The mansion on Southfork Ranch in Parker.

The mansion on Southfork Ranch in Parker.

Meg Roussos/Staff Photographer

Doug Box's book tells about his youth growing up on the ranch that was used for Season 1 of "Dallas." The original Southfork was actually the Box Ranch and home to his famous oilman father, Cloyce Box.

Recently on an airplane, I noticed the woman next to me reading Cutter Frisco, a memoir by my friend Doug Box about his youth on the original Southfork Ranch from TV's Dallas. Through his touching recollections, the legend lives on about this storied Texas property, known then as the Box Ranch, where Doug's father, the late oilman Cloyce Box, reigned over a Texas drama much more vivid than the story lines concocted for TV's Ewings.

Doug Box will do a Q&A and book signing at 6:30 p.m. July 23 at the Barnes & Noble at Preston and Royal.

Back in 1978, a new TV show called Dallas was slated for only five episodes. The writers penned the script in L.A. without visiting Texas.

But the location scouts came and scored big when they saw the imposing Box Ranch in Frisco, near the corner of Preston Road and Main Street.

NFL to oilman

Cloyce Box had played wide receiver in the NFL for the Detroit Lions alongside SMU great Doak Walker and UT's Bobby Layne. They led the team to consecutive NFL championships.

"I was just about the first real wide receiver, at least the way you'd think of them now," he later recalled. "The game was just opening up, but there still wasn't all that much to it. I'd run the same pattern just about every time. I wasn't that skilled a player, but I was fast. Back then, that was about all you really needed to get by."

Gaining riches in the oil business, Box settled in Frisco in the big house that was the centerpiece of his ranch.

The cast of "Dallas" at Southfork

The cast of "Dallas" at Southfork

File

When Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Victoria Principal and the other stars showed up to shoot the pilot episode of Dallas, North Texas was under a rare blanket of snow. Watch Season 1, Episode 1 and you'll see the incongruous sight of Bobby Ewing and his new wife, Pam, driving a Mercedes convertible down an icy road in Frisco with the top down. Episode 2 opens with Lucy Ewing riding her horse across a completely white, snow-covered Box Ranch.

But the fifth and final episode of Season 1 was filmed under a sunny sky. At a barbecue, patriarch Jock Ewing shakes hands with his nemesis Digger Barnes on the Boxes' front porch.

After the fifth episode wrapped, Cloyce Box borrowed some dialogue from Jock Ewing and told the producers, "I've got a ranch to run," and sent them on their way.

Making a move

For Season 2, the crew moved into J.R. Duncan's ranch Duncan Acres, which became the now world-famous Southfork shown in the opening credits' helicopter shot.

Visitors to the better-known Southfork are invariably disappointed at the small scale of the house and the unimpressive suburban-type pool where the Ewings had their breakfast.

There was nothing unimpressive about the Box Ranch. It inspired awe -- until the fire.

In 1987, the big house burned down. Cloyce Box was in the process of rebuilding when he died of a heart attack in 1993.

Today, the unfinished steel frame of Cloyce Box's new house stands as a reminder of the grandeur of a past era.

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