When Jackie Dube and Tammy Key from tiny Giddings, Texas (pop. 5,000), rumble into the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday night, a little bit of history will made.
Key, 35, and Dube, 23, will be the first sisters to compete together at the Wrangler NFR since 1960. They are also first cousins of Wrangler NFR tie-down roper Justin Maass.
This latest sister act, however, didn't seem possible a few short years ago. On March 24, 1999, Dube was seriously injured while training the horse her sister now rides named Roundpen.
"He got spooked and flipped on me and broke my pelvis," said Dube, who at the time was attending Texas A&M University in College Station pursuing a degree in physical therapy. "It was just a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time kind of thing."
Before the accident, Dube had competed on Roundpen at three futurities and had made progress in his training.
The accident, though, changed everything.
"I sat in a chair for six months and didn't move my legs," Dube painfully recalled. "It was horrible. I was in the hospital four times and had three surgeries. It was a major deal. It completely broke my pelvis from my back. My legs weren't attached to anything. It was bad, bad, bad.
"They [doctors] couldn't really guarantee me that I would even walk without an assisted device. It was kind of just we are going to glue you back together. The only thing that helped me was that I was young and active. I worked really hard to get back to where I am now."
Because of her training to be a physical therapist, Dube devised her own course of rehabilitation. Her strong will and desire to be well eventually won out.
"My legs completely atrophied," she said. "But I stayed up. I never let them put me in a wheelchair. I would drag myself with a walker. I had carpet burns on the top of my feet where I couldn't put my feet on the ground, but I would never let them sit me down because I knew if I ever did that I would have to learn how to walk all over again."
Dube, who started her professional rodeo career just before the accident, returned on an abbreviated schedule in 2000 and was 18th in the world standings when she decided to return to Texas A&M for the fall semester.
"Tammy graduated from college and kind of set the standard, and it was something I always wanted to do and I knew I would have a lot of time to rodeo," Dube said.
In 2001 and 2002, Dube focused on competing in futurities and on her education. And in May of this year, she completed her degree in physical therapy and hit the rodeo road hard.
Dube sits 10th in the Jack Daniel's World Standings with pre-NFR earnings of $45,239, while Key is ninth with $47,373. Last year, Key won five rounds at her Wrangler NFR debut.
Dube will ride Rooster, a 6-year-old brown horse that she bought from longtime friend and rookie Angela Ganter. Ganter bought Rooster at a working cow horse sale in San Antonio but didn't get along with him. She ended up selling Rooster to Dube.
Qualifying for the Wrangler NFR with her sister, Dube said, is special and a tribute to their parents, who spent a lot money and time taking their daughters to rodeos and other horse-related events while they were growing up.
"They are the only reason where we are where we are," Dube said.
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