Dave Kacalek and his ranch touched my life several years before I even knew who he was. If you’ve driven by the intersection of Hwy 44 and Millville Plains Rd in December you can’t miss the big lighted cross. It’s twenty some feet high, covered with Christmas lights and nailed to the side of Dave’s big red barn. I first noticed it about 10 years ago. That cross says a lot about who he was and what was important to him. Seeing it on a cold winter night warmed the hearts of more people than we’ll ever know. Dave realized the impact it would have and that’s exactly why he put it there.
It was the spring of 2007 when I actually met Dave for the first time. My friend Fred had been driving by the Cross every December since Dave first put it up. Finally, he wrote a note on the back of one of his business cards and put it on the gate. The note simply asked the owner if he was interested in developing a Christian youth ranch on his property. Fred had never met Dave and had no idea what would become of that small card and note. Dave found the card, phoned Fred and they set up a meeting. A short time later we met at the Palo Cedro Pizza Parlor.
I remember that first meeting well. Dave came with a teenage boy who was helping him on the ranch. I was to learn later that he was just one of many at risk young men Dave mentored and evangelized on a regular basis. My first impressions of Dave were mixed. Here was a big burly man, a busy general contractor, the owner of a large ranch and he was willing to spend a couple of hours in the middle of the work day talking with three total strangers about a dream. When does this ever happen? He was interested in what we were proposing, we prayed about it and agreed to meet again. I didn’t realize it at the time but God had just opened an amazing door. This was the beginning of Trailhead Youth Ranch. This is “Where The Adventure Began.”
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” When I think of the years that have passed at the ranch and my dealings with Dave this verse always comes to mind. We developed a close working relationship after a year or so and I valued his advise and input but most of all I valued his friendship. There’s no question in my mind that our friendship was “Iron sharpening iron.” Dave had a way of always getting right to the point of who you were and what you believed. Didn’t seem to make any difference who it was or how well you thought you were grounded in God’s word, Dave could always find a way to make you dig deeper. I look back on those many conversations Dave and I had in the old red barn as important insights into my faith and where I’m going in this life.
Since Dave’s passing a couple of weeks ago he’s constantly on my mind. I know he’s in a better place and I know he’s looking down on us all watching the seeds he planted grow and bear fruit. This world is a better place because of Godly men of character like Dave Kacalek.
Tom is one of the founders of Trailhead Youth Ranch. He has been involved in Christian ranch and horse ministries since the early 1980s. Trailhead Youth Ranch is the culmination of 35 years of experience at various related Christian ministries.