It is difficult not to think of Mary Kathleen Hite
as the best writer Gunsmoke ever had,
after reading and watching and listening to her works.
This in spite of John Meston's gargantuan output
and consistent excellence thoughout nine seasons
of radio and ten of television, and the significant
presence of Les Crutchfield and Marian Clark.
Ironically, Meston's numbers and unrelenting dark tone
drown out his greatness.
Hite, on the other hand, wasn't reined in
by the western, and ranged freely in a way
that put her talent in better view.
Like the best student who betters a mentor
(and Marian Clark was to follow her on this path),
Hite equalled and often excelled Meston
in the handling of themes that he had pioneered
in Gunsmoke. But she had a versatility that allowed her
to go farther and explore what lay beyond the West.
It is testimony to the creative realm of Macdonnell
and Meston, that wise women as well as men gathered
as to Alfred and Charlemagne, to further
fabricate their vision of a harsh and dark cowboy Camelot.
Meston and Crutchfield were to prove time
and time again that they understood the place and plight
of women in the frontier, but not enough
to secure bragging rights at the corral.
Hite and Clark, however, put to dust any doubts
that they could write as well as any man
about the male, the macho, and the miles of a drive,
and of the horse, the hat, and the homestead.
But as widely and as far and as deeply,
they amassed a body of stories that told
of the nerves and innards and sinew of women West.
This Marian Clark did all inside Gunsmoke,
and Hite within and without its confines.
Copyright © 2006-2013 E. A. Villafranca, Jr.
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