Paul Greany: Still Racing Chariots at 90

By Chelsea Davis

Paul Greany’s family and friends from across the nation descended on Drummond this summer to celebrate his 90th birthday.

Drummond’s rodeo grounds were filled with team roping, food, drinks and dancing – a belated party since Greany’s birthday was in February, but better fit for the sunny August day. Plus, Greany and his wife didn’t have to travel far; they live two miles up the road.

Ninety-one team ropers wowed the crowd as Greany was swarmed with hugs and well-wishes.

Paul Greany, right, and wife Billie sit in the stands of the Drummond American Legion Rodeo Grounds on Saturday. Paul and family gathered at the grounds to celebrate his 90th birthday, which was on Feb. 28. Paul enjoyed team roping, Texas style barbeque and dancing with 100 members of the community and family.

Paul Greany, right, and wife Billie sit in the stands of the Drummond American Legion Rodeo Grounds. Paul and family gathered at the grounds to celebrate his 90th birthday.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Dannette Merchant, one of Greany’s daughters, said of her father’s spunk and strength.

He may have been decked out in a cowboy hat, boots and a fresh button-up and jeans, but his belt buckle gave insight into his other life: chariot racing.

It read “Jackson Hole Shriners 2013” for the Jackson Hole Shrine Club’s annual cutter races.

Greany said he’s been chariot racing 40 years. “I loaded up my junk and went to participate,” he said of a club just getting started in Bozeman at the time. “The other guys showed up with fancy horses and carts. My friend said, ‘I’ll bring you a different cart, like theirs.’ And I won the next day.”

He’s now a member of a chariot racing club in Rigby, Idaho, and participates in races in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah.

Merchant’s husband, Sameer, said his family in India uses video of Greany chariot racing as inspiration.

Greany hopes he’ll race in Jackson Hole again in February. He starts training horses in October, “but I’m always in shape,” he said, grinning.

A month after the party, Greany received another gift: He was inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame with the Living Award for District 12, a region that includes Deer Lodge, Beaverhead, Silver Bow, Granite, Madison and Powell counties.

Greany is a well-known name in the Drummond area, and “it’s because of Paul,” said his brother Byron, who now lives in Spokane.

But their family didn’t start in Montana.

Greany, his parents and his brothers and sisters piled into a car in Iowa in 1938 and headed west.

“When I think back on it, I think ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ had nothing on us,” Byron said.

Greany has been racing chariots for 40-years and races in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

Greany has been racing chariots for 40-years and races in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

They settled in Elliston, where Greany graduated high school. Then he served in the U.S. Navy on Landing Ship-Tanks in the Pacific in World War II. Some joked that the LST actually stood for “Long Slow Trips.”

“Paul joined when he was 17 and didn’t come home for three years,” said his brother, Dick.

And when he did come home?

“He started chasing Billie,” Dick said. Billie is Greany’s wife of 67 years this November.

She was at Powell County High School in Deer Lodge when she met Greany.

“His brother (Dan) went to school with me, and he said Paul had too many girlfriends and that I should go out with him,” Billie said, laughing.

“I didn’t even know who he was.”

But they did end up going out, “and we’ve been together ever since.”

In 1951, Greany took over the oil business in Drummond from Martin Briggeman.

He ran the business until his retirement in 1993.

Greany also owned Greany’s Dry Goods and Western Wear in Drummond, and another in Deer Lodge. Both are now closed. He also used to own Swede’s Bar in Drummond and Shack Bar in Deer Lodge.

Today, you can find him bartending at the Corner Office in Deer Lodge. He hadn’t kicked the bartender role at his birthday party, asking everyone if they had a beer, if it was cold, and telling one friend that sorry, there wasn’t any whiskey.

Greany himself didn’t have a birthday beer.

He just wrapped up radiation the week before and wasn’t feeling 100 percent. He had prostate
cancer, which spread to his kidneys.

The celebration echoed the parties Greany used to hold for his customers every year. But this day, it was all about Greany.

Of Greany’s living siblings, Regina White is 95, Byron is 94 and Dick is 80. Byron told people he was “doing good for my age,” a line he kept using “because that’s what everyone else says.”

“It’s in the genes,” Byron said of his family’s longevity. “We’re a bunch of Irishmen.”

Their father lived to 72, and their mother to 88, “so any longevity must’ve come from her side
of the family,” Byron said.

“Paul doesn’t say much, period,” he said.

But when he does, it’s with a sly grin. Half-tripping down one of the stairs, he leaned over, saying, “Been drinking too much beer,” though he hadn’t had any.

Chelsea Davis writes for the Missoulian at: chelsea.davis@missoulian.com

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