Harry Charters, of Melba, Idaho, was a 250 lb. mountain of a man who gained regional and national fame as a bulldogger, calf and steer roper, and wild cow milking “mugger” from 1958-1968. Charters is one of the most accomplished and respected timed-event competitors in the long history of the Ellensburg Rodeo.
a bronc rider, Harry competed in the Idaho Cowboys Association (which he had
helped to form) from l948-1958. Yet Harry’s huge 6’ 6” 250-pound frame made him
a natural for calf roping and bulldogging and it was in rodeo’s timed events
that Harry Charters achieved greatness. He joined the RCA (Rodeo Cowboys
Association) in 1958, and in his first appearance won the Jerome (
“Buddy Bill” (a registered quarter horse Charters trained himself), Harry
Charters cut a wide swath through the 1958-1968 world of professional rodeo. He
roped and ‘dogged at all the big rodeos---
In calf roping, Charters revolutionized the profession by dismounting from the right hand side of the horse, something no other competitor had ever tried. In bulldogging, he also used a unique dismount, described by fellow Idahoan Oliver: “He landed on his feet alongside the steer…with his left foot out behind him for leverage he would get his hold on the steer, twist, lift him off the ground, and flatten him fast.” ProRodeo Sports News agreed: “Those steers actually look like they are picked up, spun around in the air and flung to the ground.” Charters’ style puzzled and initially amused the top ropers and doggers’ of his era. Yet, as Western Horseman wrote, “they were still wearing those same puzzled expressions at the conclusion of the rodeo, as they were standing behind this big hunk of man in the payoff line.”
From 1959 through 1964, Harry Charters qualified for every National Finals Rodeo in either calf roping or steer wrestling, or both. Charters’ Pendleton Roundup steer wrestling arena record of 5.0 seconds stood for eleven years. Charters won the World Steer Wrestling title in 1959 and was simultaneously named the RCA’s “Rookie of the Year.” He fell $700 short of winning the 1962 World Steer Wrestling title.
Charters won the Ellensburg Rodeo Steer Wrestling championship in his rookie ’58 season, the same year he won the Ellensburg All-Around buckle. In 1965, he won the Ellensburg Calf Roping championship. “Harry Charters revolutionized Wild Cow Milking in Ellensburg,” notes Hall of Fame Board Member Jack Wallace. Charters’ size and skill as a wild cow “mugger” (the cowboy who wrestles the roped cow to a standstill while his roper partner dismounts and milks her) made him so dominant that his ropers enjoyed a significant advantage. Charters won the Ellensburg Wild Cow Milking ’60 as a mugger for Smokey Kayser (ERHOF ’98) and in ’61 for Jerry Anderson (ERHOF Board ‘97-2001). Harry Charters also broke his leg in Ellensburg, a bad memory and career setback that he (typically) shrugged off with a smile on his face.
night in 1968, exactly ten years after he had first gone down the rodeo road,
Harry Charters suddenly decided to retire. At the
his wife Jackie and six children, Harry Charters became a successful rancher,
running over 1000 head of cattle on