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Cal Farley:Humboldt Athlete


Lois Ann Diamond

"It's where you're going that counts." This wasone of the sayings Cal Farley lived by, but Cal Farley, the founder of theworld famous boys ranch in Texas, didn't always know where he was going.The turning point of his life was in Humboldt, Minnesota.

Cal Farley promoted the values of sportsmanship and encouragedsports in the Humboldt area.

The Farley family consisted of six children. Cal, and histwin sister, Zaida, were born on Christmas Day, 1895. At the time they livedin Saxton, Iowa.

The Farleys were struggling farmers who weren't very successful.The family moved to Elmore, Minnesota. Once again they tried their luckat farming.

Early in life Cal Farley acquired an emphatic distastefor farming. He especially disliked plowing and spent many hours "lookingthrough the plow handles at the south end of a pair of north-bound mules."

Cal Farley had an unhappy childhood due to the quarrelingand bitterness between his parents. His father became increasingly discouragedwith life. He left the family and never returned.

Although Cal Farley had a poor home situation he had onething to make life enjoyable. He was a natural athlete and loved sports.Cal was "scuffling almost as soon as he could milk a cow." Hisavid enthusiasm for sports brought him out of an obscure existence intoa different world.

At the age of sixteen, Cal Farley had an opportunity toleave home and he gladly took it. He landed a place on a semi-professionalbaseball team. The organizer of the team had heard of his ability as a secondbaseman. The pay was $60 a month, which was a good salary in 1911. He wason his own now - - in Humboldt.

As a semi-pro player on the Humboldtteam, he traveled to neighboring towns to challenge their teams. Membersof the Humboldt team included: Ernest Turner, Lawrence Diamond, Fred andEli Gooselaw, Herb Diamond and Earl and Clarence Maxwell.

The players often hired out to other towns to earn extramoney. Most of the villages had teams so there was no problem in arranginggames.

Mr. Farley was also a professional wrestler. Wrestlingbrought him athletic fame, although baseball was his first love. He wasa world welter-weight champion in the Golden Age of Sports. While in Humboldt,he competed with men from other towns in matches.

Mr. Farley trained with local boys before a match. Everytown had at least one good wrestler. Although they were amateurs, they providedCal Farley with a great deal of necessary experience. While helping Mr.Farley train, many Humboldt boys also became good wrestlers.

Cal Farley loved children and enjoyed showing boys the"rules of the game." Many Humboldt boys used to wait anxiouslyfor recess. They would rush out of school to the playgrounds. Mr. Farleywould often be waiting for them. Then they would have a rousing game offootball or baseball. Naturally, Mr. Farley was able to offer the boys helpfulsuggestions on improving their game.

Cal Farley played ball and wrestled throughout the RedRiver Valley over five years. Then World War I began. Mr. Farley volunteeredto stop the German aggressions in Europe. He remained in Europe for a shorttime after the war, trying to help the children of the war torn areas. Sportswas all he knew but Cal Farley was able to play ball and organized leagues.He would intentionally hit fouls during batting practice so the childrencould get to see more of the game.

When Uncle Sam said Cal Farley could go home, he returnedto Humboldt. He stayed on the baseball team and kept on wrestling. In 1919he was the champion of the AEF and Inter-Allied Games. He was the winnerin the welter-weight division.

Mr. Farley also attempted to organize a football team inHumboldt. A few games were played but it never became popular.

But Mr. Farley wasn't totally satisfied with life. He decidedto move on. Perhaps he could find something more meaningful elsewhere.

He left Humboldt in a unique way. He gathered all his friendsat the local restaurant. Cal Farley treated everyone to a steak dinner.Then he boarded the train. As the train whistle blew, he probably wavedgoodbye to the small town that had started him on his way. He never returnedto Humboldt.

Mr. Farley spread his fame throughout the middle west asa champion wrestler. He was getting to be an "older man" in thewrestling world but he was still winning matches. Cal Farley has the distinctionof having 225 straight falls without a loss.

But Mr. Farley's athletic career was coming to a close.In 1930 he was painfully trounced in a world's welter-weight championshipmatch in Amarillo, Texas. Over six thousand people watched Jack Reynoldsdefeat Mr. Farley.

After the defeat, Mr. Farley ended a glorious career. Hedidn't have any definite plans so he stayed on in Amarillo.

He invested in a defunct tire shop. He eventually builtit into a million dollar business. Cal Farley was a great salesman and solda record number of tires. The Goodyear Tire Company almost named a tireafter him, as recognition for his exceptional sales record.

While Mr. Farley was selling tires he became interestedin the most prevalent media of the time - - the radio. He was describedas "radio's super-salesman." He also pioneered department storemerchandising with a radio show. With his excellent knowledge of sport CalFarley was also a first class sportscaster.

Although he was busy building a business Mr. Farley wasn'ttoo busy for neglected boys. With the help of some friends, a Maverick Clubwas formed in Amarillo. The purpose of the club was to keep young boys offthe streets and get them interested in organized athletics.

But he felt the club wasn't getting to the boys who reallyneeded help. The ones who came from broken homes and received their educationon the streets. Mr. Farley called this group of boys "the bottom 10%of America's youth." These boys didn't know what it meant to be lovedand belong to a family. They were unfamiliar with the importance of schooland church. The Great Depression was on and these lonesome boys were plentiful.Cal Farley began to dream about a boys ranch.

In 1939 this dream became a reality. Julian Bivans donatedland toward the building of a home for underprivileged boys. The land wasnear Tascosa, Texas, an old ghost town. The only building Mr. Farley hadto build from was an abandoned courthouse. Here, among the cactus, Cal Farleygave boys something to live for.

The ranch began with five lonely boys. Presently, it housesover 350 boys. The ranch has 40 modern buildings and covers 4,000 acres.Elsewhere, in various areas, the ranch owns 9,000 acres of farmland. Someof the land is excellent for farming and provides sources of income forthe ranch.

Cal Farley, with the help of his wife, Mimi, preventedthousands of delinquents from committing more serious crimes. Paul Harvey,the news commentator, sums up Mr. Farley's life in this way - "Overthe years Cal and Mimi Farley were foster parents to over 2,000 boys givingthem an apron to weep on. . , a shirttail to hang onto. . , and a star tosteer by. At the back door of hell, they built a stairway to heaven."

Cal Farley was able to help these boys because he knewwhere he was going. And he knew that was what counted.

Perhaps without his few brief years in Humboldt he mightnot have found his purpose in life. Humboldt can be proud to say they indirectlyhelped thousands of young boys.

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Day, Beth "A Shirttail to Hang Onto (Pamphlet publishedby Cal Farley's Boy Ranch)

Diamond, Harvey E. - Interview January 20, 1971

Hendricks, Louie. Letter correspondence with Cal Farley'sBoys Ranch

Hibbs, Ben "Where the Boys Are at Home on the Range"Reader's Digest reprint. February 1, 1965

Hoglin, Gertrude - Interview January 24, 1971

Boys Ranch Roundup, November, 1961 Vol. XII No. 7

Boys Ranch Roundup, April, 1967 Vol. XVIII No. 3

Boys Ranch Roundup, March, 1967 Vol. XVIII No. 2

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