Dancing in the Shadow of JFK

I always wondered what Dallas was known for. I really couldn’t think of anything except cowboys and, of course, the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. So when I had a day off in Dallas I wasn’t sure what to do. I decided to discover a working tour of downtown. I wasn’t expecting much.

The weather was cold and foggy. The new skyscraper buildings were inter-disbursed with falling down brick houses or the other way around. The sidewalks were cracked and patched and each street corner was manned by a homeless panhandler. And then the sky cleared to a brilliant blue. Dallas was looking better as the morning wore on.

In what is known as the West End I found Wild Bill’s Western Wear.

The 1800’s building was filled with western hats, cowboy boots, and silver buckles bringing on a South Forks moment. (Who Shot JR?) This is the Dallas I know from the famous 1980’s TV series aptly named DALLAS.

Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray all shop(ed) here. I already own a Granite Gray Resistol which I bought in Calgary 20 years ago but somehow adding a black Stetson to my collection seemed like the right thing to do. It didn’t take the manager Bruce Bean long to line me up with a 3XXX Beaver Felt Stetson – a “Lariat” to be specific. I managed to forgo the pointy toed cowboy boots.

I followed Bruce’s directions for the historic West End walking tour starting with the Old Red Courthouse and the log shack built by the man who first settled Dallas…

And ending at Dealey Park and the “X” marked location where JF Kennedy was murdered. The word “assassination” is much too formal for what happened that day in Dallas. Anyone with a lick of sense can quickly see, with no big stretch of the imagination, how any half decent shooter with a half decent rifle was able to pop the president as his cavalcade slowly drove by the nearby school book depository window where Oswald was perched. In fact Oswald could have used a bow and arrow or a slingshot for that matter as the distance was manageable for either.

That is not exactly what the display at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza tells you but I was not the only visitor to figure this out.

I came across a crowd of tourists (one of whom turned out to be a young man from Nigeria) gawking at the site where Kennedy was shot.

One of the visitors, a guy in a blue jacket, was quite agitated and kept running from place to place on the site. I stopped him and said, “I don’t get it.”

“What don’t you get.”

“I don’t get what the conspiracy theory was all about?” “How come they could not figure out if there was two shooters and if one was on the Grassy Knoll.”

I was surprised at how close the Grassy Knoll, the shooter’s window, and the President’s limousine were grouped together.

The guy in the blue jacket stopped running back and forth just long enough to explain, “I used to believe in all this two shooter conspiracy but look at how easy it was to 1. be able to shoot the president from the school book depository window and 2. find a second shooter at the Grassy Knoll if there indeed had been one. This was simply a case of one nut case getting in a lucky potshot and hitting a slow moving target. After all – only one bullet hit JFK.”

To prove this conclusively (to myself) I did as thousands have done before me. I stood dead center in the active roadway right on the “X” that marks the spot where Kennedy was shot. The wide-angle lens on my camera doesn’t do the crime scene justice because from this spot the shooter’s window is just a few hundred feet away and within a direct line of sight. In other words, it is palpably close.

Look up. Look way up.

The cardboard boxes that Oswald used to rest the rifle on can still be seen in the upper 6th floor window.

The Grassy Knoll is just a small patch of grass on the roadside and the fence where a second shooter might have been was just a few short steps away. The policeman who immediately ran up after the shooting didn’t see anyone. End of story. Lee Harvey Oswald was seen running from the building and was later found with the rifle. End of story.

The Sixth Floor Museum was interesting enough but like a few guide books have said there is nothing new there. Seeing the preserved “shooter’s rest” first hand, however, is worth the visit if for no other reason than the perspective will show you how easy it was for Oswald to hit his target. The case is closed on the Kennedy Assassination. Or at least for me and my friend in the blue jacket it is.

For everyone else there is the JF Kennedy Memorial. It’s a strangely stark and bleak monument in juxtaposition to the baroque styled Old Red Courthouse next door.

The black granite stone holding the center is nothing like the memory of what Kennedy evokes. It doesn’t make me think of the Camelot promise of what Kennedy brought to America. With the reality of the Kennedy years now coming to light, especially the Mimi Alford Confessions, the gold gilded memory is growing cold like this stone.

The kids are dancing in the shadow of Kennedy’s Memorial but do they have any idea of who he was?

America will always have conspiracy theories. It’s the nature of the beast.

Previously published on the Pilot Blog Book – Where were you the day John F Kennedy was shot?

Dallas and the Texas School Book Depository 2012

For all the Travelographer’s images from the Walking Tour of Dallas click on the image above.

About John S Goulet

Air Transport Pilot, consultant, writer, blogger and photographer with 45 years in Professional Aviation.
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