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v v CHAPTER 10 The Free World M ost kids’ goal in high school is to graduate, and most achieve that. But when you’re thirteen years old and can’t read or write, it seems like an impossible dream. For me, that dream was about to come true. On graduation day in May of 1967, I put on my blue cap and gown and looked at myself in the mirror, feeling very proud of what I had accomplished through my years at Boys Ranch. It was beginning to sink in: I was leaving some close friends who had become like brothers. These were boys I had gone to school and church with and ate every meal with. We had grown up together, like family. I had spent as much of my life at the ranch with them as I had with Bobby and Karl. It was at that moment Karl found me standing in front of the mirror . The look on his face told me that he already missed me. I promised I would come see him and would always be there for him. Karl had adjusted very well to the ranch; he was the football quarterback and was active in all sports. He was by far a better athlete than Bobby and I. He was popular and served as his class president. He would be fine, but both of his older brothers were leaving the ranch in a few days, so his pain was understandable. I hugged him and told him to make the best of what Boys Ranch had to offer. Commencement ceremonies were on a Friday night, and graduates could sign their release papers and leave the ranch after the ceremony to enter what we called “the free world.” We had already been living in the free world but didn’t realize how blessed we were. We had a free place to sleep and three free meals a day. 74 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch The graduation ceremony was held in the dining hall. There were twenty-­ nine seniors in my class. Soapy Dollar was the valedictorian, and Bobby was the salutatorian. I ranked near the bottom of my class, but I had earned my diploma and had come the furthest in the shortest amount of time of any of the boys there. After the families and guests were seated, the seniors entered from the back and marched up the center aisle to our seats at the front of the room. Soapy and Bobby gave their speeches. Then the senior class stood and turned around to face the audience, and we sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Our class was so close, we sang that song to each other as tears rolled down our cheeks. Garland Rattan, the high school superintendent, walked to the microphone to announce the scholarship recipients. This would be the first time the ranch awarded a Cal Farley Scholarship, worth thousands of dollars, covering all expenses for four years of college. The winner was Soapy Dollar. Garland Rattan then announced that the next scholarship was the Mimi Farley Scholarship, awarding the same amount of money as the Cal Farley Scholarship. Bobby won this scholarship. We were so proud of Class of ’67 from Boys Ranch, a band of brothers. Courtesy of Boys Ranch. The Free World • 75 him. After about ten other scholarships were given out, I thought for sure I would not make it. My grades were just not good enough. Garland Rattan then said the final scholarship would go to me. I walked to the stage and accepted my envelope and returned to my seat. I hoped my scholarship would be worth a lot to help pay for college. I quickly opened the envelope and pulled out a certificate for sixty-­ five dollars, to apply toward my first semester’s tuition. I couldn’t complain. College was a lot cheaper back then, but sixty-five dollars wouldn’t get me far. The senior class rose and sang “The Impossible Dream (The Quest)” from the 1965 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. Then Rattan called each name, and we walked up to receive our diplomas. When I opened mine, I felt saddened when I noticed that Cal Farley’s signature was missing—­ and would never be on another diploma again. After the ceremony, Honey came running up and hugged me, saying how proud she was. I thanked God she wasn’t drunk. I told her...

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