There are no malls, no television and no moms and dads. At first the teens at the Bennion Teton Boys Ranch at Victor, Idaho, are pretty homesick.
"It's tough on a lot of them," admits ranch director Steve Peterson, who is a Snow College English professor most of the year.But within a few days, the hard work, outdoor sports, horseback riding and philosophical debate crowd out the longings for home.
Each summer, 80 boys ages 12 to 15, most of them from Utah, spend four weeks on the boys ranch in the Teton Valley, three miles from Victor, Idaho.
In its third year, the Teton Boys Ranch is a descendant of the boys ranch opened by Lowell Bennion, retired University of Utah dean and well-known community worker.
In 1961, Bennion opened a boys ranch, which operated for 24 years and attracted 1,820 boys. Dedicated to helping young boys, Bennion operated the ranch until 1985, when it closed because of financial and other obstacles.
"I'd always wanted a ranch of my own, so I thought I'd share it with some boys," the ever-modest Bennion said in a Deseret News interview two years ago.
But friends know that Bennion had more in mind. He wanted to give boys, in that awkward time of early adolescence, a place where they could develop a positive self-image as they worked in nature. It was never a place for boys who ran afoul of the law, but one where regular boys had an opportunity for self-development.
Two years ago, inspired by Bennion's example, the Teton Boys Ranch was reopened at its old location.
Many of the ranch's alumni, who now have boys of their own, wanted a place where they could send their sons. A California philanthropist purchased the old Bennion ranch so the boys could come again.
The non-profit ranch is run by a foundation, headed by Lowell Bennion's son, Steven Bennion, president of Ricks College.
Ranch director Peterson said the ranch remains true to Lowell Bennion's ideals. "We try to maintain and continue the values that Lowell taught . . . . We try to teach the value of doing a job well, the value of enjoying the outdoors, the value of learning to get along and of enjoying the company of others," he said.
Even though he is not directly involved in the ranch's operation, Lowell Bennion still visits the ranch and gives his thoughts on its direction.
The ranch is also run on the same format Bennion set up 30 years ago. The boys have mornings of work building fences, logging, haying and helping neighbors; afternoons of horseback riding and fishing; and evenings of debating politics, social life and the meaning of life.
Last summer, for example, one hot debate topic was whether it was all right to burn the flag in protest. "We sit around in a big circle in the lodge and ask questions. We make sure that every kid in the group gets to stand up and express himself, to tell how he really feels without teachers and parents around," Peterson said.
On Sundays, the boys rest, but there is a non-denominational sermon in the pines.
The boys live in three bunk houses. Last year, the ranch added a lodge and a pond with fish and canoes.
The Bennion Teton Boys Ranch will hold two four-week sessions this summer. There are 10 openings available in the first term and 17 in the second. The terms will be June 17 to July 13 and July 15 to Aug. 10.
The cost is $825 for one term or $1,650 for both terms. Boys may earn back $75 for consistent work during the term.
For information, contact Steve Peterson, 123 N. 460 East, Ephraim, Utah 84627, 283-4195, before June 12 or at the ranch, 208-787-2883, after June 12.