Paul Cleveland

2019 Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductee

October 24, 1960

Paul Cleveland truly represents the Sandhills way of life in everything he does.  He loves the Sandhills, Nebraska and the western way of life.  

Paul has been involved in many areas of the cowboy life from leadership roles, rodeo judging & instructor, competing in rodeos and ropings, ranching, raising & training horses, short stint in a western movie and an ambassador for the sport of rodeo and cowboying in everything he does.  

Paul was born in Alliance, Nebraska on October 24, 1960 to Larry & Linda (Applegarth) Cleveland.  He’s lived his entire life in the Sandhills of Nebraska, the majority of it in Hyannis, Nebraska until after college.  Then he moved to the Keystone, Nebraska area to work and currently lives there.  Paul has two sisters, Kim (Rod) Foreman, Kellie (David) Heiser and a brother, Steve (Kathy Connealy) Cleveland.  He still treasures the many friendships he maintains from his hometown in the Sandhills.

He spent his younger days living with his family & raising cattle & horses on the Wearin Bro. Ranch several miles north of Hyannis.  He went to a small country school near there.  He grew up doing the many things ranch kids do; haying, riding horses, roping, cattle work, fencing, welding and anything else needed.  There were lots of jokes and stunts pulled along the way too.  Paul’s dad hired many of his buddies to help do various ranch jobs as well.  He started going to ropings along with his dad and brother when he was young competing at the Huffman Ranch and other area roping clubs.  He won his first belt buckle at an early age.

Paul attended Hyannis High School and was very involved in school sports, FFA and his ag classes.  He was class president, on the honor roll and homecoming king as well as a state place in wrestling.  He enjoyed his ag welding class where he built his first gooseneck horse trailer under the direction of his ag teacher, Gene Miller.  That was the trailer that hauled his brother and him to high school and college rodeos.  He excelled at football and wrestling as well as rodeo.  He played basketball and did track a year as well.  He won several athletic awards and scholarship offers for football and rodeo.  He graduation in 1979.

Paul started competing at high school rodeos his sophomore year.  He qualified for the National high school rodeo finals his junior and senior years in team roping, calf roping and steer wrestling.  He was a state champion in team roping with his brother, Steve.  He accepted a scholarship to rodeo at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  He continued to compete in all three events.  While in college Paul trained rope horses and helped with the stable’s trail riding business at Pioneer Park (Carl Brown) training stables.  He maintained a job while keeping his grades up and college rodeoing.  He was able to keep his horses there and practice throughout the winter.

Paul began his leadership role in college as Great Plains regional director in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) and then was chosen to be the president of the NIRA his senior year which involved several meetings in Washington, at the NFR and many duties during the college finals.  He worked closely with Wrangler and the other corporate sponsors.  He qualified for the College National Finals rodeo every year and placed in the calf roping and steer wrestling.  Paul graduated with a general ag degree n 1984.  He married his wife, Deb (Walker) Cleveland in 1985.

Paul’s NIRA presidential stint led to his next job working for the PRCA as an instructor of the pro official’s program.  He flew all over the United States with Jack Hannum conducting rodeo judging seminars.

After the program was discontinued he settled down as a rancher and cowboy.  He judged and rodeoed on the weekends.  He enjoyed feeding and haying with a team of horses and training rope horses for the Haythorn Ranch, moving to one of their ranches and working for them full time in 1992.  During this time, he PRCA and amateur rodeoed as well, competing in the timed events.  He was a Nebraska State Rodeo Association State Champion in steer wrestling and men’s All Around in the mid States Rodeo Association as well as many other awards in both associations.  He qualified for the Prairie Circuit PRCA finals several times in steer wrestling.  He PRCA rodeoed with his good friend, Harrison Halligan for many years on a part time basis.  His good horse, Rookie (raised by his father-in-law) hazed for many steer wrestlers at Cheyenne Frontier Days each summer ridden by Halligan.  They say he was one of the best!  Paul hazed on him at many PRCA and amateur rodeos for years.

Paul worked as an extra on the movie set, “Winter People”, starring Kurt Russell, Kelly McGillis and Lloyd Bridges.  It was filmed in North Carolina.  He went with the Peterson family as they oversaw getting extras for riding scenes.

In 2000, Paul and Deb left the Haythorn Ranch and bought their current place in Keystone.  He started his welding and fencing business as well as many other endeavors on weekends.  He rode and trained horses for the Carver Ranch in Whitman during severe winters.  He’s helped with horse sales around the state.

Paul currently still teaches seminars in Nebraska and surrounding states for high school and amateur associations.  He’s judged the National College Rodeo Finals many times, the National High School Rodeo Finals over 15 times, several state high school finals from Nebraska to Louisiana, Kansas and others.  He still judges some local high school rodeos, ranch rodeos, amateur rodeos and PRCA rodeos on a part time basis.  He’s the consultant for many judges.  He has helped as a pick-up man at area rodeos when needed as well as the National Junior High Rodeo finals.  He was chosen several times as Judge of the Year for the Nebraska State High School Rodeo Association.  He’s known for always following the rules precisely whether at a local high school rodeo or a national event.  He doesn’t believe in not being as strict and consistent just because its a local rodeo.  He’s honest and fair.  He treats everyone equal.

Paul is currently serving for the third year as Cheyenne Frontier Days “Chute 9 chute boss”, a position which he was hired for in 2016.  He spends about 3 weeks in Cheyenne each year and many hours on the phone preparing for it.  He enjoys seeing old friends there while working.

He continues to train rope horses but doesn’t compete much.  He’s content to just ride his colts he’s raised, get them started for his son and others and help the kids.  The arena he built on the place is the site of many family ropings and get-togethers as well as a place to help local youth learn to rope or steer wrestle.  It’s dubbed “the Keystone Roping Club”.  Neighbors and others know that if “the shop door is up”, anyone’s welcome to stop in for a cold beverage, visiting or advice.

He enjoyed helping his son Brody high school rodeo and haze for over half of the steer wrestling contestants.  Many of whom had attended his annual steer wrestling school and still call him for advice.  Paul recently handed the reins of the steer wrestling school over to Garrett Nokes, Dru Melvin and Todd Suhn after 26 years.  There were anywhere from 25-40 students each year from 6th grade to 40 plus years of age. He still helps but has cut back his involvement.  He started the school with friends J.C. Jensen and Todd Westover when they saw a need for it on the state level around 1990.  His early students such as Garrett, Dru and Todd and Randy Suhn later became instructors with him, after being some of his early students.  They have had several would champions and numerous NFR qualifiers come through the school as well as many college, high school, junior high and amateur champions as well as lawyers, businessmen, Marines and even Will Lowe, the many times NFR champion bareback rider.  He always said it’s cheaper to find out how much you really want to do this at his school before investing the money in a horse and trailer.  His quote on his flyer was, “we offer positive attitude adjustments” as well as instruction.  He’s always positive.  He always tried to have someone come in to talk to the youth about making good choices.  Paul loves helping the youth and has a natural way with them.  He was always positive but upfront.  Anyone that tried would earn his help.  He was a feature story in the Rodeo News in October 2011, honoring his commitment to the youth and his rodeo life.  He was very humbled by that honor.

Paul, his wife, Deb and a group of former UNL rodeo teammates went to Japan for 2 weeks in 1988.  They were commissioned by Shizuoka, Japan to put on a 10-day rodeo for their world’s fair.  Shizuoka was sister cities with Omaha, NE.  Paul took care of the horses that were shipped over from the United States and steer wrestled (on fake horned cattle), team roped and was pick-up man.  It was a great cultural experience but one that made him appreciate his roots in the Sandhills even more.

Paul and Deb currently stand a grandson of Colonel Freckles at stud on their acreage at Keystone, Nebraska.  They’ve raised many colts out of Radar over the past 13 years and sold them to many satisfied customers and ride them for everything they do.  He was a gift from Kent LeDoux of the Grey Ranch in Louisiana for helping with some breeding contract.

Paul and Deb have had a welding and fencing business, =P Fencing for 17 years.  Paul has never advertised except for word of mouth.  He’s built many ag facilities, sale barns, feed lots, vet clinics, roping arenas, working cattle facilities and more across the Sandhills and the State and beyond.

Paul works on occasion at Ogallala Livestock receiving cattle for them at ranches in the Sandhills when he has the time.  A job he thoroughly enjoys.  He also says his relaxation now and then, away from his welding, it to help area ranchers with cattle work and see the pens he built in use.

His hobbies are riding horses, roping, helping youth, Cornhusker football and all sports, old western movies, cribbage and cards and visiting with friends and family.  If he’s not in his cowboy hat and boots, it’s his Cornhusker gear!

His pride and joy are his family including his three children: Jade, Brody and Annie and his horse herd he’s built.  Brody junior high and high school rodeoed as well as played football and was a 3-time state qualifier and undefeated state champion Class B 195 lb wrestler.  He was a runner-up State Champion steer wrestler.  He played football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers as a linebacker for two years and now is a junior currently on the University’s rodeo team majoring in business marketing and sales.  He competes in steer wrestling and team roping.  Annie is a freshman nursing student at Bryan Health Sciences in Lincoln, Nebraska.  She plans to be a labor and delivery or pediatric nurse.  She was active in sports and junior high rodeoed, qualifying for Nationals her 8th grade year.  Jade was an outstanding football player, baseball player and rodeoed and won many all-arounds as a child.

He truly lives as an example of the true Sandhills cowboy and western way of life.  He prides himself in being true to his word, being humble, kind, helpful, possessing a positive attitude, his honesty and a genuine cowboy with integrity and pride in his land, horses, cattle and the western way of life.  

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