Charles Chambers, 74, sat at a table in his living room at his Oklahoma Drive residence, sifting through dozens of rodeo photos scattered atop the table.
For someone who barely participated in the sport, he dedicated his life to it and it garnered some of the best memories and relationships he’s had.
The retired longtime Eastern New Mexico University rodeo coach is a native of Portales and has pretty much spent his life in this area.
Chambers was raised on a ranch where he developed a love for agriculture. While attending school in Ranchvale, he set a goal of becoming an ag teacher thanks to his own ag teacher who he says had a lot of influence on his life.
He spent 20 years as ENMU’s rodeo team coach and has served in a host of rodeo-related associations and groups, including the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, since retiring. He’s coached generations of people and a few area leaders including Portales Fire Chief Gary Nuckols and the face of the Roosevelt County Extension Office, Sherri Best.
He lives with his wife Evelyn. He has two children — Michael, who is a disc jockey, and Tonya, who is a computer programmer — and six grandchildren.
What would you say was your biggest accomplishment as rodeo coach?
I guess it would be winning the 1981 national championship because it’s so hard to accomplish. You don’t only have to be good, you have to have some luck along the way. You’ve got to have talent. You chase it all year, you have got to stay focused the whole year. There’s six rodeos in the fall and six rodeos in the spring.
What have you enjoyed most about retirement?
Spending more time with my kids and my family. I stayed involved with the rodeo ever since I retired in 1998. I helped produce the rodeo at the national finals up until two years ago. It’s kept me involved with rodeo and the alumni association board of directors.
If you could send your son a playlist, what three artists would be featured on it?
Merle Haggard, George Strait and Charlie Pride.
What drew you to the job?
I had been in a lot of rodeos and been around rodeos. I guess I was the only one we had on staff that knew anything about rodeo. All together, I produced about 23 rodeos. Ever since I’ve been here, we put on a rodeo in the fall for the southwest region, but I’m pleased to see the rodeo program is in good hands and moving forward. The women won third this year.
If you were to win the state lottery tomorrow, what would you buy?
First I’d give a portion to the church, then I’d get whatever my wife would want I guess. I’d go on a cruise up to Alaska because I’ve always wanted to do that.
What kept you dedicated to the job so long?
I enjoyed seeing all the kids succeed and just had a passion for rodeo. It was really fun to watch people rodeo. I had a bunch of kids that were well-mannered. I miss those kids. They were like my own. I had one form Canada that I basically adopted. He had more grit than anybody I know. He made his way, he made his friends and worked hard. His name was John Ford. I had so many people like that, they were just good people.
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