Of all the headers in the world, only six ever won at least three of the Big Four jackpots (the Wildfire Open to the World, George Strait Team Roping Classic, US Open and BFI) during the 20-year span they all existed.
Speed Williams and Clay Tryan won all four. Aaron Tsinigine and Turtle Powell notched three each. And Chad Masters, incidentally, won every roping but the BFI – six times. For Powell, who collected Strait and Feist wins in back-to-back years (2003-2004), it’s indescribable.
“Face it, for most of us who enter, our living is made at rodeos,” said Turtle, now retired from pro rodeo. “To get that amount of money in one shot is one of the greatest feelings in the world.”
He credits the mentorship of his BFI partner Monty Joe Petska with making the difference in his 2004 victory.
“His attitude was, ‘Hey, we’re not competing against these guys, we’re competing against the steer,’” recalls Turtle. “’We’ll make the best run we can on the steer we draw.’ Once you get that mindset, it’s pretty easy – just like the practice pen.”
Turtle remembers drawing great all that day. He had borrowed Richard and Rebecca Gonzales’ dun horse – one that Bobby Hurley used to ride.
“There were a couple of times I probably should have broke out, but when it’s your day, it’s your day,” he said. “To win the BFI, it needs to be your day – I don’t care what you do.”
It happened the same year his wife Molly won the barrel race at the Calgary Stampede, so they thought they’d never see another poor day. It was a helluva year. He also won the PRCA Finale at Dallas that year.
“There for a while, I’d make the Finals every other year,” said Turtle. “In those off years, if you had a really good year jackpotting it could be just as good as rodeoing. Monty and I won second at the Wildfire in 2004, too.”
It was only by a hair. It made him sick that he could have won another $40,000 but for that two-tenths of a second difference. That was the year he didn’t love the top-loading of first place. But a handful of years later, when he won the Wildfire with Travis Graves, top-loading worked well for him, he joked.
Since he quit the road, Turtle has been working for Brandon Webb’s 3S Services. He gave both his head horses to his nephews and bought a heel horse.
“It’s fun to go to ropings and see people you’ve haven’t seen,” said Turtle, a #6 heeler. “I used to never take a cooler to the practice pen. But now it’s a given!”
Turtle spent time during the COVID19 lockdown working on his heeling because he “catches a lot of hell for missing.” It’s tough going months without stepping on a horse, he acknowledges. But he loves the job he’s had four years now.
“Brandon takes care of me,” said Turtle. “I’m kind of the entertainment/business-development-type guy. I take clients hunting and my job entails driving to west Texas or south Texas for a few weeks at a time or staying here to make phone calls.”
Whether he’s courting 3S clients or calling them from home near Bluffdale, Texas, Turtle will always have the memory of one of the wins qualifying him as one of the greatest jackpotters of all-time.
“I had always watched the BFI as a little kid, so it was a big milestone to win it; a big notch in the belt,” he said. “I always wanted to have one of those BFI buckles – I strapped it right on and my whole family was there. We all had a damn good time that night.”
By: Julie Makin