Monday, February 04, 2008

Cal Farley's Boys Ranch

I took a trip to Texas last spring with my mother and my uncle David. We spent over 2 weeks driving all around the state visiting sites relevant to our family's heritage and visiting many of our relatives who still call Texas home. My mom has 5 siblings. We visited all the towns where the 6 siblings were born. We visited a lot of towns where my Grandfather, Morris Russell Pike Sr. preached as a Methodist minister. It was such a powerful experience for us all. We connected deeply with our family's history and heritage.

One particularly wonderful discovery came our way during the trip. My uncle David remembered visiting a "Maverick Boys Ranch" where my Grandfather volunteered and helped build buildings back in 1939 and 1940. David remembered a really small place, very primitive. As we arrived in the area where the boy's ranch/orphanage was supposed to be, David recognized many landmarks, but the only boy's ranch in the area was "Cal Farley's Boys Ranch" which is very famous (and was even the subject of a movie). This place appeared to be a really developed, huge place.

Initially, David was pretty sure this wasn't the same place that Grandpa worked on. We decided to go and check out the visitor's center and see if we could figure out if this was 'the place' that Morris Russell Senior had volunteered. As we went through the visitor's center and then the museum, we got our answer. There were some old photos of the place when it was started, in 1939. David recognized the photos, one of which showed the "Maverick Boy's Ranch" entry gate!

It was called the Maverick Boy's Ranch back when my grandfather was helping build the initial structures there. It then became America’s First Boys Ranch and was finally renamed Cal Farley's Boys Ranch in 1954. We watched a great movie about the place and bought some books about the history of the ranch.

As we looked around at this amazing place, with an inspiring mission, we realized something that gave us goosebumps. My grandfather (and their father) had been there at the very, very beginning of this undertaking. He was there at its birth. M.R. Pike had played a role in starting a place that has helped many boys who were either orphans or who needed a more stable environment than there parents were able to provide.

We were incredibly proud that M.R. Pike had played an important role in a project that has made a difference in literally thousands of young men's (and young women's) lives. What touched me most is that my Grandfather died very young, and never knew what became of this place. None of us in the family knew until this trip, that we had a special connection to this fantastic place. My grandfather had a big heart and a passion for helping young people. His contribution to this boy's ranch, in its formative years, was an almost anonymously performed act that has lived on through the years. What a legacy!

Here is the intro for Cal Farley's Boys Ranch from their website:

Cal Farley's Boys Ranch is a modern community of boys and girls who have found "a shirttail to hang onto." In a nurturing, structured environment, boys and girls from pre-school through high school live in group homes with house parents and a supportive community.

Young people from throughout the United States enjoy a variety of academic, vocational, spiritual and extra-curricular activities to help them become responsible and resilient young people.

The Boys Ranch Independent School District (BRISD) serves as an integral part of the community with K-12 grade academic and vocational preparation.

Last year, Cal Farley's Boys Ranch cared for 354 children in residence with an average length of stay of more than four years for those finishing high school.

The Ranch, founded by Cal Farley in 1939, is located 36 miles northwest of Amarillo, Texas.

Check out Cal Farley's Boys Ranch Website. Be inspired!

Maverick Boy's Ranch 1939

Blacksmith's Shop - 1939

Cal Farley's Boy's Ranch - "A Shirttail to Hang Onto"

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