Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alpine, Texas

The above picture is Casa Grande at sunset, we just had to take one more picture of it Sunday evening before we left the park the next day. We are now north of the park in Alpine, Texas. Still in Big Bend country, however. Alpine has a wonderful museum on the history of this area at Sul Ross University. After spending the past week or so touring this part of Texas it was interesting to learn more about what we saw, and also what we did not get to see. North of Big Bend National Park is Big Bend Ranch Park. We took a drive Sunday through that park, it is quite a scenic drive with impressive vistas of the Rio Grand River. We found out yesterday in the Big Bend Museum that Big Bend State Ranch Park has twenty-nine sites of rock art done by the Native Americans. One such site, 17 feet in height, was duplicated by the museum. It was drawn in 6 different colors by the Native Indians. Hard to imagine how they created it, especially considering the height involved. I want to also mentioned that we are parked on a small section of a working ranch, herds of cattle can be seen over the fence from our rig in the evenings. I rather like the noises they make and prefer their lowing over the roar of planes, or motorcycles!  Below is a picture of the field in front of our rig.
 This afternoon we experienced one of the curses of the desert; dust devils. It came up so quickly that I had no time to close the doors or windows and very rapidly the inside of our home was coated with dust. We saw another one a few days ago which was quite fascinating to watch as it whirled across a parking lot, around a building and over a fence. It very much looked like a whirling dervish or ghost twisting around in a cloud of dust. That one we enjoyed watching as we were not in its path! This may be my last posting for a few days. John and I are making a quick trip in our Honda to a nursing school reunion In Arizona. It killed me to do it, but we had to place KC in a boarding kennel again. He seems to get frailer with each passing day. Age is catching up with him!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Final Notes on Big Bend National Park

The above flower is that of the ocotillo, a desert plant which is starting to bloom now. Today was our last day here in the park so before leaving I would like to show a few pictures yet which I was unable to include in previous postings. Yesterday, Saturday, we drove on the Grapevine Hills Road to see Balanced Rock. It was another hot dusty walk up and over one big hill. The whole area is in a wash which has weirdly shaped granite boulders piled one upon another.
The next picture I have is that of Luna's Jacal. In another posting I mentioned the early settlers who lived in this park at the turn of the last century. It continually amazes me when I hear the stories of how they managed to eke out a living in what seems to me as a very harsh environment for many months out of the year. Gilberto Luna was of Mexican and American descent. He had a small farm along Alamo Creek (it is presently dried up). He was able to divert seasonal flows from the normally dry stream to irrigate his crops and water his goats. He also had a freighting service. The house pictured below was where he raised his numerous children. He died in 1947 at the age of 108 years, after outliving several wives. The house is made of mud and sticks and is called a jacal. We stepped into the house during the heat of the day and were amazed at how cool it was inside. The back wall is flush up against a boulder.
 The last picture I have is of that of a Big Bend sunset. It lasted only for a few minutes and yet somehow we did capture its beauty.
Maybe by enlarging the picture the whole effect will improve. There seems to be a certain pattern of events here in the campground most evenings. First the turkey vultures settled down to roost in a tall tree, I have counted a dozen or more at one time. Next swarms of tiny gnats fill the sky (we learned fast that it is best not to open windows while our lights our on because those gnats come in through the screens and head for the lights).  At twilight bats are seen above the campground, I would imagine they are having a banquet of gnats. Once it is completely dark the heavens here are filled with myriads of stars, a very awesome sight seen nowhere else in our country because of the absence of big city lights. Usually our nights are quiet, except for the occasional howl of coyotes. Tomorrow we will be on our way to Alpine, Texas

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ross Maxwell Drive- Big Bend

This is a 30-mile drive which runs south in Big Bend, and is quite scenic. It skirts the western flanks of the Chisos Mountains and drops to the Rio Grande floodplain. The drive features historic sites as well as a number of classical geologic features. The historic sites included a couple of ranches and an old military outpost. Settlers and ranchers lived in Big Bend in the early years of the last century. At the Sam Neil Ranch there is still some evidence of an old pecan and fig orchard. The windmill is still there and continues to pump out water. Another ranch, the buildings of which are still there, can be seen from Soltol Vista Ridge. It once had cattle, sheep and goats at different times of its existence. Sotol and other grasses provided food for the livestock to graze on.
Tuff Canyon was our second short hike of the day. It primarily involved walking on a path above the canyon which led to overlooks on the canyon rim. In the past a creek cut out a narrow canyon in the soft gray rock, called tuff, which is volcanic ash. Fragments of the ash have been cemented together by pressure from overlaying layers and later exposed by erosion.
Our drive continued from the canyon through white tuff beds and black basaltic boulders. In one area there are lava necks.They are lava which has been cooled and harden in the vents from which the lava probably flowed. We saw the most spectacular of these necks, it looks like a petrified tree. The lava neck can be seen in the center of the picture below.
Our drive ended at Santa Elena Canyon where we took a mile hike into the canyon pictured below.
 A canyon wren greeted us with his distinctive call. We later saw some of those wrens hopping around on the canyon ledges. It was a hot walk into the canyon, but as we walked further we found the canyon shaded and cool. We hung over the boulders there to cool ourselves down. The rocky cliffs of the canyon arise dramatically 1,500 feet up from the Rio Grande, (we were told that the canyon is 3x larger than the Washington Monument). The rest of our drive took us through land dotted with rock formations which reminded us of the Bad Lands. It had been a long day but we felt that we had seen a lot on the drive.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Chisos Mountains

I probably should back up a bit here and explain Big Bend National Park. It derives its name from the u-shaped bend of the Rio Grande River which borders the park. The park is very diverse in its landscape, as it has three life zones. It is located in the very southwestern corner of Texas, so a lot of the park is desert. I have mentioned the river or are riparian areas. Another large part of the park are the Chisos Mountains which rises out of the center of the park. John and I had heard that a trained volunteer was leading a group of people on the first two miles of the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mountains on Thursday and decided to join the group. It was described as "a sensual walk". The guide, as we hiked along with him, pointed out numerous plants and trees commonly found in the park and how to identify them by feeling their leaves or, in the case of cactus, seeing what kinds of spines are on the plants. He had small containers of alcoholic beverages (which the Mexicans make from the sotol plant as well as the agave) and had us smell them.  He also had some gin, I did not know that the juice of the juniper seed flavors gin. Also, to our horror, he picked up some fox scat and showed us how to identify the animal who left it.  After two miles with the guide, John and I continued upward alone along the northern slope of the Casa Grande (which is part of a chain of mountains in the Chisos). The end of the trail took us to a promontory high on a ridge overlooking Juniper Canyon. We were hot and tired, but the climb was well worth the effort. We had in front of us one of the best views in the park. The square-shaped rock behind us is Casa Grande.
 After our hike John and I stopped for lunch in the park's only restaurant. From where we were siting we could get a good view of another famous location in the Chisos Mountain basin called the Window. It is a natural break in the mountains where water flows into a canyon below it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Boquillas Canyon, Big Bend National Park

One of our hikes yesterday was into the Boquillas Canyon. Here the Rio Grande River has, over the years, cut through the massive rock walls to carve out the canyon.
As we were hiking into the canyon I heard someone singing. I thought at first it was the hikers ahead of us trying to hear the echo of their voices in the canyon. But no, it was a man on the Mexican side of the canyon singing. Then I noticed a can on the river shore with a sign attached to it: "donations for the singing Mexican". I must say that is a clever way of picking up a few dollars! We did not stay in the canyon very long because of a strong wind which was churning up the sand. Our arms and legs were starting to sting from the pelting grit. We stopped at a visitor's center for the canyon on our way home. At the cactus garden outside of the center we saw a beautiful rainbow cactus, which is pictured below.
We were surprised to see that cactus in bloom as we had not seen many blooming since our arrival in the park.The ranger in the center admitted that someone had watered the garden last fall. That is the time of the year when cactus should receive rain in order for them to have beautiful spring flowers. Unfortunately it has not rained in Big Bend since October so hopes are not high for a beautiful flowering spring here in Big Bend. Before I close I would also like to mention a few of my bird sightings here in the park. As we entered the park Tuesday I saw a black-chinned hummingbird drinking sweet water out of a dish which a ranger had set out for him. In our campground I have seen the vermillion flycatcher, he certainly has some very bright red feathers and it is hard to miss him! Today, as we hiked the Lost Mine Trail (more on that in my next posting), we were greeted at the top by the noisy chatter of a Mexican jay, he has very bright blue feathers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Big Bend National Park

As you may notice from the heading, we have made it to the park, and it is HOT. Yesterday's temperature reached 101 degrees. We are learning fast how to live in this desert climate, and that the best time to be outside is early morning or evening. Fortunately there is a cool breeze coming in our windows at night and we can then turn off the air conditioning. We took our first hike in the park last evening at sunset. Big Bend is famous for its sunsets. The building below is the campground store.
The trail we took brought us to some wetlands and our first view of the Rio Grande River. The river separates the United States from Mexico. From the highest point on this trail we could look down on a small Mexican village. Also, while on this trail, we had our first exposure to the mobile Mexican store.
 There is usually a note with these trinkets asking for a donation, and a soda can is placed nearby for the money. We have read in the park literature that it is illegal to purchase these items, but it is hard to pass up the pleas for money. I am given to understand that Mexicans, if they happen to have a job, earn $1.00 a day. In the past twenty years the United States has developed the Big Bend International Fire Fighting Team, to fight forest fires in the park. Mexicans from the nearby villages have been trained to fight forest fires in the park, as while as all over our nation. They usually earn $10-$15.00 an hour. Unfortunately that still does not begin to address the issue of poverty in Mexico. This morning, while visiting Hot Springs, we watched as a little Mexican boy crossed the Rio Grand River and laid out some items on the ground near us. He smiled shyly at us, set down a donation can, and then forded the river back to his village. While standing there and watching him we glanced down into the river and saw a large water snake. Fortunately it was not near the little boy.
I mentioned Hot Springs, a place which we hiked to this morning. Between 1930 and 1940 this was an active tourist spot. Many people came there to soak in, what was thought to be, the healing waters. The stone buildings of the grocery store and motor court are still there. There was a bathhouse over the springs but that is gone now. John and I were surprised to see many people there in the springs. I removed my shoes and socks to join them. It was like a giant hot tub!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monahan, Texas

Before I tell you about our trip to Monahan, I want to first mention St Stephen's Episcopal church where we worshiped Sunday. It is the oldest Protestant church west of the Pecos. It is not at its original location, however. There were only about 12 members in attendance Sunday, and they were very welcoming to us.  They invited us to stay for a light lunch after services and attend their Lenten Bible study afterward. The study was one of a series they will be having for the next several weeks on centering prayer. It is a form of contemplative prayer, or meditation, which I have had some interest in. I am very thankful for the time we spent at St. Stephen's church. Today we drove to Monahan to check out the Million Barrel Museum. In 1928 there was an oil boom in west Texas and a need to find a place to accommodate all the crude oil before it was shipped to the refineries. Outside of the town of Monahan they dug a large earthen dish which they cemented over. It could hold 1,084,000 barrels of oil and they used it only once. It was abandoned in 1930 because it leaked and the Great Depression hit. In 1956 it was filled with water for boating or fishing but it was no more successful for holding water than it was for holding oil. It now is a museum, and also used for holding a variety of social events. As you can see in the picture, it now has an amphitheater. The large open area next to the stadium, is the oil tank, it covers a total of 8 acres.
 On the grounds of the museum is the relocated and restored hotel/home of oilman Eugene Holman (1895-1962). We toured that, it has some impressive early 20th century furnishings. There is also a building which contain many coke memorabilia from the Monahan Bottling Company, and an old Texas Pacific Railroad station as well as some vintage train cars. This museum has a lot more to it than an old oil tank! From the museum we drove to Monahans Sandhills State Park. Interestingly enough, while driving around the park, we saw an active oil well. A Texas tour book describes the dunes as having " the classical landscape of the Sahara".  It has the largest oak forest in the nation, the Harvard oak ,which is seldom more than 3 feet high.
West Texas certainly is the oil capital of Texas, we have seen quite a lot of oil wells as we drive around. We spent the rest of our afternoon doing some hiking over the dunes and found the claret cup cactus which is in bloom, it is pictured below. Tomorrow we are moving our rig south to Big Bend National Park. We have been warned that in the park(where we will be staying) there is no service for our phone or computer, also no cable television. Sounds like a good time for me to work on some spiritual meditation!   

Monday, March 21, 2011

McDonald Observatory

John wanted to see this observatory while we were in Texas, he just was not sure when or how we would fit that in. Yesterday, when we decided to take a short drive into the Davis Mountains, he suddenly realized that we were driving very close to the observatory and might as well stop and check it out. We stopped and signed up for a tour. Fortunately, it being spring break week, a lot of the volunteers were gone and the research astronomers were giving the tours. Our guide had worked there at least 30 years and had plenty of information to share with us .After a  lengthy explanation by him of the different telescopes and how they are used at the observatory, we left the visitors center to drive up to one of them on top of the mountain. At the building of the 107 inch  mirror telescope our guide had us climb up 70 steps to the floor where it is located.
The McDonald Observatory is one of the largest in the world open to public tours. Its location is ideal  because of its isolation, clear air and absence of city lighting.The telescope which we were privileged to see sits at an elevation of 6,791 feet, the highest elevation in Texas on a public road. We had clear visibility at this point; our guide estimated that we could see about 150 miles off into the distance, into Mexico, because of a certain mountain that was visible.
It probably was good that I had a chance to see the telescope as I was still under the misconception that scientists just peered directly into telescopes to get the information they needed. (Actually the image falls on a plate just like in a digital camera and is sent to a computer for viewing.) John had a lot more understanding of them and was happy that he had a chance to see a real one, not something just depicted in books or magazines.The telescope we looked at weights 160 tons and is so well balanced that it can be moved around by a one-half horse power motor. Our guide demonstrated how it and the dome above it rotate using computerized remote control. There is also an opening through which the telescope peers out, like shutters on a window. The telescope is used for star studies and searching for new planets. Another telescope in the complex is used with a laser beam reflected off a reflector on the moon (left by Apollo astronauts) to measure the exact distance to the moon and tracks the drift of the earth's continents. This helps to monitor the movement caused by plate tectonics. The Pacific plate is currently moving under the North American plate and Hawaii is moving toward California at the rate of 4 inches a year. Hang around long enough and you won't have to fly there.
The base of the telescope can be seen in the picture above, as well as one of the two pillars which support the telescope. It will not vibrate, even if the building vibrates, as the pillars which support it extend 60 feet below into bedrock and are isolated from the dome building. After the tour it was getting close to sunset, which made for a beautiful trip home through the mountains. That was a good time for wildlife to be out, and we saw two javelina (from the peccary family), a herd of mountain sheep and numerous deer.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Balmorhea , Texas

Our home is now in Fort Stockton; we have arrived in Big Bend Country. The town's landmark is affectionately call Paisano Pete, he is all of 860 pounds, and said to be the world's largest roadrunner. In San Angelo we toured Fort Concho, a military post established in 1867.  Fort Stockton is another similar cavalry post, started up in 1858 to protect the early settlers and struggling ranchers from Indian attacks. Yesterday, while driving to Balmorhea, I could not help but look over the rugged countryside and think about the soldiers patrolling the hills under an unforgiving hot sun. And they certainly did not have the roads we have today.
Balmorhea State Park is the location of San Solomon Springs. The springs, which puts out 28 million gallons of water daily, was once used by the Apache Indians to water their corn and peaches. In 1871 large scale commercial irrigation was begun by the early settlers for their crops. A state park and swimming pool was built in the 1950s, which led to a destruction of a lot of the desert wetland surrounding the area. When it was discovered that two different species of fish had become extinct because of that decision, an effort was made in 1995 to restore the wetland. It was a warm day yesterday and we were told that the springs stays at an even 70 degrees year around, so I decided to try swimming in the pool which has the springs flowing into it. With a 77,000 square foot surface, it is one of the largest man-made pools in the world.
 I was so totally thinking that I was swimming in a regular swimming pool, you can well imagine my surprise when discovered that I was swimming with fish and ducks! And the bottom of the pool was extremely slimy with algae in the shallow sections. Notice, in the picture below, scuba divers in the pool swimming with some ducks. The deepest part of the  pool is 25 feet deep and perfect for scuba diving classes.
I did not take too long with my swimming and sunbathing, so after that we still had a good part of the day to drive into the mountains, toward Fort Davis, where John was able to pursue his interest. He had been hoping to tour the McDonald Observatory. It was a wonderful mountain drive, more on that and the observatory, in my next posting.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Outdoor art in San Angelo

Any tour of San Angelo is not complete unless one wanders down the back alleys of the town. We did a walking tour, but it is a drive-through art gallery also.The above picture is the first of the Art Opens Doors Alley which features 17 doors painted by local artists.
Paintbrush Alley includes 18 windows and numerous murals, done by 30 local artists and volunteers. It was completed in the summer of 2005. I believe that it was in this section where we saw this comment (pictured below) about rear alley art.
Our walking tour of the town also took us by the Fine Arts Museum.That building was constructed in the shape of a covered wagon. We completed our tour of the town back on the river walk, after first crossing over the river via Celebration Bridge.  The sculpture Pearl of the Conchos is located near the bridge.The mermaid is holding a mussel which contains one of the prized purple pearls.
Mother nature put on an outdoor show for us last night. We had learned that bats hang out under a highway overpass just outside of town. We drove out there at twilight last evening and watched as they made their evening flight out to forage for food. That was amazing to see those little animals fluttering out, they looked like birds at first  but once I saw them silhouetted against the darkening sky, I had no doubt they were bats.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

San Angelo, Texas

We had a very interesting day yesterday touring this town (population 90,000). Our first stop was the visitor's center, where we left our car and began our walking tour. While John got caught up in a lengthy discussion about the town with two men inside (Jerry and John), I wandered out the back door and immediately started taking pictures of the gardens and river walk. What a beautiful place for a visitor's center!
The sculpture in the foreground is of two women. San Angelo is named after the 16th Century saint for whom the wife of the town's founder was named, Carolina Angela de la Garza Dewitt. The saint, St.Angela Merci, is honored as the dominant figure in the sculpture. In the background is a statue of an ewe. That ewe was the first of many located through out the town. The one above is called "Welcoming Ewe",  the next one we saw in town was "Ewe've Got Mail". The next big item which we saw is the mural pictured below. West Texas is a large livestock area, in particular, sheep and cattle.
This town is replete with artwork, but more on that in my next posting.  The Concho River runs through the town. It is known for its many species of shellfish. When the Spanish explorers came to this area they found the Indians wearing the purple pearls found in the Concho river valley (Spanish word for Concho  is "shell"). The Spanish named the river for the unique purple Tampico Pearlymussle. There are at least two jewelry stores in San Angelo which sell the pearls. We stopped at one of them where the owner was very willing to show us the mussel shell and the different pieces of jewelry he had which features the gem. The shells are getting harder to find, and they are also dangerous to harvest as they lie among snakes. From that shop we continued to walk through the historic district of town. We were surprised to find that many of the buildings have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. One shop, the Sassy Fox, still has its unique mosaic floor. While wandering in that shop the sign below caught my eye.
Notice the brick wall, a common feature of the older buildings. Also, many of the restored Victorian buildings still have their painted tin ceilings. The Cactus Hotel was another one of the buildings which we toured. It was the fourth hotel constructed by Conrad Hilton in 1929. It has a Spanish baroque lobby and impressive "Crystal Ballroom". The 14 story building is now a multi use property. The lobby of the hotel, pictured below, may be rented out for weddings.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fort Worth Zoo

I was not too excited about touring another zoo, figuring not too many zoos can compare to the St.Louis or San Diego zoos. However, residents of this area encouraged us to check it out, and our AAA tour book rates it as a gem. It was quite crowded today because of spring break for many area schools, but a parking attendant told us that the crowd today was nothing compared to the number of people who would come out on a warmer day. It is a large zoo, 95 acres all total. I was impressed with the  areas in which many of the African animals are given to roam, complete with deep rocky canyons and waterfalls. I was also intrigued with the area which had  birds and animals of Texas. Texas has many different habitats; swampland to desert and hill country as well as piney woods and and sea shore. Not surprising, then, to find out that the state has coati (he looks like a raccoon), ocelot, bobcat, coyote, and jaguar. Another little critter who caught my attention with his bright green color was the cooter. The turtle resides in the Rio Grand watershed.
If you are eating while reading this you may want to skip what I have to say next. I was impressed by the dung beetle of Texas. In some parts of Texas he removes from the landscape about 80% of cattle dung, and also reduces the flies which breed in it. The beetle depends on the manure for most of its life cycles. He rolls the dung into balls which are the size of gulf  balls and burrows into it. There is a place and a job for everyone in this world! Sorry, but I just had to take a picture of this interesting beetle.
Now on to something more pleasant! I loved the aviary cage in the zoo, which is filled with many parakeets and cockatiels. They are a bit cuter than the beetle, I must say!
 In the aviary cage people may purchase bird feed and the birds are not shy in accepting the seed! Some even go a step further;  hop on a finger and beg for more.
We are heading out of the Arlington area tomorrow, our plan is travel south  and see more of Texas in the next few weeks. The rv park we are currently parked in is next to an airport for small planes and helicopters, so I am happy to be leaving. It can get quite noisy during the day. I was thankful for the few days we had of strong wind which kept the planes on the ground! We are also parked next to the location of the largest flea market in Texas. Fortunately at this time of the year they are here only on week-ends. We never know entirely all the facts about the parks we stop at when we make our reservations. Keeps life interesting for us.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dallas Arboretum

Before driving over to tour the arboretum, John and I stopped in downtown Dallas at the Pioneer Plaza to see a large bronze sculpture. It is even more spectacular than the Las Colinas equestrian sculpture in Irving.
The above picture of a Texas Longhorn cattle drive does not even do the sculpture justice because there are many more cattle than just the few shown above.  You may also notice the bored pose of the trail boss on a rocky prominence above the cattle. The arboretum of Dallas is currently having its Dallas Blooms days, that was our next stop Saturday afternoon.
 It is the largest floral festival in the southwest with 500,000 spring-blooming bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, and fragrant-smelling hyacinths abound in colorful beds all over the arboretum. In the Dallas area tulips are an annual flower; the winters are not cold enough for them and, if left in the ground, they do not bloom well. We learned that piece of information from our garden guide. He is a docent for the garden and willing to tour anyone who desires a guide. He made our hike of the arboretum quite interesting, primarily because he grew up in the area. From him we learned a lot about the different gardens within the arboretum.
Shortly after we began our tour we noticed a flaming red tree off in the distance. We checked it out before we left the garden and discovered it to be a peach tree in bloom.
The arboretum was once the estate of a wealthy Texas oil man, Everette De Golyer. In 1975 his widow left the estate to a local university who subsequently sold it to the city of Dallas for a million dollars. Dallas turned the 66 acres of land into an arboretum, keeping the DeGolyer's mansion on the estate. It is possible for visitors of the garden to tour the mansion, which John and I did. In one of the rooms I saw an invitation, framed under glass, which Mrs. DeGolyer received in 1963 (her husband passed in 1956) to a luncheon on November 22  in honor of the President and Mrs. Kennedy, Governor John Connally and his wife. Next to the invitation is a picture of  Mrs. DeGolyer sitting at her assigned seat on that fateful day, waiting for the honored guests to arrive and the luncheon to begin. And sadly, as we all know from history, that meal did not happen as planned.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Southfork Ranch, Dallas, Texas

The above drive may look familiar to you if you were a devotee of the television series Dallas. The drive leads up to the Southfork ranch, home to the Ewing family. From 1978 to 1991  the ranch was the fictional Dallas homestead of the Ewings, America's most charming but devious television family. Below is a picture of one of the cars that you would see, while watching the series, coming up the drive. Jock Ewing, patriarch of the Ewings, drove the Lincoln Continental. It has put in all of a total of 25 miles. Jim Davis, the character who played Jock, died in 1981.
 Also on display at the ranch is the pistol that shot JR. Do you remember how the nation, as well as the world (the television series was shown in 96 countries) was so captivated by the big question: "who shot JR?"?  Speaking of JR, on the tour we saw the "bad barn" where he did a lot of his evil deeds, and the swimming pool around which the Ewings had some of their more dramatic moments. The barn can be seen in the background of the picture below.
I did not know that the scenes in Dallas were shot outside only, the rest were done in Culver city, California. The cast was at Southfork during the summer months, that was a stipulation of the Duncan family who owned the ranch at the time.  Below is a picture of the outside breakfast dining area where the Ewings usually got into some disagreement with each other and left without finishing their meal. Ellie, or mom, would usually be seen sitting by herself at the end of those scenes and pondering how to smooth over the latest disagreement in her family. It always seems to me that all of the soap opera-type series follow the same story lines!
We learned while at Southfork that the series may be returning on cable. Larry Hagmann (JR)will probably still be in the series (he is now 79 years old). The story will focus on the offspring of JR and his brother Bobby, who are Chris and John Jr. I wonder which of those two will continue the antics of JR......