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Visiting SouthFork Ranch, DALLAS by Sia Huff

Who shot JR? One of the greatest cliffhangers ever written, the summer of 1980 was fueled with speculation. Larry Hagman was offered 100,000 pounds to reveal who shot his Texas oil man character. No one could give the answer because the producers of the show filmed all of the actors shooting the gun and they weren’t talking.

I was lucky to travel to Dallas and visit SouthFork. I’m a fan of the original show and now watch the second generation of Dallas on TNT. It was fun to walk around and remember pieces of the show.

SouthFork Ranch is about twenty-five miles north of Dallas in Parker, Texas. The Ewing Mansion sits front and center on over three hundred acres of land. Today, you can book a special event on the grounds, anything from a twenty guest Chuckwagon Dinner to several hundred for a wedding.

The ranch offers a guided tour of the house and property including a retail store, museum, and gift shop. Tours start at thevisitor’s center where you board a tram that takes you to the house. The driver points out various buildings and recalls interesting facts about the original show. The television show Dallas had millions of viewers from ninety-five foreign countries and is still showing somewhere around the globe today. Thirteen seasons culminated in 356 episodes and JR Ewing (Larry Hagman) was the only actor in all 356 shows.

When you’re dropped off at the mansion you’re invited to take your time and explore and eat lunch by the pool. There’s a café called Miss Ellie’s Deli whereyou can purchase lunch. The house looks much smaller than it does on TV, but let me tell you, it’s spacious inside.

Our guide explained that in 1978, Lorimar approached the owner of the ranch, Mr. Duncan about filming the television show at his ranch, Duncan Acres. Mr. Duncan agreed, but only to exterior shots of the ranch and filming was to be done during the summer months, as not to disturb his son’s school routine. While most of the filming was done on a Los Angeles sound set, the outside shots of the ranch are shot on location.

Originally, the show was slotted for only a five-episode series. But its popularity skyrocketed and Southfork became a tourist mecca. Eventually, the stress became too much and the Duncan family sold.

Now the inside of the house has a themed room for each of the main characters. Although it looks nothing like the interior of what we see on TV, the furnishings are the 1980’s style.

Filming has begun again on Southfork, with TNT’s second generation of Dallas, which second season aired last night. If you liked the original series, this new series pits cousin against cousin, like JR and Bobby sparred, now their sons, John Ross and Christopher fight. Some die-hard Dallas fans might be disappointed, but I think they did a great job setting up this new generation. If you tour in the fall you may be able to watch filming or meet an actor or two.

When you’re done at the house, you can stroll to the many outbuildings.  Jock’s Lincoln Continental is parked in a retail Texas apparel store. Longhorn steer roam in a field and across the way is Elena’s cottage, from the new Dallas.

Eventually, you make your way back to the main building where a mini museum shows memorabiliafrom the show. One wall displays the Ewing family tree, pictures and newspaper articles reside alongside Lucy’s wedding dress and the gun that shot JR.

Last is a gift shop. I loved that they has a bookcaseshowcasing romance authors. Of course, the books all had Texas in the title.

Were you a fan of Dallas? Do you remember who shot JR? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to celebrate PFTH’s anniversary. For commenting, you get put in the hat once. If you correctly guess who shot JR, I’ll put you twice. And for those die-hard Dallas fan’s – who took the place of actress Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie for a season? I’ll put your name in three times. More chances to win. Good luck.

Cat Grant - January 29, 2013 - 12:24 am

I was a DIE HARD Dallas fan back in the day.

Who shot JR? Kristin, Sue Ellen’s sister, who JR knocked up.

Who subbed for Barbara Bel Geddes? Donna Reed.

I also know the names of all 3 actresses who played Jenna Wade. ;)

Laura Russell - January 29, 2013 - 3:49 am

What a hoot! After all that filming, JR’s mistress and sister-in-law Kristin Shepard shot him during the show. It felt like the drama continued for ever. Very nice detail about the featured Texas-titled romance novels.

Mary Preston - January 29, 2013 - 4:01 am

I remember all the hype. I did not watch a lot of the show, but even I tuned it for the big reveal.

It was his sister-in-law, Kristin Shepard(Sue Ellen’s sister), that did the dirty deed.

Linsey Lanier - January 29, 2013 - 7:48 am

Oh, I used to watch Dallas with hubby. Also Falcon Crest with Jane Wyman. Those were the days. I didn’t remember who shot JR but I do remember that shower scene with Bobby at the end… Well, we won’t mention that. :)

Great post, Sia.

Marilyn Baron - January 29, 2013 - 8:09 am

Cat, Laura and Mary are right. I watched Dallas religiously. I wouldn’t miss an episode for anything. I watched the first season of the new Dallas and I guess I missed the new season opener last night. I like the new show and my daughter loves it, but I think the original is better.

I didn’t know you could actually visit Southfork Ranch. I’ve been to Dallas a few times for conferences and never went there. But if I ever go back to Dallas, I am definitely going to take a side trip. What a neat thing to do.

Great Post.

Pam Asberry - January 29, 2013 - 9:03 am

I never really watched Dallas but of course I was very aware of it and wondered, along with the rest of the world, who shot J.R. Unfortunately, I don’t recall, LOL! But I enjoyed your post, Sia!

Carley Asberry - January 29, 2013 - 9:54 am

My husband & I watched Dallas every week & if we had to miss an episode we taped it. I remember the cliffhanger for the summer well. There were so many that could have reason to be the one that shot J.R.-LOL Of course, it turned out to be Sue Ellen’s sister that shot J.R. & it was Donna Reed that played the part of Miss Ellie for a season. We watched the 2nd generation do the series last season, but missed the first episode for this season (last night). Glad I read your blog mentioned by my daughter, Pam Asberry, so we’re are aware now that it’s back on. I’m sure the new one will never compete with the old original. They seldom do. I enjoyed your post & review, Sia, & giving your readers the chance to win $10 with Amazon as I keep an ongoing relationship with them-LOL

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 10:13 am

Hi Cat,
You sure are a DIE HARD fan. I remember Pricilla Presley playing Jenna, but not the other two. Your name’s going in the hat several times.
Do you watch the new Dallas? What do you think?
Thanks for commenting!

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 10:18 am

Hi Laura,
Good to chat with you again and glad you liked the romance section of SF’s gift store.
You’re right about the drama going on for a long time. The season ended in May and then the SAG had a strike, prolonging the viewers getting their answer until November.
You’re name’s in the hat twice.
Thanks for commenting.

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 10:22 am

Hi Mary,
Yes, there was a lot of hype – talk about great marketing. Even the presidental nominees talked about JR’s shooting. Many people who didn’t normally watch the show, tuned in to find out who-dun-it. :) Your names in the hat a couple of times too.

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 10:30 am

Thanks, Linsey. Glad you enjoyed the post. I remember Falcon Crest. Jane Wyman was Ronald Regan’s first wife. RR became president in 1980, the year JR was shot. Interesting? Hmmm

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 10:38 am

Hi Marilyn,
I’m sorry you missed the opener last night, but I’m sure they’ll play it again. It’s worth watching. Especially, if like me you’ve had a crush on Larry Hagman since “I Dream of Jeannie.” Since he’s passed away, it’ll be interesting to see how they producers and writers handle his death. I wonder if someone will shoot him again.
I hope you get to go and visit the ranch. It was a lot of fun. I missed seeing the cast there by one week.

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 10:44 am

Hi Pam,
Glad you enjoyed the post. Pop culture is interesting. I wonder if people will be interested in the Kardashians in twenty years. I couldn’t tell you anything about them now except all their first names begin with a K.
Thanks for commenting.

Sandra Elzie - January 29, 2013 - 10:56 am

Hi Sia,
Interesting post…about an interesting place. I rarely watched the show, but like the majority of the world, I watched the “reveal” episode.

Kristin Shepard ….Mary Crosby who was Bing’s wife, I believe…shot J.R. but I don’t remember the woman who replaced Miss Ellie….because I rarely watched it. :-)

Hildie McQueen - January 29, 2013 - 12:57 pm

I was hooked on Dallas back in the day, it was such a good show! It would be cool to go to Southfork! Inspiration for a book maybe?

Runner10 - January 29, 2013 - 3:43 pm

Kristen shot JR. Donna Reed played Miss Ellie.

I love Dallas. JR is the best bad guy!!

Connie Gillam - January 29, 2013 - 3:50 pm


I never watched the show, but I was in L.A. just before the next season premiered. It was still the talk on the plane out. Who shot J.R. My mother, a soap opera addict, rode me crazy with her speculation. I couldn’t wait to drop her back in her home town.

Connie Gillam - January 29, 2013 - 3:51 pm

I guess I should’ve edited that before I press send.

My mother drove me crazy.LOL

Maxine Davis - January 29, 2013 - 4:33 pm

Sia, great post! I watched Dallas “some.” When the girls went on vacation, we had to be in the room to watch Dallas, regardless of what was going on! I remember Donna Reed for some reason. Wasn’t sure about the others altough it sounds like plenty people remember the details. I’d love to visit the ranch and have lunch by the pool.

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 5:00 pm

Hi Carley,
Yes, there were a lot of suspects for JR’s shooter. But you knew who the gun toting girl was, so, your name will go in the hat several times, as well. We have such smart readers.
So happy you enjoyed the post. And that you’re now aware the new season of Dallas has started. I’m sure you can catch up.
Your daughter is such a lovely person. I’m glad to know her. And glad she mentioned to you. Thanks for commenting.

And thanks, Pam, for the shout out and tweet. :)

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 5:06 pm

Hi Sandy,
You weren’t alone watching the “reveal” episode. 83 million viewers stopped what they were doing to see who shot JR. From what I read even Queen Elizabeth wanted to know.
Yes, Mary Crosby play Kristen, but she is Bing’s daughter, not wife. Although Bing’s wife is named Mary also. I can’t remember which is Mary Catherine.

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 5:09 pm

Hi Hildie,
It was cool, Hildie. Inspiration for a book…? That’s a great idea. First time I was on a ranch. Now I just want to meet a real cowboy or two. Maybe I need to go back. Or out west. Now I’m wanting a road trip. Usually Pam gets me in the mood for a road trip.
Thanks for the idea. :)

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 5:11 pm

Hi Runner10,
Your name is going in the hat several times. I love Dallas too. They didn’t name JR “The man you love to hate.” for nothing. (Rubbing my hands together.)

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 5:14 pm

Hi Connie,
I knew what you were saying – no worries. Here it is 20 years later and you can still remember how that cliffhanger effected people. I hope our books have that kind of staying power.
Thanks for commenting.

Sia Huff - January 29, 2013 - 5:19 pm

Thanks, Maxine. Glad you enjoyed the post. I only remembered about Donna Reed after reading an article in the museum. I love Barbara Bel Geddes and Howard Keel.
Lunch by the pool does sound wonderful. Let’s do that sometime, even if it’s not at SouthFork.

Laura Russell - January 30, 2013 - 1:39 am

Hi Sia,
You mentioned you’d like to meet a cowboy. You can do that in Tucson. The Hot Tamales section of PFHT should come to the Tucson Festival of Books one year. It’s in March, in spring before the heat starts.

Sia Huff - January 30, 2013 - 7:09 pm

Hi Laura,
I’ve visited Arizon, landing in Phoenix and headed north to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, but I didn’t make farther south and Tucson. It’s beautiful country out there. The Tucson book festival sounds like heaven. I’ll have to look into going one of these years. I’m sure it’ll be a blast. Thanks for the invite. :)

Sia Huff - January 30, 2013 - 7:21 pm

Cat Grant is the winner of the Amazon gift card. Please go to the contest page and follow the directions.

Thanks everyone for playing.

Susan Carlisle - January 30, 2013 - 8:01 pm

I loved Dallas. I was there when JR got shot and waiting to find out who done-it in the fall. I’m so jealous you got to visit South Fork. I’m going to put it on my to do list. Great fun and happy memories of long ago.

Walt M - January 30, 2013 - 8:56 pm

I know I’m late to the party and out of the contest. However, I do remember that Larry Hagman speculated the week before the Kristen episode that Kristen was the shooter. He based his reasoning that she was the only castmember whose contract hadn’t been renewed.

Cheryl Hart - February 1, 2013 - 8:53 am

Oh wow! Awesome trip. I loved the Dallas of the 80s and am totally obsessed with the new series. What fun it would be to visit the SouthFork Ranch. :)

I’ve got to ask you, Sia. Are you on team Christopher, or team John Ross? lol I like a little bad boy mixed with incredibly sexy looks, so I’m with John Ross all the way! ;)

Carol Burnside - February 5, 2013 - 4:27 pm

I’ve never watched the new Dallas show, but rarely missed an episode of the first one. Even though I lived in the Dallas metroplex for 8-9 years, I never went to Southfork. I think I was afraid the ‘mystique’ would diminish a little.

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