The Child-Friendly Faith Project provides an outlet for abuse survivors of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch to tell their stories about ongoing, egregious abuses they suffered as child residents at the institution. Matthew Miller lived at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch from 1983 to 1990. His open letter is addressed to Dan Adams, the CEO of Cal Farley’s. Adams recently said that the institution, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, would not talk publicly about its abusive past.


Dear Dan,

Allow me to introduce ourselves to you. We are the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch Survivors. We come from all walks of life, near and far. When we first came to Boys Ranch as kids, some of us had no parents. Some of us had only one parent. Some of us were labeled as troublemakers. Some of us had been roaming the streets, wondering where our next meal was going to come from or where we were going to sleep.

Your organization was to solve those issues for us. It was going to feed us and give us a comfy bed to sleep in and a roof over our heads. It was to educate us and give us activities to keep us busy and allow us to have fun. And it was to provide us with a safe haven, all in a “Christ-centered atmosphere.”

At least this is what our parents believed would happen based on what Boys Ranch told them and the public.

Are you picturing this, Dan? It’s a nice vision, huh? Peaceful, calming. Like a warm summer day, laying in the grass, staring at puffy white clouds. Everything a child could ever imagine. The way God intended.

But now the public knows the truth—a truth that Boys Ranch survivors and you and the board of directors have known all along—that all that was said about the place was fake. A fabrication of reality.

Here is a glimpse of what that reality was like for us as children. It’s what I and other boys experienced many, many times. And it wasn’t all that long ago. After all, I left only six years before you came to Boys Ranch . . .


Repeated cracks of a belt echoing down a long, empty hallway. Followed by my screams of agony and pain. Another one rings out. CRACK!!! Each one delivered by a Punisher while a Witness dutifully stands by.

Crying becoming uncontrollable sobs. Another one. CRACK!! Each one getting louder and more intense. In between the cracks, my screams and crying. There is the sound of a thud. I have fallen to the floor and hit my head against the cinder-block wall.

In the background, I hear chuckles from older boys coming from the six rooms down the hall. They are enjoying each and every blow, like a band of demons welcoming evil. The smaller boys, though, are terrified. They clinch their pillows and blankets tighter with every crack of the belt.

The cracks have stopped but only because the Punisher and Witness are in fits of laughter. They find it incredibly funny that my body slammed head-first into the wall from the force. Their laughter is evil, demoralizing, and frightening. Under their laughter can be heard my uncontrollable, shaking sobs.

Are you still picturing this, Dan? Stay with me . . .

The Punisher has reached his maximum allowed ten swats. He stands there, pleased with his work. He looks at his belt with pride. With a calm smile, he returns his belt to the belt loops around his jeans.

I fight to regain my composure and rise to my feet. I am dazed and confused from my head hitting the wall. I can feel my backside already forming welts underneath my jeans.

I am still sobbing, with my head hanging low. The pain is throbbing on my backside from the ten licks. I remember the older boys laughing, and my pride and emotional state are shattered. Shame takes over like a virus invading my body. I know that the older boys will harass me about the beating for the next few weeks.

The Punisher is not done. He must now rationalize his actions. “A sixty-eight on a test is unacceptable,” he says. “I’m done with you for now. That grade better be a lot better on the next test. Go to your room.”

I leave the big room and enter the hallway. In the background, I can hear snickers of laughter by the men. I hear the Punisher whisper the word “stupid.”

“Christ-centered atmosphere”? Welcome to the real, Dan. Welcome to our memories. And stay tuned for more.

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Mathew Miller lived at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch from 1983 to 1990. He currently lives in Lubbock, where he works as an air compressor technician by day and a writer by night.

4 Comments

  1. Eric self
    November 13, 2019
    Reply

    All of these abuse claims are full of crap I lived at Cal Farleys from 97-2010 I never once was abused nor did I see or hear of anyone else being abused.

    • November 13, 2019
      Reply

      At this time, more than 100 people have indicated they were abused at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. Many say they were physically injured from beatings, emotionally terrorized and neglected, and that there was a failure to be protected from repeated sexual assault. And yet, you are making the claim that you know for a fact that none of these individuals, some of whom were there for decades before you were, are telling the truth. What evidence do you have that these claims are untrue? Maybe more importantly, if your experience at this Christian facility was healthy, shouldn’t you have been taught the importance of expressing compassion for those who have been harmed? Thank you for your respectful reply.

  2. AG
    October 22, 2019
    Reply

    I too was at the ranch at the same time Mr. Miller was there. 83-86 when I graduated. I embraced pretty much embraced all aspects of the ranch, from sports (football and track), intramural softball to speech and VICA (building trades). I went to chapel, I was able to participate in BMA (Bible Memory Association) where I earned a trip to LA. I attended a vacation with my family in Red River, New Mexico. Some things I would have never experienced had I not been at the Ranch. I also was able to test the resolve of those who were tasked with my upbringing and providing me with morals, character, education and family values. and I most certainly sampled them on a number of occasions. I had my share of getting “busted”, pretty sure I made my rounds to all of the current dorm parents (all of hilltop for sure), I did a few days of 13/13 (could have been a few months), I was instrumental in the building of the hill behind Hamilton Home. I learned the proper use of a “Yo-Yo”, I bucked hey in the heat, I moved irrigation in the freezing cold, eaten alive by mosquitoes just before going to school for the day. As I look back on those days with some wisdom of a little life experience, I realize that I did not ever receive one swat, one 13/13 detail that I did not fully deserve. I also reflect on where I might have been had I not had the opportunity to be a part of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. I had 23 brothers, and one sister, I am grateful for the time and people I had at the ranch. I thank god every day for those wonderful memories and experiences.

    • October 22, 2019
      Reply

      Hello, AG. The abuse survivors of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch do not attest that all children were abused. If you were not abused, then you were one of the lucky ones, and that’s a good thing. I do hope though that if the ranch taught you good morals, you can find it in your heart to find compassion for the children who were physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused as well as neglected. You can do both–feel grateful that Cal Farley’s fulfilled your needs of childhood and criticize it for brutalizing others.

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