Giving a mighty effort, pulling
horses "Jerry" and "Vic" pulled 10,000 pounds of deadweight concrete
blocks to win the horse pull at the Ashland County Fair. Owner and
driver, 77 year-old Chuck Shaw, of Chetek, has been competing in
horse-pulling competitions for over 50 years. "I was always a
horse-crazy guy" he said.
MARENGO — They still sell roasted sweet corn ears and smoked turkey legs
at the Ashland County Fair. The pungent smells of the livestock barn still
blend with the fragrant sweetness of hay and pine sawdust.
The wonder and excitement on a small child's face are still commonplace
at the fair's carnival, and the shrieks of girls as they cling to their
boyfriends on the thrill rides are as high-pitched as ever.
There are some things that don't seem to change much at the Ashland
County Fair, and that's pretty much the way people like it.
"I've been coming to the fair for years, since I was about their size,"
said Valerie Green of Ashland.
Her one year old son Ethan and four year old daughter Payton petted a
lop-eared rabbit named Toby that sat twitching its nose on the lap of Betsy
Johnson in the poultry and small animal barn.
"We're having a great time, riding all the rides and seeing all the
animals," said Greene.
There was a little of everything for the fair-goer, from music to rides,
to exhibits and a long line of food concessions.
In the grandstand, there were ATV drag races, lawnmower and four-wheeler
pulls, mini-rod pulls and motocross for those who love the roar of
high-octane motor-driven thunder.
But for real raw horsepower, the horse pull couldn't be beat.
Back to the County Fair after a 25 year absence, the horse pull events
were an unforgettable demonstration of brute animal power as huge steel-shod
Belgian draft horses pounded their powerful legs into the soft dirt of the
grandstand track, pulling loads of up to 10,000 pounds of deadweight
concrete monoliths on a steel sled.
The eventual winner of the event was a mild-mannered elderly farmer named
Chuck Shaw of Chetek.
Shaw might not have been anywhere near as imposing as his massive equine
duo of "Jerry" and "Vic," but his sure, practiced handling of his team made
the win look almost easy as the two draft horses pulled the sled down the
track again and again as lesser teams strained in vain against the
"I'm 77 years old and I've been pulling horses for 63 years," he grinned
as sweat and grit from the track dripped from his weathered face.
For Shaw, entering pulling events with his big friends is just a natural
extension of his everyday life.
"We still farm with horses, you know. When I first got into pulling, I
had just a little team of horses when I went the first time. I did good, and
I got the fever, so here I am," he laughed.
Shaw said he was still awed to see the strength power and energy his
horses were willing to put into their pulling efforts.
"The energy those horses are putting out is unbelievable," he said.
Shaw said his pulling horses were blue-collar animals, who work every
"They are worked five to seven miles every day at home. They are in boxed
stalls with shavings, and the best of feed and the best hay we can grow for
them. They are well taken care of," he said.
Indeed, a pair of top class pulling horses are the stars of the draft
"They are pro athletes is what they are," he said. "They come out walking
slow, but when you swing in front, watch it because they are going to give
you all they've got."
In Shaw's case, that's plenty. The Ashland County Fair pull was the
seventh in a row he has won.
Once the pull is over, and the horses are unharnessed, they become
surprisingly gentle and docile, curiously eyeing the awe-struck visitors who
hesitatingly come up to pet their massively muscled shoulders; gently
stroking their muzzles and gazing into their intelligent eyes.
"They are just big babies," he said affectionately.
Shaw recalled visiting the Ashland County Fair for pulling contests in
the past. He said he was pleased that the event had been brought back.
"The crowd really enjoyed it; they really clapped when they asked if they
should have another one, they were thrilled with it," he said.
If another pull is held at the Ashland County Fair, Shaw said he'd be
back. At an age when many other men are long since retired from strenuous
activities, Shaw has no plans to give up horse pulling.
Just how long does he plan to keep meeting the challenge of weight and
"As long as I am able," he said with a wide grin.