Paul Cleland didn’t begin pulling horses until the
early 1950’s, but he was driving them on the hay wagon and cultivator long
before that. Once he experienced being between a pair of lines behind work
horses, he found his dream occupation while he was in early elementary school.
After his dad died when he was 13 years old, they couldn’t find Paul. Eventually
they did. He had a single horse harnessed and was dealing with his grief on the
back of the farm by skidding logs out of the river. Paul still embraces that
same attitude. He will be up and out to work the horses at 6:30 AM. His family
also states that he believes strongly in things he has learned in life…he
doesn’t alter his opinions easily nor often.
Paul comments that he isn’t nearly as strong
willed as his late wife Ann. He remembers once when she was driving and he was
taking the horses to her. He wasn’t handling the pass off just as she wanted him
to. She finally told him to “Just give me those lines.”
Many years ago, Paul had gone to Hastings to a
horse pulling contest. Huey Davis and some of the other “old-timers” were there
pulling. He watched. Then he got caught up in the spirit of the “horsepulling
contest.” When he got home he remembers telling Grandma Ann, “I have to get
involved in this horsepulling.” And he is still involved in it more than half a
It was at Monroe when Paul went to his first
contest as a puller. At Monroe he met Don Johnson who became a lifelong friend,
and eventual neighbor, when he helped Paul get located in the “neighborhood.”
Don Johnson is often the first person thought of when folks who influenced
Paul’s draft horse career are mentioned. Paul and Don clicked it off and became
good horse friends over time.
Through the years Paul has traded horses with Don
Johnson, Hughy Davis and other old timers and has enjoyed every trade he ever
made. Paul always had the ability and understanding to work well with younger
animals, especially those two and three years old.
Paul has worked with nearly three dozen of the
young horses that have gone on and worked out well for other pullers. Some folks
estimate that Paul has owned up to 200 horses in his lifetime. If you throw in
those owned by his sons Jim and Ken, that number of animals really escalates.
Paul has been accused of being a gentleman when dealing with other people, and
he is kind and considerate of his horses as well. Perhaps that is why he is so
effective with the young animals.
While Paul knows a lot about horses from working
with them during a lifetime, when his wife Ann was alive, sometimes they would
pull a team where they shared the ownership. Ann was not hesitant about
disagreeing with Paul if she believed that her horse was pulling a heavier load
than was Paul’s. Eventually they agreed on a program where she owned the horses
and he trained them. This worked for them.
When asked how many pulling contests he will
attend this year, Paul answers, “It depends on how good the horses are…” In
addition to the horses, Paul has always been busy keeping track of his kids and
grandkids as they live their lives. In addition to Ann, Paul’s grandkids and
kids have all had a pair of lines in their hands with a load behind…thinking
about this makes Paul smile. He is smiling like that today! So are we because we
are sharing this moment with Paul Cleland and those he loves. How fortunate we
are to know him and those he has influenced. We are more rich for knowing this