Article courtesy PRCA, photos by Kenneth Springer
In 1996, James’ beloved Gills Bay Boy, known the world over as “Scamper,” crowned his list of 10 consecutive WPRA world championships by joining the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. Now, 22 years later, it is James’ turn.
“I finally get to join [Scamper], and that’s emotional,” said James, who now resides in Boerne, Texas. “Today is really a big deal, not only for me and my family, but I think for all the barrel racers of the WPRA. I couldn’t be more proud and humbled to be one of the first inductees as one of the barrel racers.” In addition to her run of 10 world titles (1984–93) and the six NFR average titles (1984, 1986–87, 1989–90 and 1993) she won riding Scamper, James earned an 11th world title and seventh average crown on Cruisen on Six in 2002.
“My mom traveled a million miles with me and my whole family sacrificed, so this induction is not just about me, but also your family and friends,” James said. “The horses along the way, I couldn’t have been here without the great horses. Obviously, Scamper was a godsend. This is just like icing on the cake getting up here today and accepting this honor.”
Although she passed in December 2015 at age 84, Wanda Bush’s notoriety as not only the most decorated cowgirl in the history of the WPRA (formerly the Girls Rodeo Association) but also as a lady who instructed thousands of people about barrel racing and trained innumerable great horses, will never be forgotten. The hard-working, ranch-raised cowgirl from Mason, Texas, won 32 world titles—nine all-around (1952, 1957–58, 1962–65, 1968–69), two barrel racing (1952–53), two cutting (1966, 1969), one flag race (1969), 11 calf roping (1951–56, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966–67) and seven ribbon roping titles (1951, 1953–54, 1956–59). She finished as reserve world champion in barrel racing three separate times. While Bush’s barrel racing world titles came before the NFR began, she qualified seven times (1959 60, 1962–65, and 1974) for the NFR during her career.
“I’m honored to accept this honor for my mom, a famous legend, an icon, and my very best friend,” said Shanna Bush, Wanda’s daughter, who qualified for the NFR in 1984. “For my dear uncle A.C. Harper, who said my mom was a world-champion sister. How deserving to be the first woman inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. History is made today, and she did it by being just Wanda.”
Shanna says one trait that made Wanda so deserving was her reserved and humble demeanor.
“She was one to shy away from publicity, interviews and pictures,” Shanna said. “Material things just didn’t mean much to Mom. She taught many movie stars, singers, governors, vice presidents and their kids to ride, or they bought horses from us. But no one ever knew when they came or went from our ranch, that’s just how our family was. She was a really appreciative person always content with just what she had.”
In 1962, Star Plaudit and his owner Sherry (Combs) Johnson won the Girls Rodeo Association world title in barrel racing. That same year, at the age of 12, “Red” helped family friend Tom Nesmith earn the Rodeo Cowboys Association steer wrestling and all-around titles.
“[Red] was such a special, special horse,” Johnson said. “He was a really good bulldogging horse. We went to Denver, his first rodeo, and won the go, and I found out that day what run meant. He always ran his hardest. He was the best horse. I never had a horse like him, and he had heart. I believe a barrel racer better know her barrel horse better than her husband, and I think we do.”
Red passed away at the age of 22.
Information courtesy the PRCA. For more, visit prorodeo.com.