CHARMAYNE JAMES AND SCAMPER
Inducted in 1998
“He’s one in a million. He’s a miracle…I doubt there will ever be another horse like him.”
-Charmayne James, describing Scamper, 1989
Charmayne James is the greatest barrel-racing cowgirl in the history of North American rodeo. Born in Amarillo, Texas in 1970 and raised near Clayton, New Mexico on a small feedlot and cattle marketing operation, Charmayne James was by three years of age already showing great promise as a cowgirl. She remembers riding “soon as it got light in the morning until night.” As she matured, she routinely defeated women twice her age in local barrel-racing and breakaway roping competitions. She remembers “My dad told me I could rodeo if I could pay my own way.”
Charmayne also showed great skill as a horse trainer. She bought a rank, six year-old feedlot horse, Gill’s Bay Boy, for $1200 and trained him to barrel-race. At age fourteen Charmayne and Gill’s Bay Boy—who she nicknamed Scamper—turned professional and hit the rodeo road. So consuming was her rodeo career that Charmayne graduated with honors from high school on the road via correspondence courses that she completed somehow during her busy rodeo schedule.
Charmayne James’ rookie 1984 season was nothing short of sensational. She consistently finished in the money all year and went on to take both the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association and National Finals Rodeo championship buckles. She was subsequently named the WPRA’s Rookie of the Year. Over the next decade, James went on to win an incredible ten consecutive National Finals Rodeo championships in barrel-racing (this string of world championships has been surpassed only once, by Guy Allen in steer roping in 1996). Along the way she piled up scores of arena and world records. In 1987, she was the leading money winner in all of rodeo, the first woman to ever wear the coveted “Number 1” in a National Finals Rodeo. The size of her lifetime winnings has earned her the moniker of “The Million Dollar Cowgirl.”
In Ellensburg James dominated the barrel-racing for over a decade. She first raced here in her 1984 rookie season and won the buckle. In 1987 she tied with Lana Hemsted when both broke the Ellensburg arena record with times of 17.09 seconds. Although a highway accident overturned Scamper’s trailer in Wyoming en route to Ellensburg in 1991, the horse emerged unscathed and the two won their sixth Ellensburg title that year. Ultimately, Charmayne won the Ellensburg Barrel-racing title a record seven times and still holds, with Hemsted, the Ellensburg arena record time. “This has been a great rodeo for me,” James remarked in John Ludtka’s book The Tradition Lives On. “Scamper likes the big arena, and the money is definitely better—a big plus. The Northwest rodeos like Ellensburg give back to the competitors.”
James is quick to give due credit to her gelding Scamper and their teamwork in reaching the pinnacle of professional sports achievement. “Scamper is a gifted athlete and is a quite a personality as well,”” she says. “He is so smooth, there are no wasted motions. If you ride him like you know how, it is not very hard, and his winning is what makes things look easy.” Amazingly, Scamper once won their 1985 NFR go-round bridleless (it was an accident)! In 1996 Scamper was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Following her own induction into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, James said of Scamper, “Someday, someone will come along with another great horse, but there will never be another just like him.”
Scamper went into semi-retirement in 1994 when arthritis set in; James still works with him and he appears frequently in non-competitive venues. James, meanwhile, took up team-roping in 1989 while simultaneously retaining her status as one of the top barrel-racers in North America. As historian Mary Lou LeCompte writes in Cowgirls of the Rodeo, “Charmayne James has been the premier athlete and superstar” of women’s rodeo. “She is by far the most successful and best-known cowgirl of the modern era, and perhaps of all time.”
In 1998 Charmayne James was inducted into Amarillo’s Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame; in 1992 James entered the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Dallas, Texas.