Don Coldsmith, Beckey Burgoyne

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas our first story is about Don Coldsmith, a Kansan best known for his award-winning series The Spanish Bit Sagas. Next Deb catches up with Beckey Burgoyne, author of Perfectly Amanda, a biography of Amanda Blake who played Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with Ben Costello, author of Gunsmoke, An American Institution.Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

(Frank) It’s Wednesday. (Deb) Happens every week. (Frank) And already it’s December. Good grief. (Deb) Can you believe it? Where has this year gone? (Frank) Oh I know. It’s gone past all too quickly. Look what we have. Some kind soul finally brought refreshments. This is hot chocolate, but she did it. Thank you very much. (Deb) You’re welcome, you’re welcome. (Frank) Hey, I’m Frank, Frankie C. on WREN radio, Frank here. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. So, we’re in December and of course, the winter months that’s a good time to kind of hunker down and grab a good book and… (Deb) Exactly. (Frank) …start reading. So, that’s kind of what we’re gonna talk about today. Especially since we have an author sitting here too. (Deb) We’ve got so many wonderful authors here in Kansas. And of course we have so many books about Kansas. So, we’re gonna feature three of those authors today. One of them is a Kansan. The other two are writing about the Kansas subject. And I’ve got a couple books I want to share with you. This one Frank, yes, Vanna will you hold the book for me please? So, this guy Rich Hughes is from McPherson. And he wrote this book on the McPherson basketball team. Fascinating story. I’d never heard anything about this. And so, if you’re a basketball nut, if you’re into the rules of basketball and just of course Kansas…is there a state with a greater basketball tradition than Kansas? I think not. We have the inventor of basketball here and all that good stuff. So, this is an amazing book. (Frank) And it is. This was the first team to start doing jump shots. Can you believe that? (Deb) Who, I mean we…it’s like everything. You see what it is now and you think well, it’s just always been that way. Whatever it is. And even sports…know that everything evolves, you know from the Naismith’s peach basket and then we get…we go on to the jump shots. (Frank) Yea. (Deb) So, it’s a fascinating read. (Frank) Yea, the thing is I’m old enough to remember that, cause I grew up in Newton, Kansas. And the Newton Railroaders under Jack Ravenscroft, see I can remember, that’s a long time ago, were consistently state champions. And they also did the jump shot. In fact, the jump shot is what won the state championship. I remember sitting in the Roundhouse in Wichita and it was getting down to two seconds, three seconds, one second and a shot went up and Wichita thought they had won it, but the timekeeper was the one that saw it go in. (Deb) Yea. I bet there was nearly a riot. (Frank) It was exciting. There was. I remember it well and it was a long time ago. (Deb) So, yes children read your history books. (Frank) So, learn about the jump shot. (Deb) That’s awesome. And you can go to his website and find out all about that and I think he’s going to do an Osher class. You know, I teach for Osher. I think Rich is going to do an Osher class on this topic too. So, we’ve got lots more. Stay with us.

(Frank) And we’re back. So anyway, we’re talking about books today here on Around Kansas since we’re in December. The winter months and a time to grab a great book or several. (Deb) Or give a great book for Christmas. (Frank) Absolutely. You know if you…well actually several years ago I discovered a Kansas author Don Coldsmith. We had a cabin over at Council Grove. And so it was nice to get out under all the poplar trees and read. And I found his Spanish Bit Saga that summer. And I read what I thought was all of ’em. Found out it wasn’t cause there are like 20 or so. (Deb) He just kept writing them. (Frank) But as you’ll see in the story the Native Americans thought he was Native American because he caught their culture so profoundly in these and they are exciting, exciting stories. (Deb) He’s just an incredible writer. And of course a physician. He was a doctor and then he…waiting for babies you know, and he had just such a rich life. And I got to meet Don just on a couple of occasions at the Civil War events when he would be speaking. We’d both be speaking at conferences and stuff. And just a wonderful man too. (Frank) Yea, yea. (Deb) A lot of folks have great memories of him. And it’s so good…you know one of the things that being an author does and it’s the same with being on the radio Frank or being on TV, you know these things live after you. So, what a legacy Coldsmith lived. My gosh, he is just amazing. (Frank) So, anyway, let’s find out about Don Coldsmith. I need a little more hot chocolate. Don Coldsmith, Kansas author. (Frank) Before he began writing, Don Coldsmith had many jobs and several careers. Born in Iola, educated in Coffeyville, Don was a combat medic in World War II. He earned a degree in psychology from Baker University after the war. In his busy lifetime, he squeezed in owning a mail order gunsmith business, taxidermy, singing in a men’s quartet, selling bait, and breeding and showing Appaloosa horses. He served as a clergyman and as a youth director for the YMCA in Topeka for several years before getting his medical degree at KU. Don practiced family medicine in Emporia, Kansas for thirty years and taught at Emporia State University. In between, he and his wife Edna raised five daughters. When he was practicing medicine, he wrote books and articles, mostly in the time he was waiting for babies to be born. When he retired from medicine, he turned to writing full time and the Spanish Bit Saga was born, novels based on that pivotal moment in history when the horse was introduced to the Plains Indians. He authored 29 books in that series and at least 20 other books. Don was awarded the Western Writers of America’s Golden Spur in 1990. Other honors include 1993’s Distinguished Kansan, awarded by the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas and the Edgar Wolfe Award for lifetime contributions to literature. Don was in high demand as a speaker, especially when the subject was the High Plains and the American West. Don passed away after suffering a stroke in 2009. He was 83. “The greatest honor,” he once told a reporter, “is when American Indians ask me what tribe I am from. They believe I write authentically as a Native American would. My background is German.”

(Frank) And we’re back again. (Deb) We are. (Frank) I went to the hot chocolate, so I could have a sugar rush, so I could talk this morning. (Deb) I’m planning ahead. Got a couple of gals that I want to mention. We’re going to interview Beckey Burgoyne. And we met her out at Dodge City when they were having the Wild West Fest and Michael and I went out and did some wonderful interviews. So, you’re gonna love meeting Beckey. In the interim I want to remind you of our own Melissa Jarboe. Melissa is just the most amazing woman. She is the founder of the Military Veteran’s Project and a widow, as a result of our wars in the Middle East. And this is an incredible, incredible story. It’s very touching and very courageous and a really important story. So, I think that the proceeds from these books go to support the work of the Military Veteran’s Project. So, you can find that on their website and find them on Facebook and support all the good things they do to help the veterans. So check it out. It would make a great gift, very meaningful gift. And another great gift would be Beckey Burgoyne’s book about Amanda Blake, who of course was Miss Kitty for nearly 20 years on Gunsmoke. And just every boy I knew had a crush on Miss Kitty. And when we visited with Burt Reynolds, he said he had a crush on Miss Kitty. You know, Buck Taylor, they all had crushes on Miss Kitty. How could you not? Hey, she’s this gorgeous red head and she runs the saloon. How can you go wrong? (Frank) There were two Kansans in that cast too. (Deb) Who? Milburn Stone and who else? (Frank) Milburn Stone and her. (Deb) Oh! Hey, let’s take a look. (Deb) Welcome folks, we’re visiting with Beckey Burgoyne who is the biographer of Amanda Blake. Of course all you Gunsmoke fans know her as Miss Kitty. So Beckey it great to have you with us today. (Beckey) thank you. It’s wonderful to be here in Dodge City. (Deb) In Dodge City. Isn’t this great fro a Gunsmoke fan? Doe it get any better? So how did you become interested in, obviously there are a lot of fans who don’t go so far as to write the biography. (Beckey) I’ve loved her since I was about 11 or 12 and always followed Gunsmoke. And then when she suddenly passed away I woke up one morning and said, “Hmmmm, I need to write this story.” It just came out of the blue. I knew her manager and I called and said I’d like to write her story. She said don’t worry; a couple of people are going to do that. So I waited about 15, 20 years and no one ever did. And it came to me one time I should try to do it, so you always follow your heart, always follow that dream no matter how strange it is. So a schoolteacher from Covington, Indiana, in the middle of both coasts, the middle of the country, I had to fly to the east coast and west coast to gather all the information I needed on Amanda. It took three year’s of research and we made some wonderful friends on the way and it’s just been a dream come true. (Deb) So tell me what’s the most remarkable thing about Amanda Blake? (Beckey) the most remarkable thing about Amanda Blake is she was honest to herself. She was feisty. And what you saw was what you got. She never saw herself to be the star, even though she was. And she greeted everyone warmly. She has that wonderful spirit of the Gunsmoke family we find with those that are still alive, from the Gunsmoke family. (Deb) You know Miss Kitty was a businesswoman. She was unique for women on TV at the time. (Beckey) She was and I find that fascinating. I mean she was independent. You know Matt Dillon and her couldn’t get married because it would ruin the whole plot… (Deb) Dynamics. (Beckey) …the dynamics would be gone. And they couldn’t have Matt Dillon’s woman be just a woman for everybody. She had to become a businesswoman. Amanda liked that. She said Kitty was a lot stronger than her in reality. She really loved being that first businesswoman to look up to . A friend of Amanda’s once asked her, it was a couple of years before she passed away, OK, so just what was it that you liked so much about being n Gunsmoke for 20 years? Are you kidding honey? I was Queen of the Long Branch. And she was. She was their queen. (Deb) Wow, something we all aspire to. Thanks for joining us. (Beckey) Thank you and thanks for having me. (Deb) We love having you. Stay tuned.

(Ron) When you go down to the rodeo, there’s folks that you see as part of the show. They’re a vital part of the rodeo’s plan: I speak of the bullfighters and the barrel man. They wear a painted smile and a goofy hat, suspenders and floppy pants at that. Their humor makes you smile. It’s not deadpan, those funny-lookin’ bullfighters and the barrel man. But when it’s time for the rough stock events, it’s them down inside the arena fence. If a rider’s hung up or a cowboy’s in a jam, he’ll get saved by the bullfighters and the barrel man. Those bullfighters put their lives on the line, to buy a downed cowboy some precious time. They’re praised by the cowboys and loved by the fans, those professional bullfighters and the barrel man. Comedian and athlete, rolled into one, They help the cowboys as part of the fun. If they can’t dodge a bull, then no one can. I speak of the bullfighters and the barrel man. So let’s salute this brave hero who displays his skills at the rodeo. Thanks for protecting cowboys since rodeo began:
Those brave bullfighters and the barrel man. Happy Trails.

(Frank) We’re back again. Aren’t we having fun today? (Deb) Oh my gosh. (Frank) We’re talking about books, great books. (Deb) And we’re a real supporter of reading. God knows I was reading fairly young. Went through all the traditional stuff, you know Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, I loved all that. (Frank) Tom Corbett, Space Cadet was one of my favorites. No it really was. I think you can still get the books somewhere, antique store. (Deb) Some antique store, yea. Alright, this next clip is with my friend Ben Costello. I interviewed Ben on my radio show years ago and we became great friends and so, the shipping on this book might be pretty high because it’s a big volume. But it’s a wonderful work that he did on the series Gunsmoke. And so you’re gonna love this thing with Ben and checking out the book. Let’s take a look. (Deb) Welcome folks, I’m just thrilled to have Ben Costello with me. And its so fun because Ben and I’ve been friends for a long time. I interviewed him over the radio years ago and then we became Facebook friends. And now to meet you in person is just… (Ben) …about time! (Deb) …about time! That’s right. So you grew up watching Gunsmoke. And how did you turn from just an ordinary fan into an author? (Ben) Well I’d written a couple of plays, but as a kid we watched it as a family. It was one of the shows that we would sit down religiously and watch. and I was at a memorabilia show in Hollywood and I was buying photos and memorabilia and a guys says you know, the 50th anniversary is coming up, why don’t you write a book on it? So I started thinking about it, all right, it can’t be that tough. And when I realized there were 635 episodes to cover I knew I’d taken on a big project. It took me five years to get it done. (Deb) It’s a tremendous amount of research, but its more than just cataloging who and what, it really captures, just like you were talking about, the family sitting around the TV watching it. That’s the legacy of Gunsmoke. (Ben) It was one of the first adult westerns on TV. And it was so popular that at one point there was 36 different westerns on television and there were only 3 networks at the time. Kids today, there are 200 to 300 channels. They wouldn’t have a clue that we only had 3 back then, also a couple of local stations. But its America’s mythology, the west. And Gunsmoke had the benefit of having the best talent in front of the camera and behind also, the writers, the directors. (Deb) They were amazing. (Ben) Jim Burns was one of the best writers. He did the introduction for my book. And Sam Peckinpah, who’s a legendary director started out as a writer with Gunsmoke and The Rifleman and a couple of other shows. They had the best of the best. (Deb) They absolutely did. And I was telling somebody today that Kansas could not have had a better ambassador to the world than this show. (Ben) Right, than Marshall Matt Dillon. And if you look at this show it really started iconic portrayals, you can see someone like Doc in other shows, other movies; you’d see a Miss Kitty type of person; you’d see the big lawman, but it all started really with Gunsmoke. (Deb) Now what has getting involved in this meant to you personally? (Ben) Well it changed my life for the better. A lot of the people that I interviewed are still my friends today, 10, 12, 15 years later. And some of the meanest, rottenest people on screen are the biggest cupcakes you’d ever want to meet, you know, teddy bears, like Morgan Woodward. Scared the heck out of me as a kid, but meeting him he’s just the nicest guy in the world and he to this day still calls my son every once in a while to check on ‘em. How are you doing Eddie? You don’t hear that with stars and stuff like that today. And we don’t really have the stable of actors that they had back then, the good character actors. We don’t have them. It was a magical era and everything hit right at the right time. And it’s the only show other than I Love Lucy that’s never left the air since its premiere. Its unbelievable. (Deb) Amazing. (Ben) In 20 seasons, it’s unbelievable. (Deb) Well Ben, thanks so much, its great to visit with you. You’ve gotta have the book.

(Frank) Well another fun day on Around Kansas. And thanks for the hot chocolate. (Deb) You’re welcome. You’re welcome. (Frank) Anyway, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere… (Both) Around Kansas.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by the Kansas Soybean Commission. The Soybean Checkoff, Progress Powered by Kansas Farmers.

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