Another Victims Story of Abuse.......
Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch has left many Boys “Broken”
Recently The Guardian broke a story about abuse that happened at Cal Farley’s Boy Ranch. The story quickly gained traction and numerous other major media outlets reported on it. Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch has been highly respected since it’s opening in 1939, and garnered millions of dollars’ worth of donations. But behind the doors of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch there was a different reality than the one that was presented to the public.
This story hits close to home for me; my father, and two of my uncles spent ten long years at this boy’s ranch. Growing up I heard a few stories about the abuse, but my father was a very private person and rarely talked about it. My Uncle Allan spoke about the abuse on occasion. I knew that they had all been abused, but I didn’t know to what extent until The Guardian broke the story.
I called my uncle Allan to let him know that they were issuing an apology, and immediately his voice cracked. He went from anger to despair, and then back to anger. I have no doubt that he was overcome with emotion. For years he has been trying to get someone, anyone, to listen to him about what happened at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. No one would. He even called the Texas Rangers demanding they do an investigation, but they showed little interest. My uncle Allan blames the death of my uncle Greg on Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. My uncle Greg fought addiction his entire life and ended up dying alone behind a dumpster of a heroin overdose. Drugs was uncle Greg’s escape from his purgatory childhood. The ranch had a negative effect on all three brothers; each dealt with it differently.
Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch is now issuing an apology, but is an apology enough? Does an apology make up for a lost childhood? Unfortunately, my father, Rusty Votaw, is now deceased and will never get that apology, same as my uncle Greg. They both died thinking their stories would never be heard. Well my uncle Allan is speaking for both of them now, and for all the other victims of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. Evil lives in darkness, but once you shine a light on it, it dissipates.
Here is my uncles story, in his words………….
My War with Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch
My two brothers and I were put on Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in the year of 1957. The boys ranch was a place for boys in trouble with the law, or boys with no home, which was our case. There was no one to speak up for us to stop the horrors bestowed upon us such as sexual molestation, torture, brutal beatings and the never-ending pain and fear.
I was put into the Court House when I arrived at the age of five. Not long after I started being molested by boys as much as ten years older than me. I couldn’t understand what they were doing, and had no control over it due to my age and size. After they were done I always got a warning about what would be done to me if I told anyone, finished off by a punch in the gut or a choke hold. That stuck with me because of their size, and what they were capable of.
When I arrived at the boys ranch I had a child’s wish of a safe place, and the possibility of living a happy life. I wanted to be protected, and loved. Within the first six months all those hopes and dreams had vanished and were replaced with pure agony. By then I knew that each morning brought a new day of fear and every night would be spent rolled up in a little ball under my covers in hopes that no one would reach in and grab me.
After leaving the Court House I was moved to a dorm call the Frying Pan. It wasn’t a whole lot different except the beatings got a lot worse. The real horror started when I was moved to the Finch dorm; this is when the slamming of your head against the cinder block walls began. It’s where they bounced your head off the concrete floors, slapped you in your face, beat with you everything they could find including belts, pieces of saddles, hands, feet, and so many different objects in order to cause horrific pain and fear. One of their favorite methods of torture was called INFINITY. The same as what’s was used in P.O.W camps. You had to squat like you were in the sitting position with your arms straight out. They’d put books on your arms to make it even more difficult. If you moved before your time was up they’d beat the hell out of you.
The sexual molestation was worse in this dorm. They put us in with lots of kids that were much older than we were and much bigger. During the molestation’s they’d put their hands over your mouth. If you thrashed around and woke other up you’d get beat as payment for the molester being punished. This happened over, and over again. The small children got singled out a lot for these sexual perversions and then had to pay the price on top of it with being beat. The beatings often resulted in both eyes being swollen shut, and blood coming out of your ears from your head being slammed against the walls. I was often left black and blue from head to toe. This was an endless cycle and what my life had become. Because the boys ranch had it’s own school it was much easier for them to hide the results of their beatings; kids left injured, and bruised. They were good at cover-ups.
Each dorm had two sets of “parents”. One set was the primary, and the second was the school teacher. It was impossible to concentrate on school because either you had just been beat or you were wondering when your next beating was coming. If you worked at the boys ranch you had the authority to beat the kids. That included everyone from the “teachers”. If you made a bad grade the teachers would beat the hell out of you. After the teacher was done you had to take your paper to the dorm parent and then they’d beat you. The dorm parents beating were far worse than the teachers; it’s as if they had to prove to one another that one could be crueler than the other. You were constantly punished for the same “crime” repeatedly.
Report card day was always one of the more horrifying days of all. The teacher would walk slowly up to each desk smiling, and hand them out; knowing what was to come. The instant I’d see my grades I’d wet my pants out of pure fear. That’d happen before I’d even make it back to the dorm to see what horrors awaited me there. You arrived at your dorm about 4pm and by 7pm the dorm parent came looking for the kids with bad grades. They’d bring parents from other dorms to help them perform their ritual of beatings. The beatings would last so long, and were so fierce, that they were often left breathless and tired.
They’d start at one end of the dorm and work their way down. Each dorm consisted of six rooms; six boys to a room. There was a bathroom between each two rooms. In the bathroom, there was a big shower with several shower heads, toilets, and several sinks. They would take three of us at a time into the bathroom, then fire up their cigars. They always had their cigars. Then their competition as to see who deliver the most pain began. You always hoped you were first because the sheer fear of seeing what happened to the boys in front you made the torment of waiting your turn all that much worse. I was often so scared I wet my pants. They banged our heads, slapped us, kicked us, and stomped us if we fell on the floor. While on the floor they’d beat your back, arms, legs with whatever weapon they had at the time. After being beaten so bad that both eyes were swollen shut, lips swollen, and blood coming out of your ears you knew you had been broken.
The beatings were a way of life at Cal Farley’s ranch. Listening to your brothers screams and being powerless to help them broke you. It affected you mentally, physically, and emotionally. If often made me wonder what did I do to deserve this? I read books about Dick and Jane going to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on the farm and having so much fun. I had no Grandma and Grandpa to love me. I had no mom and dad to love me. Instead I had these vicious child abuser, and molesters teaching me what my life was going to be all about. I was only five and did nothing wrong to deserve this.
This was Cal Farley’s boys ranch. They hired criminals and damn well knew how it was being operated. The criminals had full authority to do whatever they pleased to the boys that lived there. They’d slap your head daily and it’d often leave a golf ball size knot. If that’s all that happened to you then it was a good day. If visitors were coming to the ranch then the boys that were marked up were put somewhere else on the ranch.
Here is a list of just a few of the tormentors. These names stuck in my head because they were listed at the top of the hill where Finch dorm was, or they were in the school system;
- Phillips was the Hill top boss
- Johnson was a teacher
- Brock was a dorm parent
- Ratten was a teacher
- Schmidt was a dorm parent
- Finstand was at Agg Barn
- Pilgram was a dorm parent
- Waldrip was a teacher
- Dodge was a dorm parent
- Cristy was the Principal
- Hamilton was a teacher
- Roars was a teacher
- Tungston was at the Dairy Barn
We were given a number for recognition, and our mail was read coming and going. It was censored like you’d censor a prisoner’s mail in a prison. We were in prison, only worse; we were children being beat and tortured. Actual prisons had laws against beating the prisoners, but there was nothing that protected the kids at Cal Farley’s ranch from the hell we’d been cast in.
As the years went by I learned to accept that this was my life. I got tougher and was finally able to fend of my molesters, but never the beaters. My school work never improved due to my constant fear and living conditions; the beatings continued. Bad grades, someone saw you throw a rock….the list was endless as to why you’d get beat.
There were runners; those that ran away. I always wanted to, but the runners were always caught. The screams I’d hear when they were brought back put the thought of running out of your head. Those that didn’t come back were dead. I have so many stories about the runners. This was my home life.
The wind it isn’t a scream it is
For this is his home where they break bones.
Lying is wrong; he knows that,
But better than hurting, so he’ll keep on lying
Fear he knows best, it’s never at rest
Scared as he is makes him what he is
When he grows up and understands more
He’ll probably want to settle the score
Because of the abuse I endured over bad grades I got pretty good at forgery. I forged half the signatures son the papers I was supposed to give to the dorm parent. I got caught two times out of ten, and when I did the punishment was unspeakable, but it was worth not getting beat the other eight times.
Finally, in 1967 my two brothers and I could leave Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. We endured ten years of pure hell and terror. Our mother married and had to prove that she could provide a stable home life for us. It was, and still is, insulting that my mother had to prove to those monsters that she could provide a good home after what they did to us. No one could have been crueler than they were, so how dare they force my mother to prove she could give us a loving home. We lived with her and my new stepdad in a small town called Gillette. We had a younger half-blood brother and sister by this time. Our mother kept us fed, and did her best but things were tough. I had a hard time making friends and getting along with my stepdad. There wasn’t much to our small town except oil rigs, and ranchers. I got in some trouble and ended up having to spend time in foster homes because I used my forgery skills to write hot checks around town. I rebelled in a sense because of the anger that was boiling inside of me. I didn’t know how to deal with the trauma I had been put through. Coping skills wasn’t part of the curriculum and Cal Farley’s; only pure brutal force, and torture.
This is just a brief description of my childhood. There’s so much more…….
The statue of Cal Farley needs to be taken down. It’s an insult to those of us that suffered so tremendously at his ranch, to see it standing as if it’s a beacon of hope. To many of us it represents hell of earth.
I’d like to dedicate this to my two brothers; Rusty Votaw and Greg Votaw. Both suffered alongside me, and neither are alive today. They will never get the apology they deserved.