Charlene Camblin is a born-and-bred breakaway roper who helped carve out a space for women in rodeo.

Few people have a longer family heritage of piggin’ strings than Charlene Harris Camblin. Her dad made the NFSR roping steers and her brother is 1991 world champion heeler Bobby Harris. But Charlene says their mom breakaway roped in high school in the 1950s.

Jayne Harris raised three Wyoming High School Rodeo All-Around Champions: Sons Bobby and Brad and daughter Charlene.

She did it too, as a kid, and fondly recalls that period of the 1980s when all-girl rodeos took the country by storm, anchored by the wildly popular Wyoming Cowgirl Rodeo Association and WyoBraska events and their flagship rodeo in Douglas.

“All the girls that roped were involved with them,” she says. “We were self-produced. We would put them on ourselves. There was just tremendous camaraderie and great competition.”

Camblin and Imogene Fyffe, former Professional Women’s Rodeo Association director.

About the time she was making the WNFR nine times in breakaway roping and heeling, Camblin was hired as secretary of the WPRA as it moved from Oklahoma to Colorado Springs to be closer to the PRCA headquarters. She helped rebuild the entire administrative side from the ground up. Then she spent six years working under President Carolynn Vietor who, she says, was “classy and smart and always had the best interests of the WPRA at heart.”

Camblin was among those who cultivated the WNFR to be special; to be exactly like the PRCA’s NFR. They emulated everything the boys were doing in Las Vegas. Camblin says doing that “spoke well of the commitment we had, and our love of the sport of women’s rodeo.”

She’d like to see breakaway retain the essence of that original association of entirely women. Having produced the PRCA rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming, for years, she gets it. There are the athletes, the stock, the venue, the committee, the spectators, the sponsor and a million more moving parts, so when one part thinks it’s more important than others, it doesn’t work out well in rodeo.

Her one lament is that the WPRA wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of divisional barrel races. In the future, she can foresee stand-alone breakaway events with a divisional format similar to 4D barrel races, to help kids get going and allow old-timers to still compete.

“Anyway, you’ve got to know where you came from to know how far you’ve come,” she says. “Wanda Bush worked all the events. Look at those icons of women’s rodeo who did all the events on one horse, like Mildred Farris! Look at people like Sherry Cervi, who grew up roping. I think we should tip our hats to those ladies and never forget our heritage; our history; our roots.” BRJ