Strengthening Children & Families
"It's easy to smile when someone cares" Cal Farley
PO Box 1890
Amarillo, TX 79174-0001
Toll Free (800) 687-3722
"When you really and truly like kids, it doesn't make much difference whose kids they are."
Early in life the Farley children learned the
meaning of work: plowing fields, shucking corn, and all of the
routine chores that had to be done to keep a struggling farm and
themselves alive. Known as “Shrimp” because of his small size,
His athletic career was interrupted by the dark clouds of World War I in 1917. Along with many other patriotic young men, Cal enlisted in the Army. In 1918 the Sixth Engineers were in the major battles of the war. Cal was one of the few in his 250 man regiment to survive the fighting. Though a young man, he was recognized as an organizer of men, and his commanding officers encouraged him to promote athletic events for the morale of the troops. The baseball and football games, some played during exchanges of Allied and German artillery fire, did much for the esprit de corps, but the wrestling matches between Cal and the champions of other outfits probably did more to help the doughboys forget the war than anything else. After the armistice his assignment was to organize athletic programs for the occupation forces. During the games he observed groups of eleven and twelve-year-old German boys gathered on the sidelines to watch these strange American sports. That they could speak no English, or that their dads, uncles, and cousins had been shooting at him a few weeks earlier, made no difference to Cal. He taught the boys how to play and organized them into baseball teams, the "Machine Gunners" and the "Kraut Eaters." As their coach, he demonstrated an interest in these boys that became a guiding philosophy of his life.
The American Expeditionary Force and
Inter-Allied Games were organized, and Cal won all of his
elimination matches and claimed the championship of the Third Army.
He ultimately won the welterweight title at the Inter-Allied games
At the ballpark,
In an effort to do something about these boys,
Cal and other men in the community decided that a year-round program
of athletics was the answer, so they formed the Maverick Club and
Kids Inc., organizations that continue to provide healthy and
productive activities for children in the community. These programs
provided nine out of ten of these boys with not only a sports
program but also food, clothing, and medical attention. It was that
tenth boy; however, that
It was the beginning of a period in his life that
called for more hard work and dedication to his idea than ever
before. Along with helping boys through the Maverick Club,
Cal Farley became a tireless promoter of both his business and his Ranch and his name became a household word throughout the Panhandle, and beyond. The "Cal Farley Show" was broadcast from his store for fifteen years and his talent for showmanship helped build the business. The program was aired over the Panhandle's only radio station, WDAC, and was the most popular local production in Texas at the time. It was on this program that listeners first heard about the homeless, drifting boys that Cal was giving a "Shirttail To Hang Onto". Cash was short for most, but those first supporters did have food, clothing, bedding and farm tools, which they shared with the boys.
It was also over the broadcast that Cal communicated with the Ranch. There was no telephone communication out there, and talking directly to the radio listener was strictly forbidden, but he solved this in a dialogue over the microphone with another person, usually Stuttering Sam: "Sam, I'm leaving town tomorrow. " "Where you going, Cal?" "Have to be at the Ranch in the morning." "What time you leaving, Cal?" "Around 4:30 or 5:00" "What time you gonna get there?" "Oh, about 6:30 or 7:00" Some of the older boys would be waiting at the river the following morning, standing by with a tractor in case Cal's car got stuck in the quicksand.
Having the boys in the country and away from the city temptations was good, but other problems were created by the isolation. Most of the boys adapted well to ranch life, but they had few visitors. The thirty-six miles from Amarillo - traveling over a dirt road and fording the Canadian River with its quicksand - was a journey not many people cared to undertake. There had been talk about putting on a rodeo just to get someone to come out and visit the boys. Cal agreed. He understood their loneliness and longing to be part of a larger world. He also saw the rodeo as a way to call attention to the Ranch. In the fall of 1944, he let them put on their first rodeo, with the boys riding and branding a few calves. About one hundred people showed up, mostly from Cal's Amarillo Rotary Club. After a couple years of this he decided to promote it more, hoping for a thousand people. On Rodeo day, three thousand cars showed up. The result was one of the biggest traffic jams in the history of Texas.
Word was beginning to spread to other parts of the country. Newspapers, periodicals, and national publications like Readers Digest published feature articles. These, and the Saturday Evening Post's "Alley Cowboys", spread the word nationwide. It was this way Cal's work with boys came to the attention of Hollywood, resulting in the production of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer’s film, Boys Ranch. The movie was promoted so well by Cal and other Amarillo businessmen that it out-grossed every premiere ever held up to that time, including Gone with the Wind. Twenty-eight thousand dollars' worth of tickets were sold and the proceeds enabled Cal to purchase seven Air Force surplus buildings for expansion of the Ranch.
The national attention had put the Ranch on the
map. The mailbags grew heavier with requests to take boys, and
Cal's telephone rang at all hours. Arriving at his office one
morning, he found three brothers, aged five, ten, and fourteen,
sitting on the curb in front of the store. Their mother had bought
one-way tickets from a distant city, hung tags around their necks,
and deposited them on a Greyhound bus. The tags read: “Deliver to
For the next 30 years Cal and Mimi worked side by side helping boys find a “Shirttail to Hang Onto” at the Ranch.