By: Kendra Santos
If America is a melting-pot country, Rodeo Corpus Christi is a melting-pot rodeo. Right here under one roof, fans get to see the full cowboy-sport spectrum—from world champions to a 54-year-old bull riding grandpa to young guns who are the future of our sport. The brand new team of Bubba Buckaloo and Daniel Braman made a smoking-hot 4.38-second run in last night’s Progressive Round performance at American Bank Center to advance to tomorrow’s Showdown Round. Luke Dubois and Corey Reid were 5.49 to also punch their ticket to take a shot at center stage on Mother’s Day Sunday. Momma Jeanne Dubois will be in the house hoping to see her kid succeed while going head-to-head with his heroes. But she knows her son didn’t just defy the roping-god odds coming from the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s DY (Division Youth) Program. Luke’s inoperable brain tumor makes his meteoric rise up the roping ranks much more amazing than that.
Luke’s brain tumor was an accidental diagnosis found while he was getting stitches in his chin after a run-in with a junior-high chute-dogging steer in 2017. When he started suddenly slurring his words while being stitched up, doctors ran a CT scan just to be on the safe side. They spotted an irregularity, so ordered an MRI just to make sure it was nothing. Sadly, it was something scary.
“They can’t surgically remove my brain tumor, because of its location,” said 18-year-old high school junior Luke, who lives in Church Point, Louisiana, and is the oldest of Jeanne and Shel Dubois’s six children. “A biopsy is even risky, because of where it is. I go get scans every six months now, and thankfully, it’s stayed stable. This brain tumor’s very serious, and it’s always in the back of my mind. But I need to leave it there, and not look back or think about what might happen in the future. It’s watch and wait for now, but when I wake up every morning, I want to rope. That’s my passion, so that’s what I’m going to focus on—being the best I can be every single day.”
Luke is wearing a #NesSmithStrong patch here in honor of his late friend and fellow Cajun cowboy roping phenom Cody NesSmith, who also was an inspirational close friend to reigning World Champion Header Colby Lovell, and died at 23 on July 6, 2020 of Ewing’s sarcoma.
“Cody was my friend, and he fought and roped his way through chemo,” Luke said fondly. “He was a huge inspiration to me, and still is. I feel like I have an angel on my shoulders here, like Cody’s riding and roping those steers with me.”
Cancer’s given both of these young gunslingers life perspective far beyond their years. Corey’s mom, Janet, will be watching tomorrow, too, but in spirit from Heaven above after breast cancer took her from her two young sons when Corey was only 11. Corey and his brother, Casey, are camping here in Corpus Christi with the Dubois family’s booming party of eight.
Luke and Corey made their way to Rodeo Corpus Christi, which in 2021 is worth $545,000 to its contestant athletes, by nominating high school rodeos. Corey lives in Liberty, Mississippi, with brother Casey and dad Morty, but heels for Luke at the high school rodeos in Louisiana. Luke and Corey are leading the pack of Louisiana high school team ropers heading into next month’s Louisiana state finals in Sulphur.
“Luke and I said we were going to take our first good shot, go for it and not second-guess ourselves when we got here,” said Corey, who’s a 17-year-old high school senior. “To get to rope against these guys we watch and look up to is amazing. To advance to tomorrow’s Showdown Round roping against them is a dream come true.”
Corey will be mixing it up tomorrow with his heeling hero and three-time Champ of the World Jade Corkill, who with Clay Smith on the front end was one of the top two teams advancing from Thursday night’s performance.
“Jade’s just the GOAT,” Corey said. “He always capitalizes when he needs to, and never backs down for anything.”
These kids have clearly been studying Corkill’s playbook.
“My ultimate goal is to turn 18, and get to the (National) Finals in December,” Corey said. “But here I am at 17 getting to rope against Jade Corkill—that right there is amazing.”
Today, Team Dubois-Reid will cheer on Luke’s little sister Grace in the breakaway roping. Tomorrow, they’ll take on the world.