James to Add ProRodeo Hall of Fame Inductee to Illustrious Career
By Ann Bleiker
Charmayne James could have never imagined that her horse obsession at the age of 5 would turn into a lifelong career that would take her to places she never dreamed and earn her an induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame as part of the first class of WPRA members.
“From my early recollection, it was really never about barrel racing but more about horses,” the now 47-year-old James said. “I was horse crazy and a bit obsessed with riding horses. At the time, it was all about riding, and I wasn’t even thinking about competing. Of course, I wasn’t even 6 at the time.
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
“I started competing in local 4-H shows doing everything – barrel racing, pole bending, flag race, all that kind of stuff and got good at it. My mom (Gloria) and dad (Charlie) recognized that was something I liked. I would bug my dad asking if I could make money working at the feedlot or what I needed to do. I started going to amateur rodeos and realized you could go win money running barrels, and I thought, ‘Wow, that is so cool.’ Then I heard about Sherry Elms. She was winning the world at the time and had won like $18,000 at the time, and I just thought, ‘Oh, my gosh; I could buy a truck’ – obviously not understanding the expense of competing with entry fees, travel, feed, etc. From that time on it was something I really wanted to go after. My dad told me I could rodeo if I could pay my own way.”
She was born in Amarillo, Texas, on June 23, 1970, and raised just outside of Clayton, N.M. That’s where her father managed Clayton Cattle Feeders. James remembered that she always felt like she was being punished any day she couldn’t ride her horses.
“All I thought about night and day was riding horses,” said James. “If my mom wanted me to go somewhere that I couldn’t ride, I can remember throwing a fit. My punishment was not letting me ride.”
Little did the James family know that a colt born in 1977 by the name of Gills Bay Boy, a son of Gills Sonny Boy out of Drapers Jay, would change their life and rewrite the history books of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
A cowboy who worked for her father had decided to sell all his horses and move away just about the same time that James’ current horse had suffered a broken leg. One of those horses was a gelding, which they purchased for $1,200, and later nicknamed Scamper for how he scampered around the barrels.
“Scamper had been through several horse sales,” James said, pointing out that Scamper had bucked off Buddy Draper, one of the men who raised him, and put Draper in the hospital “He was not very trusting at all, but he loved me. He just needed someone to trust.”
James immediately started the bay on the barrel pattern.
“We would work the pattern, and then do a little feedlot work, then go back and work the pattern, and maybe do some more feedlot work. And maybe work the barrels again, and then back to the feedlot,” James said with a laugh, noting that it was all in a day’s work. “I took him to a little jackpot in Texline, Texas, two weeks after I started him, and that is when I knew he was something special but had no idea at the time we could win 10 world titles. You don’t even know you can win the first one. We ran in the junior race that day and won and ran the third fastest time of the entire day. He was just so broke that running barrels was nothing. I had complete control of him no matter what speed we went, so it was easy to go fast because he was willing to go where you put him.
“To this day, he is one of the most broke horses I have ever ridden.”
At the time, there weren’t the clinics like there are today or the rodeos on TV, so there wasn’t really anyone for the young James to watch.
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
“I tell people at my schools today that the early recollection I have of going around the barrels in my own mind was seeing this path around the barrels,” she said. “It was like a road in my mind, and I was focused on that path around the barrels … so many that run barrels focus on the barrels not the road around it. From an early age, I felt that set me apart.
“Then I just remember my dad always saying, ‘Good hands,’ and if we ever jerked on our horses, he wouldn’t have it. He believed in good horsemanship and wouldn’t tolerate abusing horses. I think those two things combined and having great balance from doing nothing but riding everyday really helped me.”
Scamper and James forged a strong bond; before long they were winning or placing at all the amateur rodeos they attended.
“I think it took a personality like mine,” James said of her bond with Scamper. “I didn’t make him be perfect; I gave him lots of slack.”
In 1984 at the age of just 13, James and Scamper turned professional and hit the rodeo road, with James’ mother, Gloria, behind the wheel. Early on the duo won more than $3,000 at San Antonio before competing in the Astrodome in Houston for the first time. Three runs later, they walked away with $4,286 and their first big championship. It was the start of an incredible run that would last through Scamper’s retirement in 1993.
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
Over the next 11 years, Scamper and James won in the Dome an amazing 10 times, earning nearly $120,000. The only year they didn’t win it was 1989, when they hit a barrel, but they never failed to earn a check in any year. In 1992, James set a record for earnings at a regular-season rodeo after winning $18,546 at Houston. Scamper even won it in 1994 … in semi-retirement.
“What a lot of people don’t know about Scamper is that when we first started, I had to wake him up before we ran or he wouldn’t fire,” said James. “So I would always be smooching at him before we went, and I used to breeze him out in the wheat fields, too. Well, pretty soon he figured out what was going on and would get away from me, me being so little, and I always had the fear that he would go while someone else was still running.
“He just wanted in there so bad. He just wanted to run barrels. He never tried to cheat you and just did his job.”
The duo qualified for their first National Finals Rodeo in 1984 in Oklahoma City and entered the competition ranked second. It had been a year that saw James and Lee Ann Guilkey go back-and-forth all season. In the end, James claimed the 1984 WPRA Rookie of the Year title and her first world title, earning $53,499 over Guilkey’s $48,709. James was awarded a truck courtesy of Dodge.
The following year the NFR moved to Las Vegas, and James turned in what would become the biggest moment of her career. On Friday, Dec. 13, 1985 as James and Scamper entered the arena, Scamper caught the bridle on the side of the gate causing the Chicago screws to come out. At the first barrel, people started to realize what was happening with the broken bridle and by the third barrel, Scamper had spit the bit out with the bridle around his neck. The duo stopped the clock in a time of 14.40 seconds and miraculously won the round.
“Losing the bridle at the NFR and winning the round is still so amazing to me and probably the true highlight of my career,” James said when asked to list her top three moments. “It is something people still talk about to this day. The second would be winning the 10th world title on Scamper. It came down to literally the last run in the 10th round, and I had to leave the barrels up. That moment was huge to win that 10th world title for Scamper.
“And my third top moment would probably be after I retired Scamper and started riding other horses and trying to figure it out. At that point, you start to realize how hard it is to win and do well. You realize how special each and every one of those horses are. Winning that 11th world title in 2002 after so many critics said it was all Scamper and I couldn’t win on another, it was gratifying to win on Cruiser, especially since I paid just $2,000 for him out of a sale yard and trained him. It was huge for my career.”
In 1986, James placed in every go-round to win her second of seven average titles. She holds the record for most average titles won in the barrel racing at the NFR. She became the first barrel racer to win more than $100,000, finishing the year with $151,969. In 1987, she became the first WPRA barrel racer to wear the No. 1 back number at the NFR, signifying she had won more money than any other contestant, male or female, whether in one event or multiple events.
In 10 years, James rode Scamper in all but one round, making his NFR total runs 99. Together, they placed in 56 rounds, including a span of 12 in a row and 20 firsts. They only hit three barrels in 99 runs, an astounding number for such a small arena. They once went 54 runs without a penalty. Aboard Scamper, James earned $309,956 at the NFR. Making the numbers even more impressive is the fact that barrel racers and team ropers were running for less money than everyone else at the time as equal money didn’t come until the late 1990s.
Scamper and James crossed $1 million in earnings in 1990, despite running at less than equal money their entire career. Scamper won the AQHA Silver Spur Award in recognition for outstanding achievement in the field of entertainment, at the time only the second horse to receive such an honor. The team was twice featured in Sports Illustrated, the second in 2005 as one of 25 Amazing Animal Athletes. In 1996, Scamper became the only barrel horse ever inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, a fact that remained until the 2017 class that includes Star Plaudit “Red,” a horse that won a steer wrestling and barrel racing world title in 1962.
So after 21 years, James will join her beloved Scamper in the hallowed halls of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
“It is a great honor and really solidifies your career,” James said of her impending induction. “It is the cherry on top. You work so hard and none of it is ever easy. It is a long hard road but something like this makes it all worthwhile. It is an important thing to me.
“I was blessed with great horses, learning something from each one of them and I had a family that taught me to take care of them, treat them well and they will give you a lot. I am just glad I could win it and do what I did with the horses I had. It is all about the horses.”
So what is next for Charmayne James, who is married to Tony Garritano and a proud mom of two boys, Tyler (13) and Austin (9)?
“I will keep doing my schools,” James said. “I love teaching and love helping people and watching them improve … helping them gain knowledge of horses. Then (it is) being the best mom I can, trying to make my boys into people that are going to help society. They are both very involved in baseball right now with dreams of being drafted out of high school for the major leagues. You have to have a dream as you never know.”
James is proof positive that “Dreams Really Do Come True.”
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The Most Dominant Duo in Barrel Racing – Charmayne James and Scamper
1984-1993 World Champion
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
The numbers are truly staggering.
10, 10, 6, 20, 5, and 1.
For Charmayne James and her amazing partner Scamper, breaking records was just part of the job. Ten world titles in 10 years. Ten times champion of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 11 trips. Six average wins at the National Finals Rodeo, in two different arenas along with 20 go round wins. Five times awarded the AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year.
And finally, perhaps the most impressive: over $1million in earnings, the first woman in pro rodeo to achieve such a milestone.
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
The story has humble beginnings. James grew up a horse crazy kid on her dad’s feedlot, Clayton Cattle Feeders, in Clayton, N.M. It was just serendipity that a cowboy who worked for her father had decided to sell all his horses and move away just about the same time that James’ current horse had broken his leg.
“Scamper had been through several horse sales,” James pointed out, saying that he had put Buddy Draper, one of the men who raised him, in the hospital after bucking him off. “He was not very trusting at all, but he loved me. He just needed someone to trust.”
James immediately started the bay son of Gills Sonny Boy registered as Gills Bay Boy on the barrel pattern.
“We would work the pattern, and then do a little feedlot work. Then go back and work the pattern, and maybe do some more feedlot work. And maybe work the barrels again, and then back to the feedlot,” James laughs, all in a day’s work. “I took him to a little jackpot two weeks after I started him but he probably had everyone else’s three or four months worth of riding in those two weeks.”
Scamper, so named by James’ father for the way he scampered around the barrels, won the juniors and ran the third fastest time overall in his first outing.
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
“Looking back on it, he was just so broke, that running barrels was nothing,” James said. “I had complete control of him no matter what speed we went so it was easy to go fast because he was willing to go where you put him.”
“To this day, he is one of the most broke horses I ever ridden.”
Scamper and James forged a strong bond. “I think it took a personality like mine. I didn’t make him be perfect; I gave him lots of slack.” Saying he was good to handle, James said they never tied him around other horses, especially those he didn’t know, because he would attack them.
With her mother, Gloria, in tow, James hit the amateur rodeo circuit and was soon dominating. By 1983, she made the decision to step up to the pros because the money was better.
“I always had to pay my own way to rodeo, and there was more money in the WPRA,” James says. “Plus, Sherry Elms was a big inspiration to me and she encouraged me.” Deciding to wait until the start of the new year, James entered some rodeos on her permit, including Dodge City, one of the bigger ones, and won it.
By 1984 James and Scamper were ready to hit the pro rodeos full time. Early on they won over $3,000 at San Antonio.
Then they showed up at the Astrodome in Houston for the first time. Three runs later, they walked away with $4,286 and their first big championship. It was the start of an incredible run.
Over the next 11 years, Scamper and James would win in the Dome an amazing 10 times, earning nearly $120,000. The only year they didn’t win it was 1989, when they hit a barrel, but they never failed to earn a check in any year. In 1992 James set a record for earnings at a regular season rodeo after winning $18,546 at Houston. Scamper even won it in 1994, in semi-retirement.
“The more energy in a building, the more adrenaline, the better Scamper did,” James tries to explain his dominance in the Astrodome. “Plus the ground was harder and the pattern was so big, that combined with the electricity in that building, that’s why he did so well there.”
“What a lot of people don’t know about Scamper is that when we first started, I had to wake him up before we ran or he wouldn’t fire,” says James. “So I would always be smooching at him before we went and I used to breeze him out in the wheat fields too. Well, pretty soon he figured out what was going on and would get away from me, me being so little, and I always had the fear that he would go while someone else was still running.”
“He just wanted in there so bad,” she laughs. “He just wanted to run barrels. He never tried to cheat you. He did his job and worked harder.”
The gelding’s style was certainly gaining him notice. He ran so hard and seemed not to slow down at all to make his turns. He and James made it to the NFR in Oklahoma City in 1984 ranked second.
“When you’re that young,” says James, who was just 14 at the time, “you don’t realize the scope of it. You just do what you always do.”
“None of it mattered to me, you just do what you have to do, and stay focused on what you did to get there.” James says but of course it was a big deal, especially with so many friends and family from her hometown so excited for her success.
At the NFR Scamper and James continued to prove that consistency was key. They placed in seven of 10 rounds, including two round wins, and won their first NFR average. They collected $14,112 and left Oklahoma City with both the Rookie of the Year and the World Championship.
The dominant duo
It was a theme to which the rest of the barrel racing world would soon become accustomed. Titles racked up with the super horse winning in all set ups and arenas.
In fact, it’s easier to list what Scamper didn’t win than what he did. Two that James can think of are Cheyenne and Calgary. Of course, Cheyenne did not have WPRA barrel racing from 1981 to 1991 so Scamper only got a few chances there.
“He hated the mud and it always seemed to rain there,” says James.
James always enjoyed St. Paul, Ore., because they stayed with their friends, the Colemans. “It was also something different, with the trees out in the arena, and the committee was so great and seemed to really want us there.” She won Ellensburg seven times aboard Scamper. Together they won Red Bluff, Cody, Phoenix, Fort Smith, Dallas, Salinas, Nampa, Mollalla, Santa Maria, St. Paul, Scottsdale, Denver and countless others. In 1987 she and Scamper won the very first Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
Also in 1987, James achieved something no barrel racer had ever come close to—she earned the number one back number at the NFR for earning more money than anyone in rodeo. It was earned despite the fact that many of the top rodeos did not have WPRA barrel racing, dropping it when the WPRA Board voted that committees must offer equal money as the PRCA events to the barrel race. At the time most rodeos only offered money equal to the team roping and therefore less than other events like bull riding and steer wrestling.
“It was a big deal to me,” James recalls. “They didn’t really want a barrel racer to win that much, to win more than the cowboys. I remember one PRCA Board member telling a newspaper that it was a sad day for rodeo when a little blonde girl can beat all the cowboys. I still have that clipping.
“For me, I was thinking, ‘this is the greatest horse ever, and you just don’t realize what he is. The PRCA never really embraced it but it got lots of press and was a good thing for the sport in the end.”
James and Scamper solidified their legend in the seventh go round of her second NFR in 1985, the first year the NFR was held in Las Vegas.
“Back then, we were all in the main alley, not separated like it is now,” James remembers. “I was moving up, staying next to the wall, and somehow Scamper scraped his bridle on the wall and broke the Chicago screw.”
With the competitor ahead of her clear, Scamper lunged forward and the headstall came loose, hitting James in the head.
“I knew it was off but he was gone,” James said. She and Scamper entered the arena with the headstall flopping between his legs. “I told myself, ‘just act like everything is the same.’” By the time Scamper was to the third barrel, he had spit the bit out of his mouth and James had nothing but the reins around his neck. She cleared the third turn to the roars of the fans and went for her bat. “I was thinking, ‘home free!’ And then I thought, ‘oh no’ when I realized I needed to get stopped.”
Crediting that she did not panic, James said she talked to Scamper as she went up the long alleyway out of the arena, skirting through one gate that helpers had tried to close. Beyond the alley was a track of dirt used for warm up and then it was onto the streets of Las Vegas. “I decided I would jump off in the dirt if I didn’t get him stopped before then.”
Luckily, James’ uncle was there and caught hold of Scamper as he came out of the alleyway. He was considerably rattled as was the jockey.
Charmayne James and “Scamper”
Meanwhile, back in the arena, the crowd was on its feet. James had won the round in a time of 14.40seconds, her fourth of the rodeo and second consecutively. Not to mention the whole thing happened on Friday the 13th. James would win the next night as well to clinch a second world title.
In 1986 James had her best NFR, placing in every go round and winning the average. She won $46,144: had she accomplished that feat in 2010, her earnings would have been $165,445, a record for WPRA barrel racers in either year. She earned over $150,000 that year, the first time a barrel racer won over $100K in a season.
James and Scamper won the average six times at the NFR, more than any other barrel racing team. In 10 years, James rode Scamper in all but one round, making his NFR total runs 99. That’s a record too. Together, they placed in 56 rounds, including a span of 12 in a row and 20 firsts. This was back when only four places were paid in the rounds.
They only hit three barrels in 99 runs, an astounding number for such a small arena. They once went 54 runs without a penalty. Aboard Scamper, James earned $309,956 at the NFR.
What makes the numbers even more impressive is the fact that barrel racers and team ropers were running for less money than everyone else. Equal money wouldn’t come until the late 1990’s.
“Scamper did good when he was making runs,” James talks of her preparation for the finals each year. “He needed competition runs to stay sharp. So, he didn’t get too much time off, just kept in shape and make a few runs, try to get sharp when you got there.”
The key to Scamper’s long career
Maintenance was something James always took seriously with all her horses and often was a groundbreaker in using new technologies. James says their mindset was to understand the root of soreness when it arose, and to tap all resources, without resorting to drugs and an overreliance on injections.
“Everything we did, it was because we had a horse like Scamper—you don’t just go find ones like him,” she says. “We always looked at how to preserve the longevity of Scamper. His best interests were number one.” In fact, James says she only spent one day away from him during the entire ten year run and can only recall one time she didn’t get him in a stall at night to rest.
“It was a lot of hard work and dedication,” she says. “Of course, we had no idea it would be for ten years!”
Their work was definitely called upon in two trailer wrecks during the course of the 10 years. The first came in 1985 in California when they hit a tractor trailer that had come loose from the truck. Because Scamper hauled backwards, he took the brunt of the blow on his hindquarters and came away safe. Charmayne’s mother went to the hospital with a concussion but luckily, no other injuries.
In 1991 the family once again wrecked, this time traveling in Wyoming. The truck caught an edge on the roadside and rolled over on its side. The roof of the trailer was cut out to allow the horses to get out. James borrowed a rig and continued to Ellensburg, where Scamper won once again.
“He was just tough as nails, and blessed with a little luck too,” she says. “Well, blessed with a lot of luck.”
The 1991 season was a tumultuous year. After Houston, James was forced to make a tough decision. Scamper had a slab fracture in his knee—it had gotten to the point that it could end his career if it broke away and entered the joint. On the other hand, very few horses recovered from the surgery to remove such fractures.
“It wasn’t like arthroscopic surgery, they opened up the whole joint,” said James. Incredibly, Scamper missed about 90 days and was back winning in June.
James stayed on the road, winning championship after championship. She says the first and 10th titles are the most meaningful to her.
“The last few were all special because Scamper wasn’t as good as he had been earlier in his career, but was still good enough to win the world. There were times when our competition beat themselves. We just stayed in our game plan and let the cards fall where they may.”
“I love it and Scamper loved it. It’s what we did.”
With the 1993 NFR closing in, James knew it would be Scamper’s last year. “I knew that I would know when it was time, and 10 was a good number. With his age (he was 16) it was time.”
“A lot of people said, you won’t win on anything else. But I wasn’t naïve to the fact of how great he was. I needed time to learn to ride other horses and I got 10 years more than I could ever expect or dreamed of.”
Even in semi-retirement Scamper wowed the fans. James won Houston and Tucson, setting an arena record in the process, in 1994 after retiring the horse from full time competition.
The Greatest Barrel Horse ever
Scamper and Charmayne James crossed $1 million in earnings in 1990, despite running at less than equal money their entire career. Scamper won the AQHA Silver Spur Award in recognition for outstanding achievement in the field of entertainment, at the time only the second horse to receive such an honor. The team was twice featured in Sports Illustrated, the second in 2005 as one of 25 Amazing Animal Athletes. Scamper is the only barrel horse ever inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and he is honored there with a bronze.
James and Scamper are members of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame, the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. Scamper was the first barrel horse to have a Breyer model made of him.
At 34, Scamper still loves attention, loves to be brushed on his face and wiped down with a washcloth. He still loves little girls and can detect those with “bad energy.”
“If you think you’re going to force anything on him he doesn’t want, you can forget it,” says James, noting that hasn’t changed since he was four. “He’s just a freak of nature.”
In 2006, James cloned her champion. The stallion Clayton is the result with babies already on the ground to continue the winning genetics of the greatest barrel horse ever.
“For any pro athlete to stay on top for 10 years is amazing,” James says. “He was a true blessing for our industry. He bore through a lot of things, it was just the way God made him, he was sent for a purpose.”
“He had unbelievable talent and was just tougher than nails.”
James and Scamper by the numbers
10 World titles
5 AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year
6 Horse with the Most Heart
10 RodeoHouston Championships ($120K in earnings)
Winner first DNCFR 1987
3 Sierra (California) Circuit titles
2 Turquoise Circuit titles
First million dollar WPRA cowgirl
First barrel racer to earn more than $100K in a season (1986)
AQHA Silver Spur award
Calgary Olympic Command Performance Silver Medalist
1996 Only barrel racing horse in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame
First WPRA cowgirl to earn number one back number at NFR
Twice featured in Sports Illustrated, Scamper named to 25 Greatest Sports Animals
National Finals Rodeo
6 NFR average titles
20 Go round wins
Fast time of NFR 1984, 1987
56 Rounds placed, including 12 in a row
3 barrels hit—54 rounds in a row without a penalty
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