(CNN) – Big, bold and, some might say, bold, Dallas is the epitome of Texas.
Houston and San Antonio are home to more people. Austin has his hipster credentials. But nowhere else has it helped shape the image of the State of the Lonely Star in the modern imagination as has Dallas.
Built after the railroads that helped move the cotton, cattle, and oil that fueled Texas’ economy, Dallas today is defined by its history, but still paves a path that differs from any other city in that state, or for that matter, the wider United States.
A show that defined the city
Southfork Ranch continues to attract “Dallas” fans from all over the world.
For better or for worse, few places have helped shape the global idea of Dallas more than Southfork Ranch. Tourists still come from all over the world to see where the Ewings lived for the iconic eponymous television series that ran from 1978 to 1991.
In the 1980s, Dallas TV reported everything the world thought it knew about this corner of Texas. This helped create an image of glitz and unbridled greed in which JR, Sue Ellen, and the rest of them lived a greedy life with an attitude. It is one that has survived to this day.
Janna Timm is the CEO of Southfork Ranch, and more than 30 years after the last episode of “Dallas” was aired, you can’t get enough of talking about it.
“They were very brave,” he says of the Ewings. “They were very there. Very nervous. People loved to think Dallas was like that.
Southfork CEO Janna Timm: “I don’t think there is any other program that would define the city… like the Dallas program.
Timm says the program was “somewhat” accurate. But the artistic license used by its creators, a place that was “there” and fascinated viewers, makes it even now see visitors from all over the world at the ranch.
“Still attracts [people] every day, ”he says when a walk around the ranch reveals that tourists come all the way from Turkey and France to pay their respects. And it’s not just the living who want a part of Southfork.
“I still get calls from people every year who want to spread their grandmother’s ashes here,” says Timm.
The fact that 350 million people around the world tuned in on November 21, 1980 to find out who shot JR shows just how much “Dallas” means, not only to Americans but to TV viewers worldwide.
“I don’t think there is any other show that would define a city, you know, the way Dallas defined Dallas,” says Timm. “Part of that was because in the 1980s, Dallas was only known for the murder of JFK. So when you brought it, it was fun. It was exciting.
Power and oil
As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas. In Dallas, this ranges from monumental historical moments to the oil fortunes that powered the city.
The real Dallas was the scene of a much more sobering act of violence.
The assassination of JFK in Dallas on November 22, 1963, remains one of the most disturbing moments in modern American history. Almost 70 years later, “where were you when you heard that JFK was shot?” it is still a question that people of a certain age can answer with perfect clarity.
What remains striking at Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was shot as crowds lined the streets to greet his cavalry is its ordinary. Downtown, the road that leads to the highway, the grassy knoll, and the then-school textbook store in Texas from which the shot was supposedly fired, all look like something everyday, not a place where something truly monumental and epoch-defining happened.
So much of the history of Dallas after Kennedy’s murder has been to remember that dark day while also reminding people out of town that it was more than just one, albeit important, event.
Real estate broker Candy Evans: “In Dallas, you got it and you show it.”
Dallas’ history and its boom years can be largely tied to one thing: oil. The discovery of black material contributed to the flourishing here, laying the foundations for the city’s reputation as an ostentatious place, something real before JFK’s death, and still relevant today.
The money brought in by the crude oil created an elite that defined itself by its enormous real estate, much like Ewings at Southfork Ranch, and enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, showing it all.
“Do you know what people would rather have in Dallas than privacy? They would prefer it to be shown, ”says Candace Evans, a real estate journalist and founder of CandysDirt.com. Evans has set itself the goal of showing how the Dallas elite lives. Of course, all with their blessing.
“In Dallas, you have it and you show it,” she adds, explaining that the home is a status symbol, much like horses and hats were once upon a time in these parts.
“Home is everything. Home is more than a shelter. The house tells who you are, what you do, who your family is. I mean, that’s just about it.
This means that Evans often makes entire homes available for snooping, including bedrooms and bathrooms. It’s about flaunting what you have, Dallas style.
“Is Everything Bigger in Texas?” she asks. “I think our egos are!”
Cowboys and super fans
In a city whose soccer team is called “America’s team”, your only option is to adopt a truly devoted faith. CNN’s Richard Quest enters the temple of the Dallas Cowboys super fan.
If size is what defines Dallas, then few things sum it up as it is with the Cowboys. And it’s not just the historic pioneers who pushed the boundaries and helped create this city. The Dallas soccer team draws an obsessive audience and few are as committed as Jaime Castro.
A veteran of the Dallas police by day, on match days, Castro exchanges his badge and becomes Ballz Mahoney, super fan of the Dallas Cowboys. His home is a cowboy’s temple, full of crystal helmets and priceless mementos, which, he openly admits, is a fandom bordering on eccentricity.
He even spent the money borrowed from his parents on an apartment advance on the Cowboys season tickets. He has not missed a home game in 24 years.
“I was born and raised a cowboy,” he says. There is more to it than football. It’s about community, loyalty and a Dallas way of being. “There is love … it has brought so much good to my life.”
Dallas Cowboys super fan Jaime Castro, also known as Ballz Mahoney, hasn’t released a home game in 24 years.
The Cowboys haven’t won the Super Bowl since 1996, so Castro can’t be accused of a mere glory hunt. On match day, wearing his T-shirt and brightly colored Cowboys accessories, he is the epitome of Dallas.
“That’s who we are. This is Texas, ”he says with a smile.
Being at the AT&T stadium when the Cowboys are playing, it’s easy to see how difficult it is to separate the soccer team from the wider Dallas identity. It’s all tied to the way the city is and its views on itself, its confidence and pride to show for everyone to see.
History of cooking
Meet the pitmaster who cooks more than just Texas tradition – he serves his heart and soul.
If oil and cowboys help define Dallas, it’s barbecue too. In Dallas’ sister city of Fort Worth, Derrick Walker, owner and manager of the Smoke-A-Holics team, is devising a Texan tradition.
Every day Walker gets up early to start working on his own secret recipes, collecting wood and filling the pits to smoke the meat to perfection. It’s a personal matter for him. His grandfather had his own smoker and taught him the basics.
“Barbecue is in my blood,” he says.
Ads for Texas barbecues began appearing in the 19th century. But, says Walker, the history of this iconic way of cooking goes back further.
“The slaves were given smaller pieces of meat,” he explains. “Everything that was difficult and could not be easily cooked was given to the slaves, and they dug holes in the ground, covered it with metal, made pits for the fire and began to cook over coal.”
Derrick Walker: “Our grill is a Texas grill with soul.”
Thus, says Walker, the grill as we know it was born. It remains the cornerstone of the African-American identity of Dallas and Texas.
“I coined the phrase Tex Soul because our grill is a Texas grill with a soul,” says Walker. “It’s something of an African American culture. We call it food of the soul, in which we cook from the heart ”.
It’s known that customers arrive early and wait patiently in line for Walker’s BBQ, and it’s easy to see why. From his sensational brisket to his delicious Coca-Cola cake, the word about his food has spread far and wide.
“I wouldn’t say this is unique Texas because each region has its own grilling style,” she smiles. “But I will say Texas does it best!”
Whether it’s starring in the hugely popular TV show, its expansive homes that showcase its elite’s oil wealth, great and cultured food, or on the days when Cowboys play at home, Dallas, like Texas, is really there. . .
He is confident but never arrogant. There is a borderland spirit here, a desire to constantly push through. It’s a city that’s bigger than life and very happy.