My First Visit to Paramount Ranch

by Mary Ann M

How can you describe the feeling one gets when you first glimpse the sign 'Paramount Ranch' and step inside the world of Colorado Springs? Awe is a word that comes to mind but corny as it sounds "home" is really the word I would choose. The minute I stepped over the bridge, I felt like I had come home to something I had already known in my heart.

The first sight that greeted us was Jane in the meadow playing with her twins. What a charming sight that was! They are absolutely adorable, blonde angels and have lost all their baby fat. It's obvious she adores them. I was kind of in a state of shock when I first walked onto the set and Deb whispered "there's Jane!" She was just a few feet away. You can't miss that hair though! She was called to do a scene a few moments later and ran by us literally holding her skirts up. We giggled and she stopped for a moment, laughed and said it was cooler that way! I agreed, it was hot that day, though not as hot as it got later in the week!

Later that day we saw Jane ride by in the back of a wagon with the twins. She was singing "the wheels on the bus" to them . It was only one of those special "mommy moments" we were privileged to witness during our visit.

The crew were friendly, and courteous and quite willing to answer questions but it was also obvious that they were proud of their contribution to the show and determined to do their jobs to the best of their ability. There is a real cohesiveness about the entire production and a real family feeling, which after a while we even felt to an extent. After a week of waving and recognizing people and being recognized (well its hard NOT to recognize 4 women sitting out in the sun staring at the backs of Jane and Joe's trailers in hopes of a glimpse of either of them I guess!) we started to feel as if we were all somehow in this together. At least I did anyway!

As for the cast, we saw Jane, Joe (briefly) Shawn, Chad, Jessica, Jason, John and Jim and Frank and Chaz!

I was at the ranch partly on a personal 'mission'. I was there to thank Jane for a personal gesture she had made 6 months before- a phone call in response to a letter I had written her about my best friend who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. It had been my hope to thank Jane in person for that call and in my girlfriend's place also, as had she lived, she had intended to thank Jane herself for her kindness. Through the efforts of some very special people, I did get the chance to do just that. I found Jane to be warm, and very friendly as well as every bit as beautiful up close as she is on screen. I asked her if she remembered my letter and she asked if that was me? I nodded and she hugged me and asked how I was doing. We chatted for a few moments and my strongest impression was that this is a woman who genuinely seems to like people. Whenever we observed Jane during our entire visit she would come over to the crowds, not just children, but everyone if she had a free moment. The people I talked to around me were very impressed by that and her sincere manner.

Frank Collison was there and greeted us from a distance warning us he was NOT feeling well and we shouldn't come close. I felt really bad as he looked like he was "really " sick. I don't know what scene he did that day, but I think it may have been an additional scene to the thanksgiving show. If so, he genuinely looked the part!

As for the rest of the cast, with the exception of Larry Sellars, we saw them from a distance but didn't actually speak with any of them. Joe came in one day for a read-through of the next day's script. I almost didn't recognize him as he was in a baseball cap and tee shirt. He was talking to Larry and smoking a cigarette. He didn't pay any attention to the adoring glances the females (myself included) were shooting him from the rail unfortunately, and left a few moments later. Larry did stop to take a picture with us. He was very friendly and sounded so much like Cloud Dancing, that I couldn't help expecting him to say HA HO!

The first two days of the week we saw quite a bit of filming though nothing significant. The rest of the week the cast was at locations inaccessible to the public. Did that stop us? Nope. We just sat there by the side of the road or under the tree and watched the backs of the trailers in our hearts hoping "someone" might take pity on us:-) None did alas, but everyone did wave and smile! I guess we were quite a sight.

One time we did see Joe playing with Billie in the parking lot but he spied us and the sight of all that drool must have been too much for him, as he scooted behind a tree and proceeded to throw the stick from there. I don't know who was drooling more actually, Billie or us!

One of my favorite Jane moments, was watching her play with her twins in the meadow. They were doing a scene with Brian and some other children and Jane was trying to have some what she called "special mommy time" with the twins. John was quietly sitting there just taking it all in, but Kris was having none of it. He wanted to join the fun and since his participation in that particular scene would 'not 'have been appreciated, Jane was doing her best to distract him. At on point, one of the Calvary soldiers, at her request, handed his "toy" gun to Kris. I will never forget the sight of that tiny toddler marching around pleased as could be with the "gun" which was 5 times too big for him. He strutted around like he was now "one of the big guys!" what a charmer! Jane meanwhile was watching all this laughing hysterically and trying to teach him to march and salute! How privileged we all felt to be allowed for that moment to enter Jane's own private world, Later Kris decided that playing "soldier" was still not quite as good as helping Brian/ Shawn fly that bird kite in the field and he proceeded to let EVERYONE know just how he felt about this injustice! Poor Jane, tried to quiet him and cuddle him but finally gave up. We had to laugh at the way she said to him "ok you're outta here!" She was very good with him though and cuddled him until he quieted instead of reprimanding him and apologized to the crew for the distraction.

Although much of the filming during our visit was 'out of sight', just being there was enough for us. We had been given a chance to not only step into our fantasy but to actually become a part of it- What a rare privilege and an experience that none of us will ever forget.