Before he was the barkeep in Gunsmoke, Glenn Strange was the stagecoach driver in The Rifleman
His real-life ranching and rodeo skills made him the perfect choice to drive a team of horses.
It was no coincidence that Glenn Strange's career was dominated by work in Western movies and TV shows. He was born in New Mexico Territory in 1899, thirteen years before it became a state. Raised by a rancher and bartender father in west Texas, he learned skills that would be valuable to his work as an actor.
After stints working as a deputy sheriff, a rodeo rider and even a heavyweight boxer, Strange made his way to Hollywood. He appeared in countless Westerns. Svengoolie fans might recognize him for playing Frankenstein's monster in three movies, starting with 1944's House of Frankenstein (with Boris Karloff as a maniacal prison escapee who revives him).
In the 1950s, he began his long career in television. While he is most recognizable as Sam Noonan, the bartender of the Long Branch saloon in Gunsmoke, he had another recurring role on The Rifleman just a few years prior.
On that show — which happened to take place in the New Mexico Territory — Strange played Joey Cole, a stagecoach driver who often rode through North Fork and jumpstarted the story of the episode. In his first appearance, season one's "Duel of Honor," Cole stops the stage in North Fork because it's in need of repairs. While the stage is stuck in town for 24 hours, passenger Count Alfredo di Montova causes a stir leading to a duel with a bigoted local.
In another episode, "The Deadeye Kid," Strange portrays a shotgun rider on a stagecoach who gets rid of a novice easterner trying to hitch a ride on the back. The easterner finds his way to the McCain ranch and befriends Mark.
Strange appeared in seven Rifleman episodes, usually as Joey Cole or an unnamed stagecoach driver who seems to be the same character because of his familiarity with Lucas McCain. But in one episode that's a little… well, strange, he plays a man who drives a stage but for some reason goes by the name Zack. There could be many reasons for this but the most obvious, and mundane, is that television writers simply didn't pay much attention to continuity in those days.
Strange started playing Sam the bartender on Gunsmoke in 1961 but he still acted one last time in The Rifleman in 1962.
His final appearance in North Fork? You can likely guess. He played the uncredited role of a stage driver for a senator passing through town in "The Assailants."