Class of 2017
Unlike most PRCA cowboys who start their careers in their teens, Harry Charters took an unconventional path. He didn’t hit the rodeo trail until age 33. Charters bought his permit in the Rodeo Cowboys Association – the precursor to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association – in 1958, but the Melba, Idaho, cowboy made up for lost time and competed at an elite level for a decade.
Charters, who died of cancer on July 7, 1981, at the age of 56, will posthumously be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame with the 2015 class. “This is a great honor,” said Kim Charters Boatright, one of Charters’ six children. “There are a lot of things he did that people are doing now, and we’re so excited that he’s finally being recognized.”
Charters’ top highlight was winning the world championship as a rookie steer wrestler in 1959. He moved into the lead in the championship standings early that season and no one came close to catching him. He finished the season with $18,636 – easily besting second-place Don Feddersen’s total of $12,940.
Charters was named the RCA’s Rookie of the Year in a season that featured several standout first-year performers such as team roper Jim Rodriguez Jr., saddle bronc rider Winston Bruce, tie-down roper Bobby Goodspeed, bull rider Ed LeTourneau and steer wrestler Jim Painter.
Although he won just one gold buckle, Charters was a title contender every year he competed. He put nine NFR qualifications on his career résumé – six in bulldogging (1959-64) and three in tie-down roping (1960-61, 1963). He also was a steer roper and team roper. Charters barely missed a second world title in 1962 when he finished second in the steer wrestling by $773 to fellow 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Nesmith. “If (Charters) would have started (with the RCA) as a young guy, he probably would have won more than anyone in the history of bulldogging,” said Dean Oliver, another Hall of Famer from Idaho.
At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Charters was perhaps the biggest world champion in rodeo history, and yet he was described by his peers as “dazzling fast and fleet of foot.” He also was well-known for his innovative approach in tie-down roping. He is thought to be the first calf roper to dismount from the right side of his horse, which he did because getting off on the left and going under the rope was difficult for him because of his size.
Charters’ bulldogging style also was uniquely his own, giving the appearance that he was picking up the steer, spinning it around and flinging it to the ground. His Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up record of 5.0 seconds stood for 11 years.
In his youth, Charters was more interested in other sports, and he played semi-pro baseball and basketball. His amateur rodeo career didn’t begin until age 23. “I just liked horses real well, and took up roping for fun,” said Charters, who was the first in his family to become involved in rodeo.
During the late 1940s and into the late ’50s, Charters married, farmed, raised four children, and competed only in amateur and local rodeos. After beginning his ProRodeo career, he had two more children. Charters was originally a bareback rider, but his size and strength served him best as a steer wrestler and tie-down roper. Competing in his first RCA rodeo in 1958, Charters claimed the all-around crown at the Jerome (Idaho) Rodeo. That was a sign of things to come. After a decorated career in the rodeo arena, Charters retired from competition in 1968 after winning the all-around championship at the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo.
In retirement, Charters became a successful rancher, running more than 1,000 head of cattle on Idaho land near where he was born and raised. “Once he quit, he never looked back,” Boatright said. “He enjoyed his 10 years and he was done.”