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The former Daily Statesman is now The Dexter Statesman and currently does not have an operating website.

Where are you, Marshall Dillon?

Posted Friday, February 12, 2010, at 11:20 AM

The question on the NSC website (click on image of Bloomfield courthouse, bottom right) has set me to thinking about the old "Gunsmoke' series that we grew up with on Saturday night. Corey asks readers what their favorite TV program "of all time" is.

My family was living in Dexter during those years, and we all gathered in front of the old black and white television on Saturday night - prime time - to watch James Arness step out into the dusty streets of Dodge and face another dark, evil gunslinger, bent on murder and chaos. Someone was always riding in to "take over Dodge" and run it in their own sadistic fashion. The townspeople always looked out from behind the curtains in upstairs windows.

Back in the fifties, everyone - young and old - loved Marshall Dillon (who was pretty darned HOT, by any standards), but it wasn't until we were grown that we realized just how wonderful he was.

In those years, life was rosy - our parents were young and energetic and (more importantly) together. My two younger brothers strapped on toy guns and raced around our big yard, pretending to be cowboys. It was a good life.

In my mother's waning years, she sat in her recliner in the living room, watching 5 a.m. reruns of "Gunsmoke." When I visited with her and my sister, I woke up to the sound of six-shooters and that familiar theme song, echoing down the hall. No matter how many times she had seen the episodes, she never tired of watching Marshall Dillon fight the bad guys and give Miss Kitty that LOOK from under the brim of his hat.

James Arness cut such a larger-than-life figure in that iconic role that I'm not sure anyone has ever quite measured up to it. I don't think he had any flaws. If he did, they just weren't mentioned. I don't believe that his mysterious feelings for Miss Kitty could be considered a "weakness," though plenty of the bad guys tried to use them against him. How often was she kidnapped, terrorized, held captive and humiliated - and she always looked her tormenters in the face, with painted eyes and strategically-place beauty mark, and gave them that "Go-to-hell" glare?

When the marshall saved Kitty, there was none of the tears and drama that we see these days. I don't remember them ever even hugging when he rescued her from wild Indians or those horrible, horrible men who roamed the West during that time. It was all very reserved and civilized. He would just nod at her and tip his big hat - and that meant.......Oh, wow, girls - What DID it mean? "I'll meet you out back of the saloon at midnight tonight"? "Keep the door unlocked, Kitty - I'll be there in a couple of hours"?

If that's what the LOOK meant, we never knew. Ah, the mystery!

I believe that the series was ahead of its time. In an era when we were watching "I Love Lucy," the "Hit Parade," "Leave it to Beaver," and Cisco Kid, Gunsmoke was more than a shoot-'em-up western. Sometimes the realism was a little hard to watch, especially in the early episodes before Marshall Dillon was too big to be challenged. Some pretty bad characters roamed the West back then. Bad things happened to innocent people for no reason. Sometimes Matt could stop it, and sometimes he was just too late to do more than bury the dead.

Well, here's to the old days - and the old heroes! Thanks for the memories, Marshall Dillon! I'll see you in my dreams!

From the dusty streets of Advance, this is your rural reporter Madeline, looking for another hero.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Hard to believe you said that "Go to hell stare",haha,,even Matt never said that and never any such word around his Miss Kitty. Ah, those were the days, when innocence meant something.

Thanks for the memories.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 12:41 PM

Ooooh...this makes me want to watch Gunsmoke reruns. I might just have the time to do that with more snow headed my way!

-- Posted by fun2teach on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 1:00 PM

Haha, Madeline is getting a little daring, isn't she?? How could someone who grew up in that era say the big H word??

Oh, my, just thinking about Marshall Dillon stepping out into the streets, placing his feet in that determined stance, and squinting at a gunslinger makes me weak in the knees!! What a man!!!

The other characters were such a complement for Matt. There was Festus (my favorite) with his folksy sayings and quarrelsome attitude --- yet, when push came to shove, he was a handy man with a gun - and Matt could count on him. Remember how he called the marshall "Matthew"? Everyone else called him "Matt," or "Marshall," but with Festus, it was always "Matthew."

That was back in the day when there were real WRITERS who could develop character and write convincing dialogue.

I may get on Amazon.com and order some "Gunsmoke" DVDs.

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 2:02 PM

Don't forget how we all tried to walk like Chester! (a skip and a hop, was it?) At our house, we argued over who got to take his/her bath first. The first one would get the best TV-viewing seat for Gunsmoke and Have Gun Will Travel. At least my brother and I argued. I don't remember ever arguing with my sister about ANYTHING! Not even Matt Dillon!

-- Posted by GONENOW on Sun, Feb 14, 2010, at 12:52 PM

Hahaha! Of course not! She never argued with anyone, did she? I hope she's gotten a little more cantankerous in her old age!!! Hehehe!

We never tried to walk like Chester - my brothers were too busy gunning each other down with their six-shooters. Of course, they each had TWO strapped to their hips!

Looking back, I can see how cute they must have been, but you could sure never convince me of that at the time!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Feb 14, 2010, at 1:36 PM

Isn't it funny how years ago all the little boys had guns, holsters, bullets, rope and now you can't carry a finger nail file!!!! I believe firmly, those were the good old days. Gonenow, did you ever get to take that bath??????? Just kidding.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Sun, Feb 14, 2010, at 3:46 PM

So silly for parents to get all bent outta shape if their children play with toy guns. As if that makes them criminals! It's MAKE-BELIEVE! Kids know the difference!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Feb 14, 2010, at 5:37 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJsjup72W... copy and paste that link into your browser and get a real treat. This is a 4 part interview of Mr. Arness from 2008.His mind is as good now as it was 50 years ago. enjoy

-- Posted by XDEXTERRESI on Sun, Feb 14, 2010, at 11:02 PM

ooops sorry its a 5 part interview. Also some of Fess Parker and Harry Morgan and Chester!!!!

-- Posted by XDEXTERRESI on Sun, Feb 14, 2010, at 11:05 PM

Oooooh, I can't get youtube on dial-up! Would love to see that interview.

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, Feb 15, 2010, at 11:19 AM

gl, is there any way you can see it at work, if you're still working? I watched, it's great.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Mon, Feb 15, 2010, at 11:40 AM

Yes, I'm going in later today. I'll check it out then. All this frozen precipitation really puts a crimp in my work schedule. I'm doing a lot of it from home.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 7:33 AM

Jim Arness had a brother - what was his name? - He was on another popular show - not a western....I can't remember his name. They looked a lot alike, only the brother was blonde.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 7:35 AM

If you google "Gunsmoke," you'll also find pics of the old radio show cast. Also can't remember the "fat man" (Conrad?) who played the marshall on radio. He had a great voice, but he wasn't physically powerful like Arness, so he didn't get the TV role.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 7:39 AM

Good Morning GL, the brothers name is Peter Graves and he was in Mission Impossible.....As a child I loved to play Gunsmoke and have Marshall Dillon "rescue me" from the bad guys. I never saw the appeal of "Miss Kitty" personally, but that is another story...:-)

-- Posted by cheers4dhs on Tue, Feb 16, 2010, at 11:06 AM

Ah, yes, that's it! Why could I not remember that?

He still didn't flip my switch like the marshall did, though. There's just something about a rugged man with a big hat, a gun, a badge, and a horse!

-- Posted by goat lady on Thu, Feb 18, 2010, at 6:12 PM

Oh yes, Mom was crazy about Matt Dillon. I think she spent her life looking for a man to take care of her the way Matt Dillon could. Actually, I think he ruined women of the age for any real life man. No one could compete with that image.

She was also crazy about "The Waltons". She sat and watched them over and over. Particularly the earlier episodes.

During those last few years of her life, she was more comfortable in the past. The present was too painful and too complicated. Much better to watch Matt Dillon and the Walton family and retreat to safe, warm, fuzzy memories.

You're right, Madeline. We didn't appreciate the true value of Marshall Dillon until we were older. Yes, he was HOT. I don't remember thinking that when we watched him the first time around. Of course, back then I thought HOT was just sticking my finger in a pot of molten fudge in the pan.

-- Posted by mokath52 on Sat, Feb 20, 2010, at 9:30 AM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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