Known as Speedy during his rodeoing days, Driftwood left an undeniable mark
on the using horse world of the southwest and west coast. Foaled in 1932
near Silverton, Texas, the bay stallion was bred by Mr. Childress (known
locally as "Old Man" Childress).
At the time Driftwood was foaled, there was no American Quarter
Horse Association and breeding records were often loosely kept. Many
breeders, especially if they were racing their horses, preferred that the
breeding of their horses not be known. It was easier to match a horse that
way, especially if a horse was by a known sire of speed.
During those early match-racing years, there were no starting
gates. Instead, horses were flagged off the starting line in what were
called lap-and-tap starts. "Lap" meant that the horses had to lap each other
when they came up to the starting line. In other words, if the horses were
in a straight line, the starter, who was standing either to the right or
left of them, could only see the entire body of the horse closest to him.
When the horses were "lapped" like this, the starter "tapped" them off. If
they weren't lapped, he yelled to pull up and try again.
In his book titled 13 Flat, Willard Porter discussed
Driftwood's ability to remain quiet in lap-and-tap starts. Porter quoted an
old-timer as saying, "Driftwood never blew. One time, Driftwood was matched
against one of the best Lap-and-tap horses in the Sweetwater country for 220
yards. They scored for an hour and a quarter, until both horses were
drenched with sweat from the start of so many un-lapped starts. The other
horse was high and fretting and obviously tiring. But Drifty was still calm.
When they finally broke, Drifty never made a mistake. He broke straight and
on top and he won by 2 lengths."
In an article about Driftwood in Hoofs and Horns, Willard Porter
quoted Ab Nichols' son, Buck, as saying, "Driftwood was 6 or 7 years old
when we bought him. He was a race horse, but I broke him to be a rope horse
and rodeoed on him. As far as I know, he'd never experienced anything like
that before we got him.
"He was a blood bay; not real big and definitely showed his
Thoroughbred breeding," continued Nichols. "And he could run!
Driftwood stood 14.3 - 15 hands and showed
adequate bone and foot size. Driftwood was a very well balanced individual
and showed an alertness that is still evident in his progeny. He was also an
extremely smooth riding horse with an easy disposition. We didn't keep
him more than a couple of years, but we thought a great deal of him. As a
matter of fact, we bred a lot of our Clabber mares to him."
Porter's article continued to quote Buck Nichols, "George Cline
of Roosevelt, Arizona came to us about buying the horse. We sold him for
$600. The Depression of the 1930s wasn't over yet and that was an unheard-of
price for a horse. The Clines like to rope and Driftwood got to look at lots
In 1941, when he was 9 years old, Driftwood was sold to Asbury
Schell of Tempe, Arizona. Asbury was a tough calf and team roper and a
former world champion in the second event. The horse fit in well with that
program and before long he was a fixture at the big rodeos across the
country. From the Mexican border to Calgary, from California to Madison
Square Garden, Driftwood was ridden by some of the top timed-event hands in
the business. Schell began calling the horse Speedie (later, the Peakes
spelled it Speedy) based on the speed with which he caught cattle and the
name caught on with the cowboys.
In those days, most outdoor rodeos were held in large arenas and
over a long score. Because of his match-race experience, Speedy broke from
the roping box extremely fast and learned to hunt, or track, cattle in the
quickest way possible. Ropers of the time still talk about the way that he
ate up ducking, dodging calves and steers. At a rodeo at Payson,
Arizona, probably in 1941, the spectacular bay stallion was ridden in every
timed event - calf roping, team tying, single steer roping and bulldogging.
And he carried his riders into the money in every one of them. Then, he won
the stock saddle cow horse race down the length of the arena.
Driftwood was a tough horse. He stood up under the pressure of
rodeoing with the long hauls, numerous riders and changes of climate and
feed. Even with all the hard use, however, he never lost his good
ability to sire quick speed, performance ability, the mental attitude to
retain training, functional conformation and physical stamina to stand up
under hard use, and carry the traits on down through the generations, is
what made "Driftwood" unique among stallions. Many stallions are outstanding
performers themselves but are not able to pass that same talent on down
through the generations. "Driftwood" did. Generations later, "Driftwoods"
are known to be very trainable and excellent at any event they are asked to
perform in. Driftwood has had winners in virtually every event possible
including barrel racing, reining, working cow horse, roping, cutting and
western riding. They are known to be graceful movers and are very cowy.
They are also known to be huge stoppers.
1943, Driftwood's life took a different trail when he was
purchased by Channing and Catherine Peake, who owned Rancho Jabali in
Lompoc, California. According to Willard Porter the couple had decided to
develop a breeding program to produce the best rodeo and ranch horses
possible. Although they had the mare power to do it with, they didn't have a
stallion. So they began to search for a suitable one. For a year or so it
was a difficult hunt. The Peakes weren't in the market for just any
stallion. As Porter has written, they wanted one with proven, outstanding
roping ability. While they were interested in a horse with the conformation
that would enable him to stay sound under hard use, their primary objective
was a horse with performance ability, heart and the speed to catch cattle in
winning time. And they wanted a pre-potent horse that could pass these
traits on to his get.
In the spring of 1942 the Peakes went to the Hayward, California
rodeo where Schell was competing. They would not only see what the horse
looked like, but could judge his performance as a contest mount in both the
calf roping and team roping. The well-balanced, good looking bay
stallion lived up to his advance billing. He was alert, had a kind eye and
quiet disposition and was the kind of rope horse the Peakes had visualized.
Seeing Speedy ended the Peakes' search for a stallion. There was just one problem. Schell didn't want to sell the horse.
He was winning money off him in the rodeo arena and like most ropers, when
he had a horse that fit him, he didn't want to give him up. However, Channing and Katy did talk the Arizona cowboy into coming to their ranch for
a short visit and breeding Speedy to several of their mares.
Later Asbury did
decide to sell Speedy and on March 9, 1943 Channing Peake paid Asbury Schell $1,500.00 for
the stallion. For years, the major rodeos and team ropings in California and
Arizona were a showcase of Driftwood offspring.
Although Driftwood had been a hard-knocking race horse, few of
his get went to the track. The rodeo arena was their destination, although
more than one was match raced when the opportunity arose. And usually the
Driftwood crossed the finish line first.
During the following seventeen years, "Driftwood" sired a whole arena full
of top performers in the show ring, the race track, and the rodeo arena. For
over a half a century a bay stallion has passed down his own tremendous
performance ability and, in the process given horsemen something that they
were proud to ride. An old rodeo adage is, "A man has to be well mounted to
win" and with a "Driftwood" he was. Today, seventy plus years after he was
foaled, his blood is still sought after by cowboys. "Driftwood" died on
October, 20 1960. He left many great son's and daughter's of his such as "Hallie
Wood", "Woodwind", "Henny Penny Peake", "Brown Beulah", "Wood Wasp",
"Drifty", "Woodfern", "Miss Linwood", "O See O", "Judy Sue", "Annie Wood",
"Kitty Wood", "Rosewood", "Drifting Sage", "Easy Keeper", "Chilena",
"Maestro", "Speedy II", "Poker Chip", "Speedy Wood", "Speedy Peake", and
"Driftwood Ike", just to name a few.
One of the greatest crosses on Driftwood seemed to be a mare named Sage
Hen. This great mare produced Driftwood's greatest performers including
Poker Chip Peake who is considered to be the greatest calf roping horse of
all time. He was a good looking gray and could really stop. Sage Hen
also produced Henny Penny Peake (Hackamore champion), Red Button (famous
rodeo gelding), Drifting Sage (rope horse and great sire). Drifting Sage
produced Blanton Wood (by Kitty Blanton by Lucky Blanton). Blanton Wood is
the sire to Blantons O Too Cool. Sage Hen was by Wagonner and proved to be
among the greatest crosses on Driftwood.
Another great cross was Hancock Belle. She was by Buck by Chicaro and by a
Hancock mare. This cross produced Driftwood Ike who was also a top rope
horse and later a sire. Ike sired Orphan Drift, Wayward Ike, White
Lightning Ike and Lone Drifter and other great sires. Driftwood Ike mares
produced excellent individuals such as Sunfrost and Bucko Jack. Bucko Jack
was cutting winner before being sidelined with an injury. Bucko Jack is
the sire of Jumpin Jack Solano. Hancock Belle was also the dam of Chilena.
Chilena was also a great arena performer when mares were rarely ridden in
the arena. Chilena was a great roping horse and her blood is prized by
Driftwood breeders. It is fabled that Chilena outran every race horse in
Arizona and California during her time. She produced Frostena who was an
AQHA Superior Heading Horse.
Today's barrel racers are finding the Driftwoods make excellent barrel
horses. They have a natural rate to them and have a quick start out of the
barrel. They are easy to train and can handle the pressures and stress of training
Great barrel horses that carry Driftwood blood include Sun Frost,
Frenchman's Guy, French Flash Hawk (aka Bozo who was a 4 time PRCA barrel
racing horse of the year), PC Frenchman's Hayday (WNFR money earner and
prorodeo winner for Sherry Cervi) and Firewater Fiesta (who is a 1 time PRCA
barrel racing horse of the year), just to name a few.
While the Driftwood line is now getting thin, there are a few
breeders scattered around the country attempting to carry it on. And, when
possible, the ropers still like to own the Driftwoods. Even today, a cowboy
will occasionally comment that his top horse goes back to old Speedy. This
usually means that he is well-mounted.