restricted access Chapter 6. Tascosa
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v v CHAPTER 6 Tascosa J udge Ewing was the first person who told me about Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. He told me it was a place where we could live like cowboys and ride horses. He showed me the Boys Ranch stamps with the boy and the puppy. About two months later, Karl “Doc” Sarpolis, my dad’s dad, showed up to take us to the Boys Ranch in Amarillo. Doc Sarpolis was a big, muscular man who always had a cigar in his mouth. He was one of five boys born in Pennsylvania to Lithuanian immigrants. Musically inclined, he had mastered the violin and piano. He also played football at the University of Chicago under famed coach Alonzo Stagg. After serving in World War I, he attended Chicago’s Rush Medical College and then earned his medical degree from Loyola in 1926. That same year, instead of starting a practice, he became a professional wrestler , changing the spelling of his last name from Sarpalius to Sarpolis. In 1932, he wrestled Jim Londos in San Francisco with ten thousand in attendance. Promoting his Lithuanian heritage, in 1933 he became the undisputed “champion of Lithuania” by winning a tournament in Cleveland. In 1955, Doc and Dory Funk Sr. became partners in a wrestling promotion company in Amarillo, booking professional wrestling matches throughout West Texas. Doc was a good friend of Cal Farley, who had also been a professional wrestler as well as a baseball player. Cal had moved to Amarillo to play baseball in the Panhandle–­ Pecos Valley League. They say he asked his teammates to hit the first ball foul over the fence, so any kid who grabbed the foul ball could use it as his ticket to watch the game. Tascosa • 39 Cal spent his free time trying to help boys who were on the streets. When he retired from baseball, he opened a small business in Amarillo selling tires. Cal Farley was an amazing businessman and very adept at promoting his own business. One weekend, at a promotional event just outside of Amarillo with hundreds in attendance, he dropped a tire out of an airplane, and whoever guessed how high the tire had bounced got a new set of tires. He sold a lot of tires that day. His talents as a promoter and salesman helped him start his home for boys. He was very active in the community and founded the Maverick Club, where boys gathered to play ball and other sports. Wrestling was at the top of the list. As the club’s membership grew, Cal was concerned about the boys who had nowhere to go after dark. Wanting to make their lives better, he asked Julian Bivins, a wealthy rancher, if he knew of a place in the country where he could take some of these boys for the summer so that they could have a place to stay and maybe grow some food while he tried to help them. Julian told Cal about Old Tascosa, an abandoned cow town thirty-­ six miles northwest of Amarillo, where he and his family had spent many summers. Tascosa had been the first true town in the Texas Panhandle. Located near that same shallow crossing on the Canadian River where the migrating buffalo herds used to cross, the area became the favorite buffalo-­ hunting spot for the Native Americans before the herds were wiped out. Following the Civil War, many veterans settled in Texas. Eventually some acquired large spreads of land for farming and cattle ranching. When the big cattle drives to market began, the shallow Canadian River was the best place to cross the herds on their way to Dodge City and the Kansas stockyards. By the 1880s Old Tascosa had grown into a wild cowboy town, catering to the cowhands on those cattle drives. With thirteen saloons, gambling, a red-­ light district, outlaws, fast women, and a cemetery, Tascosa was known for its share of violence. Billy the Kid was jailed in Old Tascosa for rustling. He escaped. The old cow town was also a favorite spot for some of the great western legends: Pat Garrett, Jim East, Bat Masterson, Temple Houston, and Wyatt Earp. In March 1939, Bivins drove Cal to see Old Tascosa. By that time, it had become a ghost town, but the old brownstone courthouse, built in 40 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch 1884, was still in good condition. There was a lake full of fish, the 1889 schoolhouse...


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