Updated 7 December 2001 URL is /marfa/ruinreat.html
The Ruins of Reata, Theatrical Archaeology
by Magdalin Leonardo
All text and images © 1998 Magdalin Leonardo, email firstname.lastname@example.org
You CAN Go Home Again...
I'm not the first person to seek out the ruins of Reata. And I certainly won't be the last. Dean fans from as far away as Japan have visited Ryan Ranch over the years. Big-name stars like Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sissy Spacek have even shot movies there. (And Clay has the photographs to prove it!)
Aside from his celebrity-studded photo album, Clay had one item I was especially interested in: an original "Giant" script, bound in faded brown leather and signed by none other than George Stevens himself.
Despite its yellowed pages, this huge volume -- which is several inches thick -- was quite a sight to see. Luckily, I got to see even more...
Clay was nice enough to take me on a guided tour of his vast domains, including a visit to the roadside pen where his cattle are herded. Here, next to the railroad tracks, is where Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson (aka the Benedicts), first stepped foot on Texas soil in "Giant."
Clay's cattle got in the act, too. At one point during my tour, Clay drove right into an unsuspecting herd...much to my -- and their -- surprise!
Now I'm from New York, and the only cows I'd ever met were of the milking variety so I was totally unprepared for the massive creatures that soon surrounded Clay's pickup. These cows were big, bold and boy were they loud! What DO they feed these cattle in Texas? One cow was as tall as Clay's truck. Yikes!
I'm only sorry I didn't get what I really wanted: a photo of the brand Clay uses to identify his cattle. (Luckily, I found the brand on some napkins Clay used back at the ranch house, so I settled for one of those instead):
Poor cows. Not only are they branded, but in '55, they were even used as extras in "Giant." Unfortunately, Marfa was experiencing a draught at the time and the heat proved too much for them. Enter the magic of Hollywood: fake cattle, in the form of cardboard cutouts, were used when the real ones grew weary.
I have to say that, apart from the cows, everyone at Ryan Ranch was real friendly. Besides Clay -- and his beautiful girlfriend Anne -- the one member of Ryan Ranch I most enjoyed meeting was "Partner," Clay's 6-year-old purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback. (Can you think of a more perfect name for a cowboy's pooch?) This gorgeous dog, which looked like a cross between a Great Dane and a Labrador, has an impressive lineage. According to Clay, his relatives hunt lions in Africa. Wow!
At Ryan Ranch, Partner doesn't have to worry about any big cats. But he does hold the job of watchdog, scaring off uninvited guests. As a rule, tourists (even if they are Dean fans) are not welcome to the Ryan Ranch without an invitation. But you CAN see the Reata ruins from the road. Just take Highway 90 west, heading towards Valentine. The ruins will be on your left-hand side.
All text and images © 1998 Magdalin Leonardo, email
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