Ken Curtis got the idea for a terrifying ''Gunsmoke'' plot from his mother
Ken Curtis's mother lived a life straight out of ''Gunsmoke.''
As a Western, the experiences of the characters in Gunsmoke definitely take place during a real-time period in American history. However, whether every episode's plotline is completely realistic is debatable. This is the partnership between a television series and its viewer; a show creates entertaining plotlines that sometimes play fast and loose with logic, and in turn, the viewer suspends their disbelief and enjoys the media. It's guaranteed fun for everyone.
But in one case, a stressful piece of Gunsmoke art imitates an even more stressful reality for one of its cast members. You might remember an episode of Gunsmoke entitled, "Wishbone." In the episodes, Doc Adams finds himself near death after being bitten by a snake. Using a killed chicken, Festus is able to save Doc's life. It's an episode that had us all on edge, but according to Ken Curtis, who played Festus, the plot isn't as fictional as you might have believed.
Curtis spoke to the Buffalo News, and said, "I got the idea from my mother. She was bitten by a copperhead snake." According to Curtis, it was the quick thinking of a ranch hand that saved his mother. He said, "A ranch hand grabbed a chicken, cut the bird open, and applied it to the would. The heat from the bird's body drew out the poison."
The episode itself was a warm reprieve from the usual tone of Festus and Doc Milburn's relationship, which is typically more caustic than not. But for Curtis and Stone, who were longtime friends, their characters' quips at the expense of each other were actually a demonstration of friendship. Curtis himself asked, "How do two men express love for each other without insulting each other?"
Fans felt such an attachment to the two characters' friendship that according to the Courier-Journal, Curtis and Stone created an act and often performed together at rodeos. Curtis noted, "The first year we played 18 or 19 rodeos together, but he [Curtis] had a heart attack and has cut his down to a handful."