Eagle but my truck broke down on the way to Eagle, so we didn’t make it,” said Duby, 32.
Staying closer to home while training horses, he roped with Spencer Mitchell, Hayes Smith and Jack Graham around the circuit.
Hammack roped with Cody Stewart early and Ryan Powell to finish the year.
“I didn’t even make it,” Hammack, 20, said of the circuit finals.
“It was pretty up and down,” he added of his first season in ProRodeo. “It started out pretty good but then got slow. I didn’t get to rodeo as hard as I wanted to because I ran out of funds.”
The issue of lacking funds was addressed well during the three rounds at the Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo. After placing in every round and winning the average, the team earned $5,900 apiece.
“We didn’t really talk about it a lot,” Hammack said of the strategy at the outset. “It was my first time there and Jason said it was usually pretty easy in the average. We thought we’d go knock the first one down and play it by ear from there.”
“T.C. came over and we practiced a little bit,” noted Duby, who makes his home in Klamath Falls, Oregon, just 28 miles north of Hammack in Chiloquin. “I told him, my experience has been that if you’re 5.5 to 6-flat every time, you’ll have a chance to place in every round and win the average.”
As the second team to rope on opening night, the pair executed perfectly, stopping the clock in 6.6 seconds to win second.
Though a bit longer in round two with a 7.1, they went into the final round as the high call team with only three teams down on two. From the second call, Bryan Reay and Brent Falon roped theirs in 6.6 seconds to add a little pressure.
“We had to go a little faster on the third,” Hammack noted.
“I think we had to be 7.1 or something,” Duby agreed. “He got it on him fast and I took my first shot.”
Their 5.9-second effort won third in the go and clinched the average at 19.6 seconds.
“It worked out great,” Duby said.
It was Duby’s first average title after coming close two times previously. Both ropers will make their first appearance at Colorado’s NFR Open come July.
“I’m really excited,” Duby said. “That rodeo paid really good last year and it’s an awesome opportunity to go there in the middle of summer.”
“That’s a cool rodeo,” Hammack said, noting his ultimate goal is the NFR—and coaxing Duby out on the road. “I hope to keep roping with Jason. He’s rodeoed a lot. It’s good to rope with a guy like that, that has the experience and knows what to do.”
Duby admits that, since the winnings are already banked toward the 2023 world standings, he’s considering the opportunities presented.
“We’re talking a little bit about that,” he said wryly.
He’ll consider while on a weeklong vacation to Jamaica with wife Sammy Jo and kids—Jayd, 5, and Wade, 18 months.
“We’ve had it booked for three years but with COVID and everything, it kept getting cancelled.”
When he returns, he’ll be back in the arena training horses.
Meanwhile, Hammack is happy to round out his rookie season (he finished sixth for the Rookie of the Year) on a high note.
“It was a good way to end the year.”
Adding to the Resume: Riley and Brady Minor
Perhaps no team is more synonymous with the Columbia River Circuit than Ellensburg, Washington’s Minor brothers. Header Riley owns five year-end championships, all earned with big brother Brady behind him. Brady has one more, earned in 2017, plus a Ram National Circuit Finals victory in 2012 roping with Spencer Mitchell. (Riley was out with a broken leg.)
Brady also holds the record for consecutive year-end titles in the Northwest—he won four from 2016 to 2019.
The brothers added one more title each at the conclusion of the 2022 Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” said Riley, 34, laughing when asked how many that makes. “We were hoping for a better circuit finals but, after the guys behind us missed in the first round, we figured we probably had it wrapped up.”
The Minors entered the finals with a slim lead over Brayden Schmidt and Andy Carlson. They placed fourth in the first go while Schmidt and Carlson failed to stop the clock.
Unfortunately, the brothers had a pair of no times to finish their finals but managed to hold the lead after earning $24,178 in 2022.
“Everybody did not rope good, including us,” said Brady, 37, jokingly. “And Riley and I had been practicing; we roped all fall—we had no excuse.”
Despite the rough weekend, the Minors are headed to their 11th Wrangler NFR as a team. (Brady has also roped in Vegas on two other occasions with different partners.)
“People always ask how we can stay together so long” Brady said. “I guess it’s because we continue to win enough that we don’t have a good enough excuse to split up or quit.”
They’ll enter the Wrangler NFR ranked 12th and 13th with $89,022 won.
“This season was looking good early on but you’re never safe until it’s over,” Riley noted. “We didn’t have that much luck down the stretch.”
For the Minors, the stretch run in August and September is in their backyard at some of their best circuit rodeos.
“We didn’t dominate anywhere [in the circuit] but we did good at a bunch of the little ones,” Brady agreed. “We would get $1,000 here and there.”
While ropers in other circuits struggled under new ProRodeo rules that forced them to use official rodeos against their 75 limit to meet minimum circuit requirements (as opposed to former rules that allowed them to save official rodeos by fulfilling circuit requirements with unofficial rodeos), Columbia River cowboys tend to official most of their rodeos anyway.
“We have 15 really good rodeos, and we usually count probably 20 circuit rodeos towards our world standings anyway,” Brady said.
The change did prompt a bunch of ropers from other circuits to switch to the Columbia River, given that they are rodeoing in the Northwest at the end of the season anyway.
“We had a bunch of Texas guys claim our circuit this year,” Riley pointed out.
World standings leader Kaleb Driggers was one of those guys, and actually won more than any other header in the circuit but failed to make his rodeo count, rendering him ineligible for the circuit finals or year-end titles.
“We’re pretty fortunate with such a good circuit,” Riley continued. “It’s one of the very best; you can win so much in the circuit. Driggers won $40,000 just in the circuit.”
The Minors are looking forward to another shot at the NFR Open, as well.
“It’s a huge chance and especially now that it’s later in the year,” Riley said. “Somebody is going to pull 20-grand out of that deal and it would sure be a huge difference maker in your season at that point in the year.”
“We’ve been several times and haven’t really dinged them like everybody plans to when they go,” Brady said. “We went to Kissimmee several times and, since it’s been more centrally located, we hadn’t been back. So it was a big goal for us to get there. There’s not too many opportunities to win $25- or $30,000, especially only roping against 25 teams.”
“We’re excited to go and we’re definitely looking forward to July,” he concluded.