Murder In The Dark

Dory Funk grimaced in pain as he struggled to free his arm from a double wristlock skillfully applied by his opponent, former NCAA amateur wrestling champion out of Oklahoma state Wayne Martin. The crowd at the Amarillo Sports Arena was pulling for Funk, the young and slightly balding superintendent of Cal Farley's Boy's Ranch. At ringside covering the wrestling matches was Amarillo Globe News Sports Reporter Harry Gilstrap, The Ring Announcer was Bill Fairley, and doing the play by play coverage of the wrestling matches on radio was Earl Curly Williams.

Forty miles north of Amarillo at the ranch, Dorothy Funk, and here two children, Dory Jr. and Terry were glued to the radio. There were thunderstorms in the area and reception wasn't good as thunder and lightning interrupted the broadcast. Even so they listened and twisted and turned with every move, pulling for their father to free himself from the hold and win the match with Martin.

Several hundred yards to the north at Boot Hill Barracks, (Residence for the older boys, high school age) a group of the Boys Ranch wrestlers had also gathered to listen to the matches on radio. Curly Williams continued, "Funk's hand is turning white, Funk is in pain. Dory Funk is coming to his feet and pushing Martin into the ropes. The referee is calling for the break, Dory lets loose with a haymaker, Martin fights back and now ladies and gentlemen it has broken out into a pier six brawl, Funk has a cut over his right eye, Wayne Martin is bleeding, They are swinging wildly at each other, and now Dory Funk has the spinning toe hold, The referee is patting Funk on the back, Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the match is Dory Funk."

The crowd at the sports arena is standing and cheering, Dorothy Funk is smiling, Terry and Dory Jr. are jumping up and down. Over at Boot Hill barracks the boys are celebrating. Radio announcer Earl Curly Williams was signing off with his last words reminding everyone that for $49.95 they could get one of his famous, "Baked Enamel Paint Jobs," over at Earl Curly Williams' paint and body shop.

Cal Farley's idea of bringing professional wrestler Dory Funk to Boy's Ranch to gain control of what was becoming a rowdy bunch of kids was a success. Dory Funk had only been at the ranch a short time, but the installation of athletic programs especially amateur wrestling was already paying benefits. The ranch also had a football team, basketball team, rodeo was a part of the program, and his wife Dorothy was leader of the music program that put on performances throughout the panhandle of Texas.

It had been a long day for Dory Funk, He had left the ranch early that day to stop by the Boy's Ranch Office in Amarillo at the B.F. Goodrich Tire store at 4th and Filmore. The Goodrich Tire Store was Cal Farley's original business and he still maintained the office there. The ranch was already carrying all the kids they could, 105 boys, but Cal had another boy from a broken family that needed a home. Funk said, "We'll make it work."

Cal Farley was a professional wrestler himself for many years until the duties of Boy's Ranch became too much. He used to love to tell stories about his friend who helped him so much in getting the ranch started, Professional wrestler, Dutch Mantell. "Old Dutch was mean as they come in. He used to always come to the ring with a short stubby cigar in his mouth and wouldn't hesitate to rub it in an opponent's eyes, but old Dutch had a soft heart for kids."

Dory Funk learned much of the history of the Boys Ranch and the Panhandle area from Cal. The Bivins family had donated the original land to Cal for the construction of Boys Ranch. Cal used to talk about the days when He, Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers used to travel the area and at times had to shoot Jack Rabbits for food. Because of Cal's long time friendship with Roy Rogers, He and his wife, Dale Evans would be appearing at this years Boy's Ranch Rodeo.

Dory Funk was in the shower now hurrying to get changed so he could get back to the ranch. The weather forecast was for rain that night and he new the water could rise at the Canadian River crossing on Old Tascossa Road. In those days there was no bridge and you had to ford the Canadian River to get to the ranch. The water was usually shallow, but there was always the danger of quicksand too. Many cars had been lost at the old Canadian River crossing.

Over at Boot Hill Barracks, the ranch kids, E.P. Sleeth, Eddie Baker, Bill Angus, D.K. Young, Dywane Halford, Tommy Cannon and others looked out the window as the rain came down heavy. They were supposed to be in for bed check by 10 pm as tomorrow was a school day. "Mr. Funk will never make it across the river tonight" said Baker, "Lets go the gym for a game of Murder in the dark. Mr. Funk will never know."

Dory Funk was out of the Sports Arena early that night. He stopped to say a few words to Ray and Marie Jeffrey of Jeffrey Plow Company. He waved at Ralph Dyckman, founder of the Maverick Club who ran the concession stand over on the far side of the arena, Then He went up stairs to get his pay from wrestling promoter Dory Detton and did ask what the gate was that night as he knew that 10% of the wrestling gate in those days went to Cal Farley's Boys Ranch.

As Dory left Amarillo the weather was okay however, twenty miles North of Amarillo on Old Tascosa Road, It began to rain, then it became a good old Texas downpour. Dory knew he would be lucky to get just a few hours sleep tonight as he always tried to be up with everyone at the Ranch for breakfast at 6:30 in the morning at the Mess Hall.

At the Boys Ranch Gym, just north of the residence where Dory and his family lived, the Boot Hill Barracks boys were going to have a ball. They were sure Mr. Funk would never make it across the river especially in his brand new 1949 oldsmobile. He'd never take a chance with a new car in the Canadian River.

As Dory Funk arrived at the Canadian River, his fears were realized. The River was flowing bank to bank. There were no hotels, and no one to spend the night with. He didn't relish the idea of waiting till the waters subsided, and He didn't want to drive 40 miles back to Amarillo, and then 80 miles around the long way through Dumas and Channing, especially knowing the condition of the 16 miles of dirt road from Channing to Boys Ranch.

From the Canadian River to his house on the Ranch was only a short walk, Swimming the Canadian River flowing bank to bank at night is no easy task but, Dory was an excellent swimmer, having competed in freestyle, and Butterfly stroke back in Indiana. He parked the car changed to his wrestling tights and dove into the Canadian River.

Over at the Boys Ranch Gym the kids were whooping it up. The name of the game was "Murder in the Dark."There fifteen or twenty kids in pitch dark, It was like hide and seek, but when you found somebody, you could wrestle them to the floor or get wrestled to the floor, then you had to turn them loose and start over. The gym was bedlam. They were laughing, and yelling at the top of their voice.

After swimming the river, it was only a short walk home. From a quarter of a mile away, he could hear the racket. Funk made his way to the front door of the gym. Inside it was pitch dark and everyone was having a ball. Dory Funk just slipped into the gym and joined the game of Murder in the Dark. No one knew the difference except there were few surprised boys when they were taken off their feet with such ease.

After having a little fun, Dory Funk quietly eased over to the light switch and switched it on. "AHaaaaa I caught you guys, There is going to be trouble now". Dory Funk loved the surprise and he loved to catch people unaware. Fifteen kids were caught red handed and they knew there would be punishment as Dory was a strict disciplinarian.

The punishment would be working on one of several projects at the ranch, painting the fence in front of the gym, pouring concrete for the sidewalk leading to the Mess Hall, peeling potatoes for supper, or planting trees in front of the old courthouse.

The next morning at the Mess Hall, 105 boys gathered for breakfast at 6:30 am. Dorothy sat at the table with Terry, Dory Jr., Jean Harriman and four of the younger Boy's ranchers. Dory Funk Sr. was the head table discussing todays agenda with photographer and ranch publicist Sherm Harriman. Boy's Rancher, Tommy Berry rose and spoke over the microphone, "Let us pray, Dear Lord thank you for this beautiful day here at Boy's Ranch --------".

Dory Funk Jr.

Producer &Photo Editor - Marti Funk
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Dory Funk Jr.
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