In the wise words of Turtle Powell, "A roping like this takes care of your whole year."
Held February 13-15 in Salado, Texas, the 2009 Wildfire Open to the World Weekend rolled out more records for the ropers and more great watching for the packed house of fans on hand to witness the roping funfest for themselves. Powell paired up with Travis Graves for the $100,000 win in the 11th annual Wildfire Open to the World, which was presented by Bloomer Trailers and sponsored by Montana Silversmiths.
Powell and Graves roped six steers out of the 16-foot box and over the 17-foot open scoreline in 43.28 seconds to grab the $100,000 lion's share-which, by the way, was all added money. Saturday's main event, the Wildfire Open to the World, which is go-twice and $500 a man to enter, is run under Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules and does not allow crossfires. Powell and Graves, whose second partners were Marty Becker and Charly Crawford, respectively, posted times of 7.14, 6.34, 7.29, 7.28, 7.83 and 7.4 to best the 177-team field and win it all at the 2009 Wildfire Open to the World.
"It's hard to win $50,000, and with the prestige this roping has, well, this is a hell of a notch on my belt," said Powell, 35, who makes his home in Stephenville, Texas, with his Wrangler National Finals Rodeo barrel racer wife, Molly. "I won the 2003 George Strait with Kirt Jones, and the 2004 BFI with Monty Joe Petska. Now I've won the Wildfire. The only big one I haven't won now is the USTRC Finals."
Graves, who with wife Tamika calls Jay, Okla., home, has now won the Wildfire Open to the World two of the last three years. He and Colter Todd came tight on the 2007 Wildfire Open title. Graves and Todd were thrilled to split $75,000 that year. Graves and Powell raised the bar this year with their joint $100,000 paycheck. On top of the loot, each also was awarded Cactus Saddlery briefcases, one-of-a-kind Steve Miller-designed buckles by Montana Silversmiths and Resistol Black Gold hats.
"This roping's been a big help to us," Graves said. "Tamika and I want to buy a place, and maybe we can do that now. We still have our place in Oklahoma, but we want to move to Stephenville. We stay at Turtle and Molly's all the time now, so we can practice every day. Stephenville's centrally located for the rodeos, and that's where Turtle lives, so that's where we want to be."
Travis and Tamika's Wildfire history actually runs even deeper than that. When he placed fourth at the 2005 Wildfire Open, he used the money to buy her engagement ring. This year, there was a special Valentine's Day present in it for her. All their Wildfire riches have been won aboard the back of his now 15-year-old Superstar. Graves says Superstar is his jackpot horse, occasional rodeo horse "and Tamika's baby." He's had the horse since Superstar was 4, and the bay bomber is pretty fond of Travis too. In fact, he's been known to follow him around out in the pasture.