Band of Brothers: Boys Ranch Just the Start for a Friendship of a Lifetime

For three boys who came to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in the 1950s, the experience was just the beginning of their journey together. Beyond seeking a chance at a brighter future, they discovered an enduring bond of brotherhood. Gary Hardy, Steve Kriegel and Arnie “Butch” Eide got together over Labor Day weekend 2023 for their 60th Boys Ranch High School reunion, but it was just the most recent of their many shared experiences.

Each of them came to the Ranch from various areas at different times. Gary from California and Steve from the Midwest, both in 1957, and Butch from South Dakota in 1959. They were all involved in working at the Ranch and athletics, graduating together in 1963. Life after Boys Ranch led them to search for what was next in life. After working various jobs, Gary, Steve and Butch all joined the U.S. Navy, all unbeknownst to one another. However, they were shocked when all three of them wound up at the Naval Construction Battalion Center (CBC) Port Hueneme. 

“When we got out of the Ranch, I got tired of working in the oil fields. I was only 16 when I graduated high school, so I had to wait until I was 17, and my mom had to sign for me. I didn’t know the other guys had joined the Navy, but I had relatives who had done it,” Steve said. 

“I really wanted to be in the CBC, and I got it. I went to Port Hueneme and was sitting in the barracks. I was 17 and didn’t know anybody or anything. I looked up and I saw the head of a person walking by. I knew it was Gary and I hollered at him. He then told me that Butch was upstairs playing cards.”

The trio stayed together through stints in Okinawa, Japan and Vietnam. 

Steve, Gary & Butch served together in Okinawa, Japan and Vietnam.

“Vietnam was no cakewalk. It was a lot of action and hard work. Going to Boys Ranch made all that a lot easier than it was for the guys who didn’t have that experience. We were able to do our duties and get through everything when other guys couldn’t take it,” Gary said. “We made it through because of Boys Ranch. Not only did we do chores, but we got to do so much that not many kids get to try. We did every sport and rodeo. We got to do more before we graduated from high school than probably 99 percent of people get to do in their lifetime, which is pretty amazing.”

Steve remembers finishing his jobs each day in Vietnam and then searching for information to make sure Gary and Butch were safe.

“There is nothing I could have done now that I look at it, but that’s how much they meant to me,” Steve said. “I had to know they were OK.”

Gary, who now lives in Houston and is retired from the construction business, came to the Ranch with his three brothers, whom he saw on weekends and at events. Still, he says that Steve and Butch have also become his family.

“We’ve known each other all these years with all our activities at the Ranch, then the Navy. It was like having brothers with you in a way. It really helped being in the service knowing those guys were there,” Gary said. “We had more in common than some brothers coming up together.”

Butch was a barn foreman at the Ranch and currently resides in Montana, where he retired from a career as an electrician. He said that about 25 years after serving together in the Navy, the group of men met in Idaho for a fishing trip. 

“We kept in touch after that. They are like my brothers. I’ve never had to, but if I got in a bind, I know I can always call them, and they would help me out. All our wives have become good friends, too,” Butch said. “Going to Boys Ranch set us up for the service. Everybody knew the rules and the camaraderie was excellent. I think it made us all stronger. I know that I was headed the wrong way. If it wasn’t for the Ranch, I would be either dead or in prison right now. I’ve had a wonderful life. To me, Boys Ranch was a lifesaver.”

Boys Ranch alumni Steve, Gary and Butch enjoy a golf game over Labor Day weekend 2023 for their 60th high school reunion.

Steve vividly remembers the day he came to the Ranch. He had traveled from the Midwest to Amarillo, where it was dark and stormy. He rode to the Ranch with Cal and Mimi Farley. Before going to the dorm, he went to the Farleys’ apartment, where Mimi gave him a cookie.

“I was kind of scared at first, but I got to where I loved it. When I would go home for Christmas my mother would ask me if I wanted to stay home, but I always wanted to go back to the Ranch,” Steve said. “We all looked out for one another there. Even the bigger kids took care of the little kids. We saw Cal and Mimi Farley on a regular basis. Mrs. Farley would cook breakfast for our senior year. There were a lot of those kinds of things that would not mean anything to anybody else, but it meant a lot to us.”

Steve’s wife, Sally, appreciates the positive impact that the Ranch has on all of the children that pass through and is particularly grateful for its presence in her husband’s life. 

“Steve went to borrowing cars without people knowing about it to a career as a deputy sheriff. Boys Ranch made him a man,” Sally said. 

Steve was 5 when his father died, and over the years his mother could not control his behavior.

“I was definitely headed down the wrong road. All three of us – Gary, Butch and me – we all ended up good and have done well for ourselves. We all came from nothing, and I’m proud of them for what they’ve done,” Steve said. 

“Nobody gave us anything except Boys Ranch, which gave us a drive and work ethic. I’ll always love Boys Ranch.”

Band of Brothers: Boys Ranch Just the Start for a Friendship of a Lifetime

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