ELLENSBURG - Ellensburg Rodeo historian John Ludtka noted in a recent interview, "There is little that the Minor family hasn't done for the Ellensburg Rodeo. From its early beginnings to the present day, the Minors' dependability and talent have been ever-present in Ellensburg Rodeo history."
Ludtka also notes that the modest cowboy ways and demeanor of Buck, Peg and B.J. Minor have in the past kept them out of the limelight of Ellensburg Rodeo notoriety and fame.
But now the Minor family is in the spotlight.
The Floyd P. and Jean Hentz Minor family will be inducted into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame on Thursday in ceremonies at the Central Washington University Student Union-Recreation Center ballroom.
Alongside the Minors, Allen Bach, Katherine Anderson Bach, and DeVere Helfrich will also be inducted into Hall of Fame. In addition, John and Gwen Jordan will be spotlighted as Hall of Fame "Honorees."
A rodeo dynasty
Floyd P. and Jean Hentz Minor, their three children Floyd A. ("Buck"), Peggy Ellen ("Peg"), and Bette Jean ("B.J") Minor, and all of their descendants, form a seven-decade Kittitas Valley rodeo dynasty.
The Minor family has produced literally dozens of tie-down, team-roping, wild-cow milking, breakaway roping and bronc riding champions, trick ropers and riders, rodeo royalty, fair and rodeo board members and country musicians to insure the growth and vitality of the Ellensburg Rodeo.
Floyd P. and Jean Minor were Montana ranchers who moved to the Kittitas Valley in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression.
In the "History of Kittitas County," Jean recalled, "We loaded whatever we could haul into a two-wheel trailer, behind a Model A Ford, and headed West with two little kids."
Initially renting and working on a Brick Mill Road ranch, Floyd and Jean soon saved enough to buy their Wilson Creek Road ranch, where Buck and many members of the Minor clan still reside. Floyd P. Minor was an Ellensburg Rodeo timed-events volunteer and a charter member of the Kittitas Valley Calf Roping Club.
All three of Floyd P. and Jean's children - Buck, Peg, and B.J. - worked on their parent's ranch and followed the family's rodeo traditions.
Like her older brother Buck, Peg had spent her early childhood in Montana.
"I was born prematurely at seven months - 2 ¾ pounds - in 1927," she recalled in a recent interview. "Mom and Dad kept me in a shoebox on the edge of the oven. I didn't walk until I was 18 months, but then they couldn't slow me down!"
Drawn to rodeo
As a young woman, Peg was drawn to the entertainment aspects of the rodeo world. An accomplished accordionist in a country western band called "The Midnight Wranglers," Peg also wanted to become a professional trick rider and roper.
"My dad gave me a little cotton rope when I was 10 years old," she remembers. "I learned to spin, and I soon started using a trick ropers' 'Samson Spot Cord.' "
Peg complemented her roping with dazzling trick riding stunts aboard her horse Pepper. Her son, Wayne, remembers Pepper was "not a particularly fancy saddle horse, but he was 'bullet proof.' He gave her solid, quiet dependability when she needed it for rope tricks, or flat out speed on the riding tricks at a gallop that required that odd combination of inertia and centrifugal force with Mom's great athletic skills."
Peg was selected Ellensburg Rodeo princess in 1947. In 1950, she married Gerald Hunt, a local farmer who became a longtime, respected Kittitas County Fair Board member. Peg and Gerald spent their honeymoon on the rodeo road, with Peg performing and Gerald competing in bronc and bull riding across western Canada.
Peg Minor Hunt's four children - Wayne, Ken, Sheri, and Kris - were all ranch-raised horsemen and women. Wayne carried on the family's musical heritage, fronting the historic 1970s Ellensburg country rock band the Greasewood City Ramblers. Kris, like her mom, served as an Ellensburg Rodeo princess in 1983.
As Peg saw the first of her nine grandchildren grow and mature, her status as a grandmother took on more fame than she could have imagined.
"I became an Ellensburg Rodeo Grandma in 1993," she recalls with a smile. Representing Washington Mutual Bank in a series of television commercials, Peg and the "Ellensburg Rodeo Grandmas" (originally Peg, Lorraine Plass, Janis Anderson, and Judy Golladay) gained national acclaim, appearing on television talk shows, authoring a cookbook, and promoting the Ellensburg Rodeo to this day.
Peg's sister Bette Jean ("B. J.") is the youngest of Floyd P. and Jean Minor's children.
"It was in the year 1944," Jean recalled in the "History of Kittitas County," "that we surprised ourselves by having another baby."
Nearly two decades younger than Buck and Peg, B. J. quickly found her place in the ranch and rodeo culture of Wilson Creek Road.
"I learned early on that my family was quite Western," she stated in a recent interview. "I even won a trophy for being the youngest cowgirl in the 1948 Ellensburg Rodeo Parade."
B.J. competed in junior rodeo barrel racing and other horseback competitions. She rode for the Ellensburg Rodeo Wranglerettes, Flying Hoofs, and, with sister Peg, with the Rodeo Valley Riders.
She recalls with a big smile, "There were a few times when the all-boys' Kittitas County Junior Sheriff's Posse would be short a rider, and I would tuck my hair under my hat and put on a red shirt and drill with them!"
In 1963, B. J. was chosen Ellensburg Rodeo princess.
B. J. married Buz Hjelm and raised two daughters, Jeannie and Janet, who "grew up on the Columbia Plateau showing horses and rodeoing."
Today, she is married to Gene Reichert and boasts six grandchildren and seven step-grandchildren. All of them ride and compete in rodeo, and two have added roughstock riding to the growing list of Minor family accomplishments.
Jared Rodgers is a junior rodeo bull rider; Montanan Jason Veil is a bareback bronc rider who was a finalist in the 2007 National High School Finals Rodeo in Springfield, Ill. Jason recently joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association will also compete in college rodeo.
The elder son
Born in Montana in 1926, Floyd A. "Buck Minor" is the elder of the three Minor children. After service in World War II, Buck married Merna Engel on July 4, 1948. They set to work building their own Wilson Creek Road ranch while Buck simultaneously worked 21 years as manager of his neighbor Stu Bledsoe's Flying B Ranch.
"The Ellensburg Rodeo is part of our life here in the valley and has been for as long as I remember," Buck reflects. "Our families just grow into it, and we look forward to it every fall."
Following in his father Floyd P.'s footsteps, Buck volunteered for the rodeo and was invited to join the Ellensburg Rodeo Board where he served with distinction for three and a half decades.
Buck excelled in ranch-related rodeo events, as would his children and grandchildren. He was two-time Kittitas County calf roping champion and also won the wild-cow milking, with Bledsoe as his mugger.
From the 1950s to the present, a third and fourth generation of Minor grandchildren and great-grandchildren have taken their places as heirs to the Minor rodeo traditions.
Buck and Merna's six children, Mike, Pat, Brent, Rosemarie, Troy, and Marla, grew up on horseback on Wilson Creek Road, and several of them followed the rodeo road.
Troy was a high school rodeo champion, and Pat and Brent have won multiple county roping championships (respectively, seven times and six times, to date). Buck, Pat and Brent, and great-grandson Jason, have today accrued a grand total of 18 Minor family Kittitas County calf roping championships, a record that is unlikely to be surpassed.
To even further bolster the Minor roping dynasty, great-granddaughter Bailey Minor, like her father, Troy, became a National High School Rodeo finalist and last year won the new Ellensburg Rodeo girls' breakaway roping event.
Thus, with each new generation, the Minors' rodeo skill levels reach higher and higher.
Although Floyd P. and Jean Minor have passed on, "Grandpa Buck" last year had the thrill of seeing Brady Minor compete as a finalist in the Las Vegas National Finals Rodeo. Brady won one go-round, and, appropriately, presented the NFR buckle to his grandfather Buck.
Retired veterinarian Ken MacRae, Buck Minor's rodeo board compatriot, recently reflected on the important connections between the Minor family and the Ellensburg Rodeo.
"I was fortunate enough to be on the Rodeo Board for over 30 years with Buck Minor," MacRae stated. "He was my closest friend for all those years. I got to know the whole extended family through Buck.
"As one who fancies himself to be a sort of cowboy, I can't give the Minors any higher praise than to say that they are all good cowboys in the finest way one can use the term."
- Mike Allen is a professor of history at the University of Washington, Tacoma, and a board member of the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Association.