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Hundreds of 1969 Dodge Chargers were customized for the Dukes of Hazzard. Most of them were wrecked.
Hundreds of 1969 Dodge Chargers were customized for the Dukes of Hazzard. Most of them were wrecked.

Cooter's Place

Field review by the editors.

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Just the good ol' boys, they wouldn't change if they could; Fighting the system like two modern-day Robin Hoods (Yee-Haw!) -- Theme song sung by Waylon Jennings

Uncle Jesse's mini-farm includes Boss Hogg's white Cadillac.
Uncle Jesse's mini-farm includes Boss Hogg's white Cadillac.

The Dukes of Hazzard was a network tv series that debuted when Jimmy Carter was President (the show supposedly took place in Georgia). It ran for seven seasons and followed the antics of Bo and Luke Duke, aided by their leggy cousin Daisy, wise Uncle Jesse, and garage owner Cooter Davenport. Week after week they outfoxed their nemesis, corrupt Hazzard County commissioner Jefferson Davis "Boss" Hogg. Episodes often featured wild chases between the Dukes' car -- the General Lee -- and the hapless local constabulary, usually ending with at least one trashed police cruiser.

It was all lighthearted, unsophisticated fun, popular with kids (More on that in a minute). Bo, Luke, and Daisy were Hollywood versions of Southern country folk, with salon hair and impractical (and impossibly clean) clothes. Nearly all of the series' 147 episodes were filmed in and around Los Angeles, and of the principal actors only Ben Jones (Cooter) really was from the South. When the show went off the air in February 1985, everyone figured that was the end of it.

Bedroom of a young Hazzard fan circa 1981.
Bedroom of a young Hazzard fan circa 1981.

But 11 years later The Nashville Network began airing reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard. It became a hit with a new, older audience, and Cooter, who had gone on to serve two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, saw an opportunity. He christened the fans of the revived series Hazzard Nation, and opened a small Dukes of Hazzard museum near his house. Pleased with the response, he expanded and moved the attraction in 2002 to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, a tourist nexus of the South, and named it Cooter's Place. It's been a destination for Hazzard Nation faithful (and the occasional puzzled civilian) ever since, and has even spawned satellite locations in Nashville and Luray, Virginia.

Little girls could wear Duke-endorsed underwear.
Little girls could wear Duke-endorsed underwear.

Cooter's Place offers tourists the classic attraction trifecta of museum, photo-ops, and gift shop. Its biggest draw is the General Lee -- or one of the General Lees, since hundreds were used in the filming of the series (A display honoring the show's mechanics notes with pride that "over 1,200 cars were wrecked.") The General Lee, with its rebel name and rooftop Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (a.k.a. Confederate Flag), has become a totem for Hazzard Nation as well as for Cooter, who has defended the flag (currently problematic and all-but vanished from display elsewhere) as a "symbol that represents the indomitable spirit of independence which keeps us makin' our way the only way we know how."

Daisy Duke tableau: Boar's Nest bar-b-que sign, Dixie jeep, and cardboard Daisy.
Daisy Duke tableau: Boar's Nest bar-b-que sign, Dixie jeep, and cardboard Daisy.

Independent behavior has often ended badly for the South, but whenever the Dukes broke the law, it was because the law was wrong -- and their rebelliousness always worked out fine.

Floor-to-ceiling showcases at Cooter's Place are packed with museum-vintage Dukes products from the series' early kid-focused marketing days: Dukes of Hazzard lunch boxes, pocket calculators, slot car racing sets, Halloween masks, digital watches, backpacks, sandals, beach towels, shoelaces, tv trays, inflatable versions of the General Lee, and Daisy Duke girls' underwear. The faded packaging on these products suggests that the show's commercial moment has passed for children, but adults at Cooter's Place can buy new Dukes of Hazzard action figures, bobbleheads, license plates, coffee cups, refrigerator magnets, caps, Christmas ornaments, and a surprisingly wide variety of items emblazoned with the rebel flag, including pillowcases, shower curtains, face masks, purses, and dog collars.

The Dukes + science = Shrinky Dinks.
The Dukes + science = Shrinky Dinks.

Cooter's country-smooth voice is piped into the attraction from one of his several CDs, also for sale (Southern Accents, Southern to the Bone, etc.) extolling the merits of families and Dixie pride.

Cooter has placed a few genuine (and rare) relics from the series on display, such as his pair of well-worn Cooter's Garage work pants and his signature sleeveless shirt. The simple wooden door from Uncle Jesse's farm house comes with a notarized certificate: "This item is a piece of history and is authentic." There are old show scripts, a piece of a wrecked car signed by cast members, and -- the ultimate symbol of 1980s television success -- several issues of TV Guide with the Dukes on the cover. Perhaps the most photographed non-vehicular artifact at Cooter's Place is a pair of Daisy Duke's cut-off shorts, framed and autographed.

Out among the various photo-ops is a detailed miniature of the Duke family farm made by Hazzard Nation superfan T.J. Bethards. Next to it is a kid's bedroom furnished with many of the Hazzard-branded items seen in the museum displays, as well as an early 1980s living room with an overstuffed couch and console color tv on which reruns of the Dukes play nonstop. A General Lee is parked in a rebuilt Cooter's Garage, and there's also a replica of the Hazzard County sheriff's office and the Boar's Nest bar-b-que and bar, where Daisy worked and Boss Hogg would hatch his schemes.

For a fee you can have your picture taken in the Boar's Nest, the jail cell, or -- most prized of all -- behind the wheel of the General Lee. Old snapshots on display at Cooter's Place show that a photo with the General is something for which fans have willingly paid for over 40 years.

Cooter's Place

Address:
177 E. Wears Valley Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN
Directions:
At Parkway stoplight 3, turn east onto Wears Valley Rd. Drive across the little bridge, then immediately turn left into the shopping plaza. You'll see the General Lee car straight ahead, at the back of the plaza.
Hours:
Daily 9-7 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
865-429-7099
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Lumberjack FeudLumberjack Feud, Pigeon Forge, TN - < 1 mi.
The Museums at Biblical TimesThe Museums at Biblical Times, Pigeon Forge, TN - < 1 mi.
Byrd's Famous Cookies JarByrd's Famous Cookies Jar, Pigeon Forge, TN - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Bertie the Money Dog, Sevierville, TN - 4 mi.

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