Dead men's horses

Welcome to the GUNSMOKE Forum, the place where fans of this classic radio Western can meet to discuss one of the all-time great radio series.

Moderator: Stewart

Post Reply
Posts: 74
Joined: Tue Oct 14, 2008 10:36 pm
Location: Colorado

Dead men's horses

Post by George »

Countless men died in Gunsmoke and most of them owned at least one horse. What happened to the horses?

I never really thought about this until I heard three sequential 1953 episodes this weekend:

Stolen Horses
Professor Lute Bone

Spoiler warning: If you haven't heard these episodes, stop reading now.

In Stolen Horses, horse breeder Jim Redigo is killed and his horses are stolen. Most of the horses are unrecoverable (sold to Indians by the thief) but Matt and Chester recover one, his "big red stud", at a poor nester's house. Chester rides it back to Dodge with his own buckskin in tow.

In Professor Lute Bone, Matt and Chester find the professor's burnt wagon and body on the prairie. We hear a horse whinny and Chester says, "there's his horse."

In Custer, Matt and Chester find a man (Trimble) driving horses with Old Man Granby's brand on them. The three drive the horses back to Granby's ranch and find Granby dead.

My question isn't about these three episodes specifically but about horses and (other property) in general.

What would have happened to these horses? I'm thinking of a few possibilities:

- Horses turned loose on the prairie? This doesn't seem likely as horses were valuable, but I bet it happened at times when Matt and Chester were far from Dodge.

- Horses sold at auction and the proceeds going to any living relatives of the owners? However, so many of the people killed in Gunsmoke seemed to be drifters or men that no one knew before they rode into Dodge, so how would relatives be found? Perhaps Moss Grimmick, Jim Buck (stagecoach driver), and other citizens bought them. The proceeds could go to Dodge City or to the US Government (since Matt is a US Marshal).

- Horses given to the needy? Matt seems like the kind of man who would give a horse to someone who needed one - perhaps a poor farmer who needed one to plow his fields, or a family of a man who Matt had to kill. In Stolen Horses, Matt narrates that the nesters were too poor to feed another horse. By saying that, it seems to me that Matt would have left the horse there if the nesters could have cared for him.

- Confiscated for public use? Being that Doc is the town coroner as well as the doctor, I could see where Matt could justify giving him a horse or two for him to perform his duties for the common good. Matt and Chester also need horses for their duties. I could see where they might take a horse now and then for public use, in the same way as modern police departments sometimes use cars taken from drug dealers and other criminals.

Yet we know that Matt and Chester pay for horses, at least some of the time. In Stolen Horses, the reason Matt was going Jim Redigo's ranch was to purchase a horse. There is another episode (can't remember the title) where a man comes to Dodge and wants to sell Matt a horse. There's another where Chester buys a horse from Moss Grimmick and Matt criticizes him for paying too much and humorously (to the audience, not to Chester) names a long list of problems with the horse.

I also remember an episode in which a man who claims to hate horses is thrown from his horse on the prairie and breaks his leg. Another man saves his life and that becomes the start of the plot. Later, the man buys a horse from Moss Grimmick and leaves Dodge.

When the horse returns, riderless, Moss tells Matt that the horse had red mud on his legs and Matt heads to an area known for red mud to look for the man. Before Matt leaves, Moss asks, "can I keep the horse?" Matt says something like "we'll see".

Post Reply