Jonah: Embracing Love, Family and Beignets at Christmas

In the heart of the Texas Panhandle, Jonah stands as a testament to the power of the supportive environment of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch.

“I was struggling in school. I was rebellious against my mom and everything,” he said. “I just had to get away from all that negativity and get into an environment where there’s people that may have the same problems as me and that would help me in some way.”

Jonah found those people in the other kids and staff at Boys Ranch.

“They made me feel like I was at home. It didn’t make me want to leave,” he said. “I’ve learned that you can’t judge someone because of their background. It’s not cool. If you do, that creates negativity and I try my best not to do that kind of stuff.”

Gradually, his homesickness faded, and he expressed his gratitude to Boys Ranch for the opportunities it has given him.

“Thank you. Thank you very much for making this possible for me. If this wouldn’t have been here, I would have just been stuck at home, and I would have been a failure,” Jonah said. “I didn’t have much at home. Now I actually have something ahead of me that I’m striving for.”


Jonah found a supportive environment at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch.

This sense of purpose comes from the activities at the ranch he participates in, such as Experiential Learning Programs (ELP) and rodeo. Jonah had experience with animals before moving to Boys Ranch, but he gained a profound connection with the animals through his experience in chute dogging.

“In rodeo, you have to respect the animal,” Jonah said. “You feel connected to the animal. You have to. You’re in there in a chute with a 400 to 500-pound steer and then you’re going out there and bringing them to the ground. It’s like wow, I did that.”

Beyond the physical accomplishment, Jonah goes on to describe the catharsis of rodeo.

“This is a good way to let all those feelings out. And I bet 100 percent while wrestling with that steer, you and that steer are both going through the same type of emotion. I may be thinking ‘Today was such a rough day, I’m going to take it out on you.’ And I bet that steer is saying almost the same,” he said.

The fusion of vulnerability and strength characterizes Jonah’s experience in the rodeo arena. The adrenaline and emotional bond he shares with the animals encourage respect for both the animal and the rodeo athlete. However, this connection extends beyond the rodeo grounds. Jonah also enjoys hunting deer and pheasant with a group of friends from Boys Ranch.

“It’s a whole different side of things when it comes to animals,” he said.
While rodeo serves as an adventure, hunting provides Jonah with an outlet for growth and self-discovery.

“You have to have a lot of patience,” he said “You have to wait for the deer to come up—and they will come up eventually.”

Mike Lowe, director of rodeo and equine programs at Boys Ranch (right), is a mentor for Jonah. Mike has taught Jonah about rodeo, hunting and more at Boys Ranch.

Accompanying the group on their trips is a mentor, Mike Lowe, director of rodeo and equine programs at Boys Ranch. In addition to teaching them the tips and tricks of hunting, Mr. Lowe has helped Jonah grow.

“He’s helped me be more of a young rancher. You know what I mean? Like a rodeo athlete,” Jonah said.

Through his experiences at Boys Ranch, Jonah learned that the bonds he shared with both animals and individuals had the power to shape his character and guide him toward a future enriched by respect, empathy and unwavering camaraderie.

Despite being miles away from his hometown during most of the year, the holiday season brings him back to his loved ones. Hailing from the vibrant state of Louisiana, Jonah doesn’t hesitate to make the journey home for Christmas.

“I just love my family. I like celebrating those holidays with them,” he said.

For Jonah, Christmas isn’t just about the presents and the festive atmosphere. It’s about love, togetherness and the joy of spending quality time with family members.

“It’s not just about greed, or presents or anything,” he said, reminding everyone of the deeper meaning the
season holds.

When asked about family traditions, Jonah humbly mentioned that his family doesn’t adhere to many, but one does stand out – the preparation of New Orleans style beignets. These mouthwatering treats hold a special place in Jonah’s heart, and every Christmas he dedicates his time and effort to making these delicious pastries for his family.

“They love them,” he said.

As for Christmas at the ranch, Jonah spoke about the annual Boys Ranch Cantata celebration, and how he appreciates the unique charm of the gathering.

“We celebrate the Cantata over there in the chapel, and when we’re done we eat at the dining hall afterward. And that’s pretty cool if I’m being honest with you,” he said.

Jonah’s understanding of Christmas transcends the surface-level festivities and encapsulates the true essence of the season – love, family, unity and creating cherished memories together.

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