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Cal Poly San Luis Obispo horse program director, Bill Gibford (right), receiving a set of broodmares from Channing and Katy Peak (left) in 1955. * Photo courtesy of Cherie Peake

Part 2: Driftwood’s Lasting Influence

The Driftwood Legacy is a book by Phil Livingston and Jim Morris, much of the information in this article can be found with more depth in the book. Find Part 1 by clicking here if you missed it.

Racehorse Turned Rope Horse

Buck Nichols decided it was time to officially retire Driftwood from the track and start roping on him when he was about six or seven years old. His first challenge was getting Driftwood accustomed to working in a box and behind a barrier as well as how to work the rope.

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The book that inspired much of this article. * Cover photo provided by Wayne Laske

Roy Wales was a rancher, farmer, and roper residing in the nearby village of Queen Creek, Arizona, (just south of Phoenix and near Gilbert) home to the Finley family.

They roped four calves on Driftwood when Wales asked Buck Nichols what he was riding in the roping at Prescott over the Fouth of July Rodeo? Nichols said, “the bay” (a name used by many in referring to Driftwood). Wales replied, “we’ll both be riding him.”

Fast forward to Prescott, Wales broke the barrier on three of the four calves(he would have won all four rounds had it not been for the 10 second penalty.) Wales was hooked from that day on. Almost every horse he roped on was Driftwood offspring Wales bred a lot of mares to him in Arizona and even after horse moved to California.

It was Wales that stood the great son of Driftwood, Driftwood Ike (Driftwood x Hancock Belle x Buck). “Ike” was leased/owned for a short time by Stanley Johnston of Ree Heights, South Dakota who bred him to daughters of his stallion Poco Speedy (Poco Bueno x Nellie D x Blackburn). Of the 215 registered foals by Ike, only one was awarded the title of AQHA Champion. That mare was Driftwood Lady out of Dun Spark owned by Don Taylor of Kindred, North Dakota.

George Cline – The 1940’s

George Cline lived in Roosevelt, Arizona. He saw the horse and liked what he saw. Parts of the country were still feeling the effects of the great depression which helped him buy Driftwood for the unbelievable price of $600. The Clines were ranchers and avid ropers, so the horse fit their operation. They won at the big shows and were well-known in those circles.

One roper said they were all glad the Clines were more serious about ranching than roping and didn’t make as many rodeos as previously, thus giving the rest of the ropers a fighting chance to get to the pay window.

The Clines didn’t give up racing and even had a track at the ranch. One of the horses they owned was Prissy Cline (Driftwood x Josephine El x Super Charge). Prissy was the granddam of French’s Flash Back “Bozo,” three-time AQHA Barrel Racing Horse of the Year ridden by Kristi Peterson. Clines owned Driftwood about one year when Asbury Schell of Tempe, Arizona entered the picture.

Asbury Schell

Asbury Schell was a world champion team roper who’d been riding Driftwoods in the rodeos. The name Speedie (later changed to Speedy by Katy Peake) was hung on the horse by Schell for obvious reasons.

Schell knew his way around the arena and competed in calf roping, heading, heeling and single-steer roping, and he hazed for bull doggers.

In about 1941 Driftwood stole the show at the Payson rodeo. The horse was ridden in every timed event, calf roping, team roping, single steer roping, and bull dogging. His riders collected checks in all of them, then played his ace by winning the cow pony race.

Channing and Catherine “Katy” Peake

The Peakes of Lompoc, California specialized in the production of ranch, rodeo, and performance horses. They owned five RO Ranch mares acquired from the Greene Cattle Company of Patagonia, Arizona. To that they added five mares of One Eyed Waggoner breeding from near San Angelo, Texas.

It was Gordon Davis of Templeton, California that told Peakes he knew of a horse that fit their criteria perfectly. They called him Speedie and was owned by Asbury Schell of Tempe.

In the spring of 1942 Peakes went to a rodeo in Hayward, California to see Schell perform. Driftwood was the horse they wanted. They were unable to buy him but invited Schell to their ranch to see their operation first-hand.

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Channing Peake at Rancho Jabali. * Photo courtesy of Cheri Peake

Schell barely got home from the rodeo when World War II broke out, thus curtailing rodeo travel due to the shortage of gas.

There was as lot of correspondence between Schell and the Peakes because of the reluctance of Schell to bring himself to part with Driftwood.

Finally, Schell made up his mind. He would sell the horse right after the Phoenix rodeo March 5-7, 1943.

It is a testament to the persistence of the Peakes which paid off. Schell did ask one favor – a foal by Driftwood. Schell became dear friends with the Peakes, and he bought colts from them and found fillies that fit their breeding program. The Peakes were not interested in how many mares they could accumulate but if they fit their requirements.

Katy and Channing Peake lived in Santa Barbara, California and were very successful and associated with the Hollywood elite as well as top tier horsemen. They were strong supporters of the AQHA and helped form the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Association, Channing serving as its first president. They called their ranch Rancho Jabali (translated Rock Ranch) which was located near the ocean and had an excellent year around climate for raising and developing foals.

The Peakes were in the breeding business for the long haul. They had definite goals and never wavered from them. Proof is in the mares they had to breed to Driftwood. There were the RO Mares that were by El Rey RO, a Grandson of Peter McCue. They made a visit to Duwain Huges in San Angelo, Texas to procure five fillies by One Eyed Wagoner, a great grandson Peter McCue.

Horseman Cotton Perry also was an important contributor to their success. In 1947 a partnership was formed with him. Peakes went to Jess Hankins’ sale at San Angelo, intent on buying Poca Bueno. Being a son of King, it was high on their list of an ideal cross. They dropped out of the bidding when E. Paul Waggoner of Vernon, Texas bid $5,700 and got the 1944 foal. They didn’t go home empty handed, and purchased several King daughters and a few mares in foal to King.

Cotton Perry

Perry was a driving force behind adding more King to their broodmare band. One horse in particular was in their partnership and that was Booger H, a full brother to the great producer Squaw H and Hank H. 

Cotton also bought Lucky Blanton mares. Surprisingly, Lucky Blanton’s pedigree was not spectacular. However, he had made a name for himself through his superior foals and their ability to perform and still have eye appeal. Their partnership lasted 15 years. The foals had become in such high demand that many buyers would pre-purchase foals.

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Cal Poly San Luis Obispo horse program director, Bill Gibford (right), receiving a set of broodmares from Channing and Katy Peak (left) in 1955. * Photo courtesy of Cherie Peake

Bill Gibford

Gibford was head of the horse department at California Polytechnic College (CPC) located in San Luis Obispo. They started a number of foals under saddle for Rancho Jabali. Gibford went on to acquire four mares from Jabali for the the CPC breeding program in 1955. He added one two-year-old and three yearlings for an average of $375 each. They were by Cotton Cat (Driftwood x Katy King x King), Kitony Hancock (Roan Hancock x Honey Bug x Tony), Bess Short (Big Shot x Peaches Carter x Rowdy) and Bobbinet Peake (Driftwood x Bobby Pin x Ben Hur).

The Marriage Ends

Not only did the Cotton-Peake partnership dissolve, so did the marriage of Channing and Katy Peake. Understandably, the pace at Rancho Jabali began to slow down. The ranch still stood stallions, mares were bred, and foals born, but it was not the same. To help, Max Schott, Katy’s nephew, was brought on board.

On October 20, 1960, Driftwood died, but his legacy would never. Generations later the Driftwoods still hold a prominent place on the performance horse scene. Some breeders are still clinging onto that bloodline and what it stands for.

Sun Frost, a Driftwood great-grandson, became on of the most popular stallions that traces back to Driftwood. Sun Frost sired many great barrel horses as well as earners in cutting, reined cow horse and heeling.

Final Words of Katy Peake

In a letter to her old friend Willard H. Porter, Katy summed up her feelings about the 20 years of companionship she enjoyed with her favorite horse.

“Old Speedy is gone. He got down last night and couldn’t get up on his own. There. are no words to tell the pleasure, pride and gratitude the; long association with him has given me. There will never be another like him.”

Katy passed away in 1998.