“Aren’t you that bull rider? What are you doing with these horses?” said a man walking by. “Well, these horses are a lot nicer than the bulls,” replied Charles “Charlie” Sampson. This happened dozens of times throughout the day as Charles and I rode around at a roping event in Wickenburg, Arizona. Rodeo fans and competitors came up to meet the legendary bull rider, excited to say hi or confused why he was there.
Charles is no stranger to the attention. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, when Charles was at the top of his game, getting mobbed was commonplace. When he and his brother Larry would arrive at their hotel in Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, it would take 40 minutes to get from the car to the elevator, Charles taking care to shake every hand and sign every autograph. This fame came from 10 WNFR appearances and one win in 1982, making him the first African American to win the bull riding competition. Then there were the Timex “takes a licking and keep on ticking” ads, numerous appearances on Entertainment Tonight and Sports Machine, and a disastrous performance in front of President Ronald Reagan that shattered almost every bone in his face. This near-fatal injury led to Charles pioneering the use of a helmet in bull riding.
At 63, Charles has found a second career as a team roper. Transitioning from bull riding, which is considered the most individual rodeo sport, to team roping, was no easy task. At the event in Wickenburg, Charles working as a header, caught his steer, but his partner missed as the heeler. Charles’ sentiments were that of a true team player, “You have to accept that your performance depends on somebody else. It’s part of the sport.” This positive attitude comes from many trials and challenges in life that have left Charles smiling and grateful to still be a competitor. #LongLiveCowboys #BlackHistoryMonth #BHM
: @eightsecs feat @bullridincharlie