All-around cowgirl

Winning a barrel race at Longford riding Waldo, Faye Heath, Junction City, was an all-around rodeo cowgirl being inducted posthumously into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame. 

Faye (Peck) Heath of Junction City is being inducted posthumously into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Induction ceremonies scheduled last Saturday at the Boot Hill Museum in Dodge City were canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

“We will have a virtual event in the future with details forthcoming when details are completed,” said Kathie Bell, museum curator.

“Each year five legendary Kansas cowboys, past or present, are honored by induction into the Cowboy Hall of Fame,” Bell explained. “This year Faye Heath was selected instead of a cowboy in the Rodeo category.”

Inductees are selected for their significant contributions to the Western heritage lifestyle and preservation of the cowboy culture. “Each of them personifies the cowboy ideals of integrity, honesty, and self-sufficiency,” Bell pointed out.

Several of Faye’s family, including her husband Marshall and niece Gayle Fielder, both of Junction City, had intended to attend the induction ceremonies.

Additional inductees are O.E. “Bud” Alexander, deceased, Council Grove, Rancher/Cattleman; Charles “Walter” Couch, Kingsdown, Cowboy Historian; Keith L. Downer, Garden City, Working Cowboy; and John E. “Cowboy Jack” Steinmitz, deceased, Dodge City, Cowboy Entertainer.

Rodeo cowgirl

It was Heath’s birthright calling and anybody who ever met Faye forever acknowledges foremost: “She’s sure a real cowgirl.”

While “cowgirl” was Faye’s most recognized distinction, she was diversely talented, being appreciatively admired as everybody’s friend. Whenever Faye could be of assistance to another in anyway, her helping hand was offered with a contagious sparkling grin.

All-around rodeo cowgirl is a concisely accurate description of Faye. She was a champion in the rodeo arena for sure with award collections to prove it, but much more.

Rodeo heritage began on the ranch as did Faye’s talented staunch cowgirl life. From checking grazing yearlings, to gathering pastures, to roping and doctoring sick cattle to pulling baby calves, Faye was renowned.

Truly Faye could, and did, it all with the very best cowboys and cowgirls in the midwest.

Horses make the cowgirl or the cowboy and many have proclaimed they were happy if they owned one good horse in a lifetime. Without the slightest personal credit intended, Faye verified; “I’ve had lots of good horses.”

Breaking and training “lots of horses,” Faye made “good horses.” That was often not due to the individual horse’s talents, but always Faye’s ability as a cowgirl. Faye knew horses better than they knew themselves.

Born August 13, 1938, on the family farm near Hope in Dickinson County, Faye Louise (Peck) Heath was the youngest of Henry Nelson and Edna (Schweitzer) Peck’s five children. Her sister Joan was 13 years older, married and moved to Tennessee when Faye was just seven years old.

Faye grew up working cattle with her dad and three brothers Jerry, Loren and Ray, entrenching lifetime cowgirl skills. Faye was never a tomboy, always a cowgirl. It’s a fact: “Faye spent most of her life in the saddle.”

She insisted: “I’ve always liked horses. My dad was a cowboy. My three brothers and sister all rode, but my brother Jerry Peck, and I enjoyed it the most. I was so excited when Jerry was inducted into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame. He is so very deserving. Jerry is a real cowboy.”

Faye got her first mount, a pony named “Peanuts,” when she was four years old and rode Peanuts to school through the seventh grade.

From a very young age, Faye had rodeo in her blood. When she was 12 years old, Faye learned to ride her horse at a gallop, standing behind the saddle while gathering milk cows. One day while practicing her trick riding, a dog spooked her horse. Faye fell off and broke her arm, but that didn’t come close to stopping her.

Faye’s first rodeo experience was competing with her dad’s horse “Paint” in a Herington play day. She didn’t place, but that only encouraged her to start practicing.

After graduating from Chapman High School in 1956, Faye worked at Duckwalls then began her day job profession as a meat cutter, working at Robinson Locker Plant. She later worked for Dillons Grocery Store for more than 25 years until her retirement.

After high school Faye began successfully competing in rodeo events on weekends, riding Paint.

Purchased in 1963, “Ole Yeller” was her first “really good” horse. Over the years she won many ribbons and trophies. Faye loved to compete in every class, but is best known for her rodeo barrel racing career for 30-plus years.

On July 9, 1965, Faye married Marshall Heath at Lyona Methodist Church, Junction City.

They became partners in the cattle business as well as the horse business, buying several horses through the years, including a top performance stallion. Marshall was a hunter and trap shooter so Faye joined him successfully in those sports as well.

Waldo was one of Faye’s best known mounts as she rode the bay Quarter Horse gelding throughout the Midwest, collecting not only barrel racing awards but winning nearly every class.

Faye was highpoint rider nine years in the Eastern Kansas Horseman’s Association (EKHA). She was a barrel racing winner in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctioned rodeos as well as the Kansas Cowgirl Barrel Racing Association.

Faye, with her lifelong friend Rosie Clymer and roper Merle Flinn, was among those instrumental in forming the EKHA. Faye was an EKHA officer as well as serving in both the Junction City Saddle Club and Herington Riding Club.

Not only a rodeo cowgirl, Faye took care of her horses from every angle from birthing to training, doctoring, and farrier work.

Faye Louise (Peck) Heath passed from this life on Jan. 3, 2020, but her kind, gentle and joyful spirit will not be forgotten.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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