By Glory Ann Kurtz, originally published in the October 1996 issue of BHN
On Aug. 11, at the recently expanded Hall in Colorado Springs, Colo., a famous horse was inducted, along with six men.
The horse was Scamper, a Quarter Horse gelding which has won over $1.3 million for his owner, World Champion Barrel Racer Charmayne James from Clayton, N .M.
Men inducted into the Hall were John Burke, Casper, Wyo., as a representative of event production; the late Pete Logan, as a contract person; Tommy Steiner as a stock contractor; steer roper Guy Allen; steer wrestler John W. Jones, and bull rider Charlie Sampson.
The rodeo committee recognized by the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame was Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Maybe the fact that Charmayne was born and raised in Clayton, N .M., was the reason she decided to become a World Champion barrel racer. Clayton, ironically, was the home of the first National Finals for barrel racing (barrel racing did not become an event at the PRCA National Finals until they moved to Oklahoma City in 1967). But that was in 1959 and Charmayne wasn’t even born yet.
Charmayne, the daughter of a New Mexico feedlot owner Charlie James and his wife, Gloria, purchased Scamper, whose registered name was Gills Bay Boy, when he was 5.
The pair went on to become the world’s greatest barrel racing pair – winning the title of World Champion Barrel Racer 10 years in a row – 1984-1993! Their most recent win was the March 1996 Houston Stock Show and Rodeo, which he also has won 10 times.
Introducing Scamper at the ceremonies was Robert Patterson, D.V.M., saying, “Scamper reminded me of a person who moves and leaves no forwarding address. He went through more owners than any animal I’ve seen. Only one person could put up with his ‘shenanigans.’ It was a war of wills between an 11-year-old girl and a 5-year-old horse.”
Patterson was the one that treated Scamper’s periodic lameness created by a bone spur that he’d had since before Charmayne purchased him, as well as a respiratory condition he developed early in his career.
According to a 1994 article in Ropers Sports News by Mary Robertson, prior to owning Scamper, Charmayne had run barrels on a horse named “Barto,” but a broken leg ended the horse’s barrel racing career, opening the door to a new chapter in Charmayne’s life.
“Charmayne’s been a winner, especially on horses, since she was little,” said her father in a 1985 article in Pro Rodeo Sports News. “It never took her but a few minutes to decide if a certain horse was going to fit into what she wanted it to do. If one didn’t learn quickly enough, she’d climb on another horse she liked better. She can make a barrel horse, because she’s done it more than once.”
Gills Bay Boy, bred by Walter Draper, Wetmore, Colo., had been bought and sold through several auctions, at one point bringing $500, when he finally ended up at the James feedlot, in the hands of Ron Holland, a feedlot worker. The young cowboy was trying to get along with the broncy gelding when Charmayne saw him and tried him on barrels.
“This horse was prone to buck,” said Charmayne’s father. “But she just got on there and kicked him off. Inside 40 minutes, she came back to me and said, ‘I think this one’s going to make a real barrel horse.’”
They purchased the gelding for $1,100 and within two weeks, the Tonto Bars Gill-bred Quarter Horse and Charmayne had won a playday barrel race. Charmayne’s dad suggested calling the gelding “Scamper,” because of the way he would scamper around the barrels.
After a short career in amateur rodeo with Charmayne in the saddle, Scamper went on to win over $53,000 during 1984, his first year in pro rodeo. She became the Wrangler Series Champion, the Dodge Series Champion, the NFR Champion, running the fastest time and was named the WPRA Rookie Of The Year.”
One memorable barrel race that year was at Walla Walla, Wash., when Scamper mistook an unadorned section of chain-link arena fence as a gate and realized his mistake too late. The horse slid under the fence, pinning Charmayne beneath him. When the pair finally got out from under the fence, Scamper had cut himself a little, but the next day, they went back into the arena and placed second.
That year, Charmayne was a freshman in high school; however, the following years, she took correspondence courses to complete her secondary education.
In the first four years, Charmayne and Scamper not only claimed four World Championship titles, but in the process, racked up arena earnings of $419,319, an average of $104,830 per year. And that was while she was 14, 15, 16 and 17 years old.
Only one other barrel racer became a World Champion at a younger age. Jackie Jo Perrin won the WPRA World Championship title in 1977 at age 13.
When Charmayne turned 18, she married team roper Walt Rodman and Charmayne relocated to his family’s ranch in Galt, Calif. The name on her paychecks now read Charmayne James Rodman.
Everyone remembers the 1985 National Finals Rodeo when Scamper hit the cement wall in the alley while coming into the arena and broke the screw on his headstall. Charmayne went on to make the run with the bridle falling down Scamper’s neck. Scamper kept the bit in his mouth until the third barrel, but then on the back side of the barrel, he dropped it. The pair not only won the go-round but also captured their third consecutive World Championship.
In 1987, for the first time in the history of the NFR, a barrel racer went to the event with the coveted No. 1 back number, an honor reserved for the cowboy or cowgirl who has won the most money during the year going into the NFR. Charmayne had gone into the event with $82,147, leading all NFR qualifiers in earnings, including those PRCA cowboys listed in the all-around standings, where winnings in more than one event are included. That year, Charmayne and Scamper claimed their fourth consecutive World Championship Barrel Racing title.
In 1988, the pair again won the World Championship, earning $130,540, in 1989, they earned an additional $96,651 and in 1990 added $130,328 to her bank book and were on the threshold of winning $1 million in arena earnings alone. Also, that year, she received some $30,500 in cash bonus money from Wrangler, Coors, AQHA, Dodge and Copenhagen Skoal.
They received national coverage in such prestigious magazines as Sports Illustrated, Young Miss Magazine, Seventeen and People Magazine. They were even featured on the cover of the 1988 Guinness Book of World Records. It was easy to forget that Charmayne was still only 20.
All this was not done, however, without problems. Scamper had a large fracture in his right hock and ringbone in his left pastern and a couple of other problems that any one of them could have led to the end of his career. Charmayne recognized his problems and dealt with them. With her mother helping her drive, she made plenty of stops to give Scamper the exercise he needed.
One time, Charmayne wrecked her truck and trailer on a highway outside of Rawlins, Wyo., on her way to the Ellensburg, Wash., rodeo. An ax had to be used to cut a hole in the top of the horse trailer; however, Scamper was removed safely with only scratches and a bruised knee. Charmayne hitched a ride for her and her horse to their rodeo destination and never slowed down, winning $1,800 at Ellensburg and then went on to place first at Walla Walla, Wash.; Pendleton, Ore., and Filer, Idaho, before returning home.
In 1990, in addition to their world title and year-end bonuses, she became the first barrel racer in history to reach the $ 1 million mark from in-arena earnings and only the third contestant in rodeo to have attained such a feat. And that was the year that Scamper fractured his leg.
Surgery was done and his recovery took only 70 days instead of five or six months and then he went on to win the World Championship in 1991. That was the year she joined Dean Oliver and Don Gay in being the third person in rodeo history to win that many titles in a single event. The winning of the 1993 NFR was a bonus for Charmayne because, until the eighth go-ound, it didn’t look like she even had a chance of placing in the average. Scamper was feeling a little “under the weather” due to a suspected reaction from a feed change and had experienced a less-than-outstanding start during his first six go-rounds.
When he failed to place in a single go-round, Charmayne decided to give him one night’s rest, riding her Paint horse, Magic, in the seventh go. Her game plan paid off and the next night, she and Scamper came back and drew a second-place paycheck. When all was said and done, her 10 smooth, penalty-free runs won the average.
In a 1991 article in Ropers Sports News, Kendra Santos interviewed Charmayne and asked her what she did to keep him happy.
“I run barrels on him,” was her response. “That seems to keep him happiest. He loves to do it.”
At that time, he had a spur on his right knee, which Charmayne referred to as a “speed bump,” but every day, she stimulated the circulation of his knee joint using a hand-held human ultrasound machine and gave Scamper his exercise.
Scamper has a deceiving style of running barrels. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how quick his time is because he just looks so steady. The trick is, however, that he never breaks stride.
“The thing that people don’t realize is that he does it so smooth,” says Charmayne. “He keeps his momentum up. A lot of people get into the flex and bend and all this other stuff. When I started Scamper, I just took him around the barrels.
“He was taught to run in the same place every single time. I was never pulling on him. When I’m going into the barrels, I’ve usually got a loose rein on him. I might check him to slow him down, but most of the time, I have a loose rein. I don’t have to fight him. Every horse runs different. He just developed a great style.”
Scamper has also received numerous awards. He was the winner of the “Horse With The Most Heart” award five times, which is voted on by NFR contestants. He has also won the AQHA Silver Spur Award for performance in the field of entertainment.
Today, Charmayne is again single and back home in Clayton, N .M. She is rodeoing as usual. However, with Scamper now being 19, he’s in semi-retirement. She doesn’t plan on retiring him completely and will run him at only a few select, major rodeos: in arenas that he knows well and on ground conditions that he likes.
Charmayne says that Scamper loves running barrels and it wouldn’t be fair to him to just leave him home and never run him again.
But Charmayne hasn’t taken Scamper for granted.
“I thank God every day,” says Charmayne referring to her finding the horse that made everything possible.