Christmas Time in Cowboyland

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The top-earning team of the run was brothers Riley and Brady Minor, who in addition to winning the Cody (Wyo.) Stampede average title by roping two steers in 11.2 seconds, placed in Ponoka, Alberta, St. Paul, and Molalla, Ore. In fact, the brothers only went to two rodeos during the Fourth of July where the didn’t place: Airdrie, Alberta and Red Lodge, Mont.

In sum, they won $15,916—nearly doubling their total up to that point.

"It’s a confidence booster going into the rest of July," Riley, the header and younger brother said. "There’s still lots of big rodeos ahead, it was a good little start. I was behind and now I’m just kind of in the middle of it. Now I can just level out and keep winning, we won’t have to kill them."

Their weekend could have been even bigger. They were high call back at the Ponoka Stampede, but Brady missed.

Often, rodeo fans forget that some of the highest-paying summer rodeos in Canada occur over the Fourth of July. In fact, the Minors won $4,500 the weekend prior to the Fourth of July north of the border. Then, they went to six rodeos during the Cowboy Christmas run with only four of them in the United States. What makes their Canadian winnings more impressive is Brady didn’t have the right health papers on his signature horse, Dugout, to take him across the border so he rode a new mare for the Canadian rodeos. Riley rode Speed Williams’s old horse, Dollar, at all six they attended.

The big win, however, came in Cody and since it was a gold-level rodeo on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour, in a way the money counted double.

"Cody is where we did so well at, we won like $9,400 over there," Riley said.

"I was just so tickled in Cody because it was Tour money," Brady added. "It felt like $20,000. That sure helped out a lot. We just drew decent, made two good runs and luckily it all worked out."

The win moved the brothers to 15th in the world standings.

"It was a real slow winter," Brady said. "We just kind of plugged along, had a slow spring and didn’t win much. I came home for May and June and got behind. It was time to catch up and luckily we had a good Fourth."

Over the last decade, Brazile has been among the top 10 earners during Cowboy Christmas six times and only finished first once before, in 2006. He earned checks in six of the nine rodeos he entered over the Fourth to finish with $24,253, edging three-time and reigning World Champion Bareback Rider Bobby Mote by $2,162.

Brazile has averaged $24,085 over the last three Independence Day runs. His winning total was just $63 more than he had last year and just $641 off his career best in 2006.

But the Minors and Brazile weren’t the only cowboys cashing in over Cowboy Christmas, forty-eight contestants earned more than $10,000 for the week.

The tie-down roping Cooper brothers won the Cowboy Christmas edition of Family Feud, out-earning the team roping Tryans and the saddle bronc riding Wrights. Tuf, Clif and Clint Cooper combined for $43,918, with all three sons of ProRodeo Hall of Fame roper Roy Cooper banking more than $12,000 each. Brady, Clay and Travis Tryan earned $21,056, while Alex, Cody, Jake, Jesse and Spencer Wright totaled $15,209.