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THAT OLD BOOT HILL RELIGION
by Charles (Chuck) Robey
03/06/14
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Since my retirement I have  gotten reacquainted with those  old black and white TV westerns. You know the ones, "Have Gun Will Travel", "Bat Masterson", "The Rifleman", and so on. My all time favorite, however, is "Gunsmoke". Each  day, no matter what I may be doing, I always manage to drop my chores in time to tune in   "Gunsmoke". I'll just sit back in my old green "Frazer Dad's " recliner, the one held together with duck tape.  Then, with my big bottle of pop and  cholesterol free bag of pop corn,  slip into  that exciting make-believe world of "Dodge City". There I will visit with all the gang, Kitty, Chester, Doc, and of course Marshall Dillon. How sad it is that a simpler and more moral day has been abondoned in modern culture. A day when one's word was as good as a hand shake. Just read on, you'll get my point !

Are you as much of a "Gunsmoke" fan as I ?  Not like any number of today's sitcoms, Gunsmoke is a true rated "G" rerun series. Poor Matt Dillon,  everybody was either out to get him or out to gain a reputation by doing him in.

GUNSMOKE: Return To Dodge (1987)

Matt Dillon: You were given 15 years in territorial prison, Logan. What are you doin' out?
Logan: Lookin' for you. Been a long look, Dillon, but I promised myself I'd pay you back. Here I am.
Matt Dillon: Mister, you aren't the first gunny come lookin' for me. There's two more buried out in back there. Now you better drop the gunbelt.
Logan: Now why should I do that?
Matt Dillon: 'Cause I got one aimed right at your belly.

Logan: You gotta be desperate runnin' a bluff like that.
[Dillon shoots the cup out of Logan's hand]
Matt Dillon:: Drop the gun... Now that hideout gun that's holdin' up your backbone.
Logan: You don't leave a man a lot, do you, Marshall ?
Matt Dillon:: Mister, you didn't bring a whole lot with ya!

The radio version of "Gunsmoke" ran from 1952 to 1961, and John Dunning writes that among radio drama enthusiasts "Gunsmoke is routinely placed among the best shows of any kind and any time." The television version ran for 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975, and was the United States' longest-running prime time, live-action drama with 635 episodes. In 2010, Law & Order tied this record of 20 seasons (but only 456 episodes). At the end of its run in 1975, Los Angeles Times columnist Cecil Smith wrote "Gunsmoke was the dramatization of the American epic legend of the west. Our own Iliad and Odyssey, created from standard elements of the dime novel and the pulp western as romanticized by Buntline, Harte, and Twain. It was ever the stuff of legend ".

The " Long Branch" saloon,  famous for having the "fast living-fast talking" girls out maneuver those  prairie weary  cow boys to make Ms Kitty a fast buck, was the main setting.  The patrons of this setting, unlike today's modern society, basically had two forms of entertainment. That being  drinking  booze and fighting. Both of which  always ended with  Marshall Dillon defending the town's law-and-order, at the expense of another poor soul  resting in peace at boot hill. And although Mat never  pressed his manhood,  it was  just understood that Kitty was Matt's girl. Many a gun battle erupted over a dry and thirsty  "cow-poke"  wanting Kitty's affections.

GUNSMOKE: Return To Dodge (1987)

Matt Dillon: Glad ya came. You're lookin' great.
Kitty Russell: You cut that out.
Matt Dillon:: What?
Kitty Russell:: You listen to me, cowboy. I've got you out from underneath my fingernails and you're gonna stay out. Do you hear me?
Matt Dillon:: Yes, ma'am... Kitty, I understand the rules and all, but it doesn't mean we can't still be friends, does it?
Kitty Russell:: Friends? Friends? I'm staying at the Long Branch while I'm in town, so when you feel up to it, I might even buy you a beer.

 
Although Matt had many temporary acting-deputies,  Chester and Festus Haggen are perhaps Dillon's most recognizable helpers, aside from  Doc Adams being the  lovable country doctor.  Doc Adams, and Chester Goode seemed to always be at each other's wits, in prefect  jest of course. Most of these adventurist satires were built around Chester not having  money to pay for his food, or Chester's bad coffee.

"Delmonico's ", being the only established formal sit down eating place in town, made it oblivious  to the "pickiest eaters", including  Mat, Chester and Doc, sitting around the table  downing  those stale vitals, as they often would refer.

Then there's Doc's famous upstairs doctors office/ hospital. The place where folks usually came to die. Medicine was crude and so were Doc's bed side manners. If a patent  managed living  through the first few days, of just laying on the table, he or she would probably make it through. If not, it was off to "boot hill".    

GUNSMOKE: MAD Dog (1967)

Festus- [thinking he has been bit by a rabid dog and has hydrophobia] How much time do I have left?
Doc-Well,  ten days, two weeks at the outside.
Festus- That hydrophobia, it's a pretty sorry way to die ain't it doc? You know, a fellow gets shot why he'll just fall flat on his face, o he might kick a couple of times, that what makes the crowds turn out. But what I mean is he won't go just snatching off his clothes and sashaying around trying to bite folks.
Festus-: When it comes to dying, I reckon everybody feels about the same way.
Doc-: What would that be?
Festus-: They'd just rather do it tomorrow.

Time after time, Matt would be called into service rescuing  some poor rancher, from the clutches of a would-be crook out to get a fast buck. And usually traveling the ten miles to the rescue, required  packing  a goodly supply of "beef jerky" for the day long journey.   

One tool, needed to be a part of "Gunsmoke's " repertoire  aside from the old trusted six-gun, was  a good shovel. One  never knew when  burying  a friend or enemy was  necessary. God only knows how many individuals Marshall Dillon has had to lay to rest. At least one on every 30 minute series. 

Each  time someone was buried out in the prairie, on a family farm, or on that infamous "boot hill", whether the deceased was a beloved grandpa  or a brutal murderer, everyone was given the same crude treatment. 

The grave would be dug, the body dumped, the earth  replaced, the grave mound neatly rounded and patted down, and a crudely placed fence,  consisting of wood or rocks, would be neatly placed around the grave. Then the final stroke,  a crudely  makeshift cross, usually made from small tree limbs, was placed at one end of the mound.

( Dodge Cities Boot Hill Museum has a tribute to Gunsmoke, including furniture from the 1960s and an old television tuned to the show. Signed photographs from the show's actors and other memorabilia are on display including a vest worn by Sam the Bartender (actor Glenn Strange) and a dress worn by Miss Kitty, (actress Amanda Blake).[

Well, I must stop my "day dreaming", for its time for "Gunsmoke". Can't wait to see what poor unsuspected soul  will get it this time .That free trip to "boot hill".  Won't you join me.

 Author's Post Script

What does all this "shoot em-up" have to do with Christian living, you may ask ? Although this is a fiction summation  of everyday living in the old west, the theme of the episodes  just goes to show how fragile life is (James 4:14).  I realize the show doesn't put any emphases on life after death. Nonetheless, if the Lord tarries, each of  us will face a judgment, be it good or bad, when we leave this world  (Hebrews 9:27).

And no matter how hard the Gunsmoke characters worked or how good they treated their neighbors, one can never work their way, be good enough on their own, or rely on a friend or family member, to get them into Heaven, when the die (Ephesians 2:8-9) .

It's simply a matter of excepting the gift of God's free grace, by your faith, in asking God to forgive your sins (Romans 3:23) (Romans 10:9). 



If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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