Former Clear Water Ranch staff Bob Boettiger, Paul and Peggy Wiltse, Tina Lapides, Morgan Baynham, and Gail Ide all gathered to honor the recently deceased Co-Director Mik Hausauer. Beverly and Marvin Dutra, the owners and current stewards of this property, renamed Sweetwater Ranch, joined the circle under the huge old Oak that shaded the Ranch House from the 1940s when Susan Richards realized her dream of founding a safe, rural setting for young troubled children. All present felt their connection to this beautiful wild land, the children, each other and how their experiences here shaped so many young lives, including their own.
Under the supervision of the Co-Directors Bob and Mik, the shade of this old Oak provided a special place for these staff members and others who worked at Clear Water Ranch in the ‘70’s. They developed a mission that all felt, to bring everything they could to the children who passed through Clear Water. The staff were young, idealistic, searching for their paths in life, impacted by coming of age during the Viet Nam War. They wanted to make a difference. All who were here during those years including grounds workers, laundry and kitchen staff cared about and believed in the children. They were dedicated to making it a safe place, where children could run a little wild, while being loved, and nurtured, and taught through natural consequences.
The impetus for this gathering was to honor and remember Mik. As all shared Mik stories, it became more than a memorial service. The picture all painted that day was, as Beverly said, a picture of a kind of Camelot, that brought out the best in everyone, and created community. Like Camelot, the stories of the children and what has happened since in everyone’s lives, inspired and reminded all to keep hope, and idealism alive, through easy and hard times. Like Camelot, Clear Water made a difference for the students and staff, that continues, and holds the possibility of rising again in some new form.
Caring for this land has been Beverly and Marvin’s calling since Clear Water closed in the late 1980s. Upon reflecting on the story Marvin told of how a huge limb of the Oak tree had fallen on the main house, miraculously not causing structural damage because of the strength of the stone chimney, Bob thought of the powerful connection between that tree and the children of Clear Water. The potential destruction of the main house by the tree limb brought to mind how destructive the children could be when they first arrived at the Ranch because of tough environments they came from, or because of their serious behavior disorders; the counselors, like the chimney, held and supported them, allowing the children to grow healthy roots, to realize their internal capacity to have joy, and to value themselves so they might reach their full potential. The Oak remains strong and resilient because of how Marvin and Beverly have supported it with cables and love, so that on this day, the tree’s solid presence enhanced the small memorial gathering with the lovely shade and protective cover it has long given to all the residents of the Ranch.
At the conclusion of this staff gathering on August 26, 2023, materials about Clear Water Ranch including a photo book of children who lived there between 1970 and 1976, and a binder with photos, articles, memorabilia, were presented to the Anderson Valley Historical Museum in Philo. Bob would like to encourage anyone who spent time at the Ranch during its operation (1940 to 1988), all who have stories/pictures, etc. of their experiences at the Ranch, visit the Museum and add to this binder. In the near future, there will also be movies of the children from Bob’s Carl’s House class (1970-72), available for viewing at the Museum.
To round out the Museum’s display we are in search of a copy of Susan Richards’ book, entitled “The Way I Feel About The Hole Thing” (A Story of Clear Water Ranch Children’s house) published by the Clear Water Ranch, Santa Rosa Office, in 1981. If anyone has a copy of this book please contact Beverly Dutra, (707) 895-3747 or PO Box 577. Philo, CA 95466. She would like to make a copy or two to share with the museum, and to keep a copy at the Ranch.