Remembering Chester

May 23, 2017 | 1 comment

Dennis Weaver as Chester

Probably everybody of a certain age remembers Chester Goode, Marshal Dillon’s trusty sidekick on the popular television series “Gunsmoke.”  The show became highest-rated the longest-running live action series in United States television history (1955 to 1975) and, for his portrayal of Chester, actor Dennis Weaver received an Emmy Award in 1959 for Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series.

What most folks probably do not know is that, instead of going to Hollywood and becoming the well-known Chester, Weaver very nearly ended up on the Peninsula – maybe even in Oysterville.  He and his family were part of a large group of friends who came west in 1935 from Joplin, Missouri when the lead mines closed.  My childhood friend Memi Wagoner Sherwood and her sister and mother were part of that group as was Pat Dalton Hammond who many remember as a partner in P&J’s Fish Market in Ocean Park.  They all piled into Neal Wagoner’s truck and headed out to find work on the Pacific Coast.

Dennis Weaver, Actor

Weaver’s dream was to become an actor, so his supportive family left the group and headed for California.  He worked diligently at his craft and then, in 1955, his big break came – a chance to audition for the part of Chester.  It was his decision to make himself stand out from all the other actors who were auditioning that gave him the edge.  He decided to give Chester a limp – a choice he came to regret as time went on.  Playing a character with a stiff leg – and a character in a Western, at that – was hard work.

Nyel and I talk about Chester every now and again – especially when Nyel has a bad fall as he did last night.  Chester was the main subject of our ‘conversation’ on the way to and from the ER.  Like Chester, Nyel has the option of having his knee “frozen” to prevent it from giving way and causing him to crash downward without warning.  But, unlike Chester, he wouldn’t be going stiff-legged just sometimes.  It would be forever.

Nyel’s (Ineffective) Knee Brace

After a knee replacement, a quadriceps repair, and two years ago, a quadriceps ‘replacement’ (which has failed), he has few remaining options.  He wears the sturdiest knee brace available but… down he goes.  Hard!  And fast!  Mostly, he hurts little but his dignity.  However, once he bashed in his head – blood, nine-one-one, stitches – and this time he fell hard against a chair.  Fortunately, no internal bleeding, no kidney or lung damage, no broken ribs.  Just a terrible bruise and pain.  This time.

Next month he has yet another appointment with his orthopedic surgeon at Rebound.  The ER doctor today suggested “perhaps a trial stiff leg.”  Maybe a non-bending brace just to see if he could do the Chester walk on a full-time basis.  It’s a hard call.  What would Chester say?

1 Comment

  1. Diane Buttrell

    Thanks for sharing sad news in such a beautiful way.


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