I’ve always had a soft spot for this city ever since I was a kid and watched the show by the same name with my family. To be honest, I wasn’t even allowed to stay up late enough to watch on Friday nights, and so I would sit next to Dad and hide from Mom, who was “bedtime enforcer”. No one could ever believe that antagonist JR was my favorite character, but I couldn’t help but love him. He was so sly and cunning! Naturally, I was super sad a few weeks ago when I found out that Larry Hagman, the actor who played JR, had died. I thought about him a lot while in Dallas. I was hoping to at least show Elliott the outside of the Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, which I’ve toured before, but we were a bit far to get there this time. Hopefully another time though!
We didn’t have much planned for Dallas, but we knew we wanted to stop at the Sixth Floor Museum. This museum is inside the building that formerly housed the Texas School Book Depository, from where famed Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot John F. Kennedy. I had been there before but Elliott never had, and this place also has always struck a particular note with me given that JFK is my favorite president in history. Elliott liked him a lot too; in fact, we both wrote papers on him in school when we were younger despite the fact that neither of us was alive when he was. It turns out he is the favorite president of many people – survey after survey consistently ranks him as the #1 favorite president, coming slightly above Abe Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It is pretty riveting to see the white X made out of tape that marks the exact spot where Kennedy was shot, which is recreated regularly on Elm Street. Dealey Plaza has changed little since the shooting on November 22, 1963. It is both energizing and eerie to stand on the side of the street, feeling like one of the supporters outside that day, waiting, anticipating, and waving to the President as he drove by in his car with the top down, moments before his premature death.
The museum itself is fabulous, with a free audio tour and lots of exhibits detailing a timeline from before Kennedy was elected to the creation of memorials in his name decades after his death. Even though all investigations into his death were officially closed in the 1980s, we were riveted by the various conspiracy theories that still seem to permeate many minds, including our own. It just doesn’t seem possible that one “magic bullet” could create four wounds in two people and come out so pristine. We left the museum with a burning desire to re-watch Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” and questions about when any remaining classified information might become unclassified.
Our next stop was a brief one near the Dallas Convention Center. We found some enormous Christmas Tree ball ornaments across one street but that wasn’t what we were looking for. We wanted something a little more Texan, so we went to Pioneer Plaza to find some cattle. There we walked around for a few minutes admiring an enormous sculpture of a herd of cattle created by Robert Summers of Glen Rose, Texas. It’s takes up over four acres and commemorates 19th century cattle drives along the Shawnee Trail, the earliest and easternmost route by which Texas longhorn cattle were taken to northern railheads. The cattle look extremely life-like and are in a very realistic formation as if they are being herded through the plaza; some of the cattle are even crossing the stream. And we couldn’t help but climb on one or two for a photo despite the signs asking us not to. (Besides, everybody else was doing it!)
That night we went into the city again with our couch surfing hosts and walked around looking at the buildings and Christmas decorations lit up after dark. Downtown Dallas felt much smaller than I expected, and our hosts told us the area is just now becoming more active after years of being an empty city at night. It was still relatively quiet, and we enjoyed the sensation of all the lights around us without the usually accompanying crowds.