by Daniel Martin
Once a year, there was a massive coordinated week long function known as the Scarecrow Festival, which many of the others guys who had been unfortunate long term prisoners of the Ranch were all too familiar with. It was to be a two weeks of difficulty that, save for the warnings of the other boys, I was unprepared for. School was stopped for the entirety of two weeks and in its place we were used as forced labor to build a large city fair-like carnival. The whole process was a sadistic, self-perpetuating game in punishment and abuse. The festival was to be one of the largest sources of revenue for the Ranch and we were forced to construct it. We were being forced to be the very source of labor needed to bring in money that is used to keep the Ranch operating so we could go on bringing about more punishment on ourselves and future victims of West Ridge Academy. It was during my single stint during this slave labor for the building of the Scarecrow Festival where one of my only direct dealings with D. Chris Buttars occurred.
If I could speak to him now, I’d say that as a sixteen year old frightened youth I was terrified by his threats, but now as I have aged, studied and lived I can come to him now not with fear but with rage and pity. Rage for the lack justice’s ability to ensnare him and pity for how much of a disappointment to reason, tolerance and human kind he is.
I was held after the day’s slave labor the night before the festival was to begin. Daniel Martino, a young man from Dallas and new victim of the ranch simply because his elder cousin, Tannin Martino, was admitted mere months before he was, also was selected to stay behind. We were told, nay coached, on what was about to take place. The night before the Scarecrow Festival officially began, there was a type of fundraiser where, in attendance were, what I can only surmise were a group of wealthy elites capable of donating large sums of money towards the facility and D. Chris Buttars.
Several times we were told that we were speaking to a group of people that were very important. We were instructed to give a brief story of how the ranch has been a force for good in our lives and how much we have benefitted because of it. I’d gotten used to putting up a front for others long enough to be able to get through the previous situations I’d had to deal with back at the compound so my horror of public speaking was halted due mainly to practice at having to appear as something other than what I was or felt.
Minutes before I was called onto a stage under a large and well lit tent, one of the clinicians quickly asked the two of us where we were originally from. I was born in Houston and my fellow beside me was from Dallas. With expedience, we were told not to disclose that fact. Only immediately after did I realize why, but sufficed to say, image is everything and not having poster-boys specifically from the Utah area would seem a bit puzzling to a group of people being duped into giving money to an association whose main focus is on ‘correcting’ the youth of the surrounding area.
D. Chris Buttars, whom at this point I’d never spoken directly to, called for me to join him on stage. I gave my name and short, quick facts about myself to the crowd. My rhetoric what something of a formality since the things I was spewing forth were the same facts any other member of the Mormon gulag would have shared with folk who were ignorant of the reality there. How long I’d been there and why I was placed in the ranch were the main points I had been informed to convey. Buttars then proceeded with something I was not prepared for. He asked me a series of specific questions pertaining to my deviancy. I felt as an unholy spectacle at a display for a Ringling Bro.’s Barnum and Bailey show. He asked me exactly how much marijuana I had smoked on a day to day basis. I felt helpless in this situation. In front of me were a group of adults who would believe anything Buttars said, but he needed me to confirm it as if coming from the voice of another would affirm the lies he was spouting to them about how much of a ‘service’ the ranch provided in restoring me as a productive and obedient member of society. I couldn’t lift my head up to look at any of the multitude in the eye. I told him the exact answer I knew he wanted to hear, which was a simultaneous exaggeration of the truth, as well as the best made up answer I could conjure at the time. I slowly uttered that I smoked marijuana out of a pipe at the rate of about five to six bowls a day. Turning to the crowd with his finger pointed directly downwards at my head, he stated to the mob that the amount of pot I was consuming meant that I would ‘not be in reality.’ Basically, he was shaming who I was and what I had done, something he knew nothing about, to a group of complete strangers. My head fell further as I slowly stepped backwards and began to feel more ashamed than I have at any other time in my life. Ashamed because I’d lied to Buttars, and a crowd he was coaxing money from, by putting myself on the cross and it was all for his, and more importantly the Ranch’s, benefit.
Before handing the floor back to me to give a final word he added a quick scare tactic towards the end of his rant to ensure that if there was any reason to donate money to a cause, then it was for troubled youth such as me. Never mind the fact that my future as a productive member of society was in serious jeopardy even if the things he was saying were true. The education at the ranch was a joke and their North Korean style of supervision crippled many a young man’s ability to correctly socialize in the real world. The only thing that mattered at that exact moment was being able to convince a group of well-to-do’s to write a blank check to Buttars, even if that meant falsely tugging on their sympathies or filling them with irrational fear.
The only words of what I said to finish things off for my portion of the presentation that I can recall were that ‘the most important things in my life are what they should be…the most important things.’ I wasn’t even given encouragement for the depths I went to for Buttar’s amusement and the self-deprivation I voluntarily went through just so the Ranch’s quarterly budget could look good on a balance sheet. I was put back in a van and bussed towards the ranch without anything to eat that night and a warning not to indulge the other boys about what I taken apart in, lest other’s get the idea that they may be able to score some points by being able to pretend well enough for other such crowds. After all, they didn’t want any insincere boys to be able to fall through the cracks.