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Autobiography chronicles life of cattle legend

Book recounts changes in markets over the decades


Capital Press

COTTONWOOD, Calif. -- Cattle legend Ellington Peek's experiences are many, and he's sharing some of them in a new book about his life.

The autobiography, "When to Buy ... When to Sell," will be sold at next week's Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale, with proceeds going to the scholarship fund set up in the name of his deceased son, Andy Peek.

"I guess I was around too long," joked Peek, 83, who founded the Shasta Livestock Auction Yard here in 1964. "I started raising cattle in '48 and got into the auction business in '56, and I've probably handled more cattle west of the Rockies than most people.

"I've got a lot of stories about how we used to do it," he said.

The book, which sells for $50, will tell about life on his family's farm in the foothills east of Stockton, Calif., and how he and other cowboys used to drive cattle to the rails and to winter pasture.

"In this country, that's how we used to ship them -- we'd drive them to the rails," Peek said.

"It's just to tell the history of the cattle trade, more or less, how we used to do it from a handshake," he said. "We did a lot of it on telephones. Now we've got a lot of computers and other stuff. We started out with stockyards, went to auction yards and now we've got video sales."

Shasta Livestock was one of the first auction yards to begin video sales, which it did using satellite TV in 1989. It has since begun selling cattle online.

The yard is the largest volume auction market west of the Rockies, with approximately 100,000 live cattle going through the ring each year and a similar number in country deals, according to its website. Shasta also represents nearly a quarter-million head of cattle annually in its Western Video Market auctions.

Peek is known as an icon among cattlemen. He received the Chester A. Reynolds Award at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City in 2007 for perpetuating the legacy of the American West.

His son, Ellington Andy Peek, died in 2008 after a long illness. A scholarship was established in his name at the Red Bluff bull sale, and last year gave mostly $1,000 awards to 11 high school and college students.

By raising more funds, "we're going to be able to give $2,000 or $3,000" per student, Peek said.

Peek will have book signings on Jan. 25, 26 and 28 at the bull sale. The book will also be sold at the auction yard and at the cowboy museum in Oakdale, Calif., he said. The first copy will be auctioned Jan. 25 at the buyers' and consigners' dinner, bull sale manager Adam Owens said.

Peek said friends encouraged him to write the book.

"In a way, I've had an interesting life," he said.


Shasta Livestock Auction Yard: www.shastalivestock.com

Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale: www.redbluffbullsale.com


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