You never like being in a situation like this, but it happens multiple times a year. Every cowboy can tell you specific times in their career when a win or a paycheck for them came to fruition because of a bad day or bad luck for a buddy. I can think about scenarios I’ve seen or interviews I’ve done where that plays out.

I guarantee you one week from today cowboys and cowgirls will add new stories to that running diary of bittersweet wins. This is the last week of the regular season and each event has a few on the bubble to make the National Finals Rodeo.

That includes a local twist as Jake Minor, heeler for Jeff Flenniken, is on the bubble. Minor is 15th in the world standings. Flenniken is 17th. The duo won pocket change (well, $295 in Texarkana, Ark., is pocket change in comparison to what they needed to win) and didn’t do much to add to the cushion in the standings. In fact, right now, Minor is in and Flenniken is out — that’s what happens when other teams change partners and catch fire midway through the season. So not only are Flenniken/Minor on the bubble, they don’t even share the same scenario. Minor has a $1,600 cushion over Quinn Kesler, which is nothing. Flenniken is $4,500 behind Lane Ivy (15th place) but has Spencer Mitchell ahead of him by $1,800 in 16th. Coleman Proctor is just $340 behind Flenniken. Without even trying, you can come up with 15 different scenarios for those guys.

The prominent rodeos this week include wrapping up Pasadena, Texas, by Thursday, but also heading to Kansas City, Mo., and Stephenville, Texas. In addition to those paydays, cowboys and barrel racers can earn smaller, but important checks from Southern California at Poway and San Bernardino as well as Mona, Utah. I checked in with Jake yesterday and he’s heading to Mona, San Bernardino and Poway.

I remember Brady and Riley Minor needing roughly $7,500 on the last week of 2015’s regular season and coming out with $9,000, all of the aforementioned rodeos played a part in that. It didn’t go perfectly for them that weekend, but it was dang close, which is what Jake and Jeff will need.

The Minor brothers already have the NFR wrapped up, their win in Ellensburg sealed that deal. It’ll be their ninth trip to Las Vegas together and 10th for Brady, who made it with Garrett Tonozzi in 2006. Former Ellensburg cowboy Jake Pratt will make his first trip to the NFR this year after a near miss in 2014. If Jake Minor gets there this year with new partner Flenniken, it’ll be his third straight after two in a row with Garrett Rogers.

One guy who could use a little more cushion, but won’t get it, is bareback rider J.R. Vezain. The 26-year old out of Wyoming broke his back when a horse fell on the cowboy in Pasadena last week, and according to social media he’s already had one surgery. He’s 14th in the bareback standings, but I have no idea if he’ll be able to compete in Vegas come December. There’s a GoFundMe page established for his medical expenses.

I talked to J.R. the Friday of Labor Day weekend here in Ellensburg and that guy loves rodeo and loves bareback riding. He’s such a fan of the sport and is always the loudest in the chutes watching his friends do well.

“A bad day of rodeoing beats a good day of real work,” he told me that night behind the chutes. “I love it man, I love riding bucking horses. I crave it. I wake up in the middle of the night, cold sweats, craving bucking horses. I ain’t kidding ya. It’s a true passion. I love watching my buddies making great rides. I love everything about this sport. I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”

That’s a good guy to have in your corner. He needs us in his corner now.

Jon Guddat covers rodeo — from the kids to the kids at heart — with a weekly rodeo column in the Daily Record. Contact Jon with story ideas at jonguddat@yahoo.com.

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