If it weren’t for the museum, your visit might seem to get off to an inauspicious start. The first sight of a rusting out metal platform doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
“Several years ago, one of the previous owners went bankrupt,” said our tour guide in a distinct Texan singsong twang as we boarded the trolley to the main event.
Evidently, the precarious looking structure caught the eye of another tourist, prompting an explanation that will be forever etched in my mind.
“He was able to sell the drilling rig, so they just left it,” he continued. “Well, we don’t use it anymore and it’s really not any good without the drilling rig, so all that thing does now is raise questions – and that’s the brief story’a that!”
It might have been a brief story, but it became one of my favourite memories coming out of a recent trip to Dallas.
Knowing I would be in one of Texas’ busiest cities in November to visit friends, I had two simple items on my brief to-do list: Dealey Plaza, where John F. Kennedy was assassinated and, being a fan of classic television, the landmark Southfork ranch that provided the backdrop to “Dallas”.
If you have any knowledge of the prime time soap, which aired on CBS between 1978 and 1982, and was subject to a three season revival on TNT starting in 2012, you can practically hear the show’s iconic theme as you make your way up a tree-lined driveway.
You don’t immediately see the ranch, which is, upon approach, a sharp neck crack to the right.
Instead, you land in a gift shop and, just beyond, thrown head-long into the deep end – not into the Ewing pool, but into a sea of videos , memorabilia, and a Larry Hagman impersonator or two as you await your trolley trip to the ranch itself.
There’s plenty to see and do as you wait for your ride, whether it is having your picture taken with the J.R. Ewing lookalike (everything is relative), gawking at the prop gun that Mary Crosby’s character used to shoot the show’s antihero, or sizing up Lucy Ewing’s wedding gown.
But that’s just an appetizer.
Once your trolley arrives at the oh-so-familiar white ranch house, you literally hear the theme music, pumped out faintly by the back patio, as you walk through the doors.
Inside, visitors are treated to an overview of the house by enthusiastic tour guides before they take you through the house itself. Although little more of the ranch other than the kitchen, patio, second floor balcony and pool were used in the TV series itself, the house is replete with props and rooms decorated in tribute to the show’s leads.
There’s Jock’s living room (Jim Davis), Miss Elly’s kitchen (Barbara Bel Geddes), bedrooms dedicated to Lucy and Bobby Ewing (Charlene Tilton and Patrick Duffy) and, upstairs, a glitzy suite dedicated to J.R. and Sue Ellen (Hagman and Linda Gray).
What more could a kitsch-loving person want? Well, as a kitsch-loving guy, the answer is, “not much.” But, there’s more.
Once the tour is complete, you can explore the grounds to your heart’s content and visit the “graves” of Jock, Miss Elly and (spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the revival through to its finale) J.R. Ewing.
It is well worth the trip to the Southfork Ranch, located in Parker, TX., and no shortage of reasons to visit. In addition to the house itself, the 63,000 square foot facility boasts meeting and banquet facilities, a wedding venue, and more. For more information, visit southforkranch.com.
Article & photos by Brock Weir Jr.