Gunsmoke (1955–1975): Season 20, Episode 21 - I Have Promises to Keep - full transcript

An aging pastor is determined to erect a church for the Indians on the reservation but is met with bigotry from the citizens of a nearby town.

(upbeat theme music)


With Milburn Stone as Doc...

Ken Curtis as Festus...

Buck Taylor as Newly...

And starring James
Arness as Matt Dillon.

(cheerful music)

Say feller, can
you tell me where

the telegraph office is at?

Morning, Reverend.

Good morning.

You seem to be having
a little trouble there,

what with your hand now.

Yes, sir.

You know this here ain't
gonna be easy for you to believe

but I was dumb enough
to let my blamed mule

bite my hand the other day.

And I just never could
cipher too good with my left.

Do let me help you, my friend.

Obliged to you.

Now I need to send me a
telegraph to Marshall Matthew Dillon

in Dodge City.

And what do you want it to say?

Tell him that I have
done went and delivered

that Moss Brundage to your
sheriff here in Nescatunga

and tell him to tell
Burt that I'll be back

quicker than amen
to a dull sermon.

No offending meant, Reverend.

Tell him to tell Burt
not to go to work

and get nobody else
call that square dance

for that there big blowout
and ballet they're having

in Dodge City, 'cause I'm...

Just tell him I'll
be back directly.

And how shall I sign it?

Well, just make it say "Festus."

How do you spell that?

Spell it?

- Spell what?
- Your name.

You mean you want me
to spell Festus for you?

Oh, Festus, you
mean like Biblical judge

in Acts 24 and 25.

Now if that there
don't tie the pup,

there ain't many folks
that knows that, you know?

Not even amongst
preachers there ain't.

You recall, it was Festus
who stood up for Paul

when the people
demanded his life.

It is not the manner of the
Romans to deliver any man to die

before he which is
accused have the accusers

face to face and have
license to answer for himself

concerning the
crime laid against him.

And then, of course, King
Agrippa subsequently freed Paul.

Your namesake was possessed
with a strong sense of justice.

Here are those new hymn
books from St. Louis, Reverend.

Thank you, Walt.

Festus, it's been a pleasure.

Likewise, Reverend.

I'm ever so much obliged to you.

You know another line
of Festus comes to mind.

He said, "Paul, thou
art beside thyself.

Too much learning
doth make thee mad."

You strike me as a
very sane man, Festus.

Ah foot, he probably never
said nothing like that at all.

How much I owe you?

How much do I owe you?

You just better take
you and your fancy ideas

right out of Nescatunga.

Reverend, the best
thing for you to do

is climb up on that
wagon and take it back

the direction you came in.

I came for lumber,
nails and roofing.

I have the money to pay for it.

Now you're wasting
my time and yours.

That wagon is
waiting to be loaded.

Well, you ain't getting
no lumber from me.

In fact you ain't
getting nothing from me

or nobody else in this town.

You are a mindless, vindictive

You're a sad excuse
for a preacher.

Come in here, calling an
honest white businessman names,

favoring them red
savages over your own kind.

(indistinct chatter)

I'm sorry, I didn't
mean to insult you.

But if you are a businessman

it shouldn't matter what I do

with the materials
I buy from you.

Well, it does matter.

If I was to help you with
what you're setting out to do,

why, they'd ride me out of
town on a rail and I'd deserve it.

You would deny these
people an opportunity?

If some of us here had our way

we'd be denying them a
sight more than they got now.

Now, you just take you
and your fancy ideas

out of Nescatunga.

Whoa back!

That'll be enough.

Who in the Sam Hill are you?

Festus Haggen, Deputy
United States Marshall.

Well, Deputy United
States Marshall Haggen,

this addle brained old...

That'll do with
the name calling.

He's fixing to build a
church up at Jacob's Woods.

Well I'd say that's gonna
take a heap of doing.

I say that anyone
that brings the Word

to them scurvy Comanches
out on that reservation

is like spitting on the graves of
every Christian they ever butchered.

(indistinct chatter)

I mean, it's bad enough
we gotta see them

living free up there
on government land,

eating government beef.

I am serving notice
that I am bringing

more than the scriptures
to the Comanches.

But we shall begin
with a church.

- Revered I gotta say this...
- Are you an officer of the law?

Yes, sir.

Then order this man to sell me

the merchandise I requested.

I can't afford to waste
anymore of my time with him.

Now, Reverend.

Byrne, Arthur Byrne.

Reverend, I sure don't
wanna say nothing

that's gonna set you off again,

but from what I
see-ed and hear-ed

you kind of got a knack for
rubbing folks the wrong way.

See only somebody that's
had to fight them Injuns

for every breath they took,

knows why these folks
feels the way they do.

I know hatred, and I
intend to batter it down.

Well then, you're gonna have to

down this whole
town of Nescatunga.

See, these folks lost a lot of
their kin fighting them Comanches.

The Comanches lost a
lot of their kin fighting too.

Their misfortune
was that they lost

and that's the only difference.

Now, my first step
is to build a church.

And if that is successful,
my second step will be

to build a school.

And then a clinic.

Thing is, see, the Injun
done got his believings.

Far as I can tell, he ain't in
the market for nobody else's.

Are you going to give
me the chance to try?

(dramatic music)

I want you to sell that reverend
whatever it is he's came for.

What makes you
think I'm gonna do that?

Well, this here
badge for one thing.

That there's all I'm gonna need.

I've never seen
such foolishness.

If those heathens want religion

all they gotta do
is come into town.

We got a church here.

And I'm sure Reverend
Atkins would be most happy

to set up a separate
service for them.

(dramatic music)

Well, it looks like we
got her did, Reverend.

I wanna thank you
again, Marshall uh...

- Hagen, Festus Hagen.
- Festus?

Festus, like that there
judge in Acts 24 and 25.

People will insist on
fetching obscure names

out of the Bible, won't they?

Well I must get on.
The day is slipping by.

I reckon you've did
yourself some carpentering

before you put that
collar on, Reverend.

Well no, can't say as I have.

Well, who you figuring on to
help you build your church?

Well, I had an idea.

I'd get some volunteers
from here in Nescatunga.

Now that you've
saw the way they feel

you got any other ideas?

Well, I don't know.

I do know that the first step

is to get this lumber
to the reservation.

I'll worry about the
second step after the first.

Now, I reckon you know
how to get to wherever it is

- that you're going?
- I'll find it.

Maybe I oughta just
ride out yonder with you

so's you won't get lost
nor get in no trouble.

No, no, no you've done
enough already, Marshal.

Now you gotta have somebody
help you unload that wagon,

set up camp... I'll
give you a hand

then I'll head on back to Dodge.

You don't understand,
I can't pay you.

I need the money for the church.

Well, I ain't
expecting no wages.

Now, if I was you'd a
known about it before now.

Well, now, now, don't get upset.

I just wanted to avoid a
misunderstanding later on.

(serene music)


Well, this is it.

How do you know that?

I just know.

That's sure a bright
pretty spot all right.

I'll bet you there's some
catfish in that lake, too.

Wherever you want to unload.

Right here.

Under the trees.

You know, the thing I can't
figure out about you, Reverend

how come you ain't
never started picking at me

to find out what church
I was baptized in?

That there's
usual the first thing

that some preachers
will do, see.

They wanna get to work to
try and change your believings.

Then they start to try
and make you feel guilty.

Once they get a
feller to feeling guilty

then they can shove that
collection plate up under your nose.

Don't you see?

But that there's one
thing about you, too.

You ain't never
asked me for a penny

for your collection plate.

And that there is
plumb odd for a preacher

in these here parts.

Well, maybe that's what's wrong

with the preachers
in these parts.

Ain't you kind of
setting yourself up above

other folks there, Reverend?

Well, looks like we got
her all did, Reverend.

You've been very
generous with your time.

Marshall, I'd like to
give you something.

No, I done told you once

I ain't doing nothing
for no pay and I mean it.

This is a gift, a remembrance
I'd like you to have.

Why, I couldn't
take that reverend.

Onliest watch I ever saw
that could hold a candle

to that there was
in a mail order book

and it cost pretty
nigh 30 dollars.

Well I'm sure this one cost
much more than 30 dollars.

It was given to me by my bishop

on the occasion
of my retirement.

The bishop was known
for his refined taste.

And money was never in
short supply in our diocese.


No sir, I ain't gonna
do no such a thing, now.

And you oughta be
ashamed of yourself

for trying to give me away
a gift that was gave to you.


Wait here reverend.

Hey, here you go!

Now you're, simmer down.

Quit that, quit, quit!

Marshall are you trying to
scare that child to death?

Oh I ain't hurting
her none, now rest.

Simmer down, I
ain't a hurting her.

Simmer down now.

Chances are she was
just a sizing up your camp

to see what she
could steal later.

There is nothing in this camp

that anybody, including
Indians, would want to steal.

Well they is some...

Look at her, rags for clothes.

And nutrient deficiency.

Any fool could see
that a proper diet

is the only starting point.

Here, eat it.


Eat it.

Look, like this.


Good. Eat it.

Onliest thing I can figure

is you must be part
Injun, Reverend.

Tell you what, we still got
us a couple hours of daylight.

I think I'll just take her home

and have a talk with her people.

Could be, they'd send down
some young Comanche bucks

to help you out here.

Would you do that?

Of course I will.

And I'm fixing to head
for Dodge for sure.


(suspenseful music)


Reverend, if I was you I
wouldn't count on them

Comanches helping
you build your church.

In that case, I'll
have to do it myself.

Well reverend, you can't...

Thank you Marshall, but it's
long past time you started home.

Well, supposing you do get
some kind of a church throwed up.

How you gonna get
them Indians to come to it?

Blamed old...

(angry mumbling)


Reverend, I hate to say this

but it's the truth.

They ain't got no use for you.

Building the church
is the first step.

- I'll worry...
- How come the first step,

there's always the next step.

I never have saw a
man that never does

get to the second
step the way you don't.

Maybe that's the
secret, Marshall.

Goodbye now.

(slow music)

All right boys, these
are on the house.

- Thanks, hon.
- Thank you, Hannah.

Sure wish you
hadn't done it, though.


Well, every time I see a
free drink I think of Festus.

Oh well, he must
have been on your mind

an awful lot lately, then.

Are you trying to tell
me I owe for drinks?

Who's keeping score?

Sounds to me like you are.

Matt, did I say a word?

I'm out of it.

Marshall, I gotta talk to you.

What is it, Burke?

Ms. Hannah, Doc.

Marshall, you know I'm chairman

of the entertainment committee
for the annual square dance.

I believe you've told
us that a time or two.

Yeah, well it's
Festus, Marshall.

Now, is he gonna be here or isn't
he to call out the square dance?

Now, if he isn't gonna be here,

well I gotta get a substitute.

Well Burke, all
I can tell you is

his wire said he'd be here.

I can't depend on
a wire, Marshall,

I've got a million things to do

and well I just
don't have the time.

Well I'll tell you,
Festus will be here.

Now he may stop and do
a little fishing on the way

but if you think Festus
is gonna miss a chance

to strut around in front of the
whole town, you're mistaken.

I'll tell you Burke, it's
a week off, anyway.

Now look, if Festus
doesn't show up

I'll call the dance.


I never heard of a woman
calling a square dance.

It's not proper.

I got a million
things to think about

and now I gotta
worry about Festus.

Boy, he sure does
bustle, doesn't he?

Well he's got a million
things to think about,

and two's too dang many.

- (laughing)
- (cheerful music)


You know, if a feller ever
was to get a church built

starting off this way,

chances are the first high
wind would come along

would blow it down right
around the preacher's ears.

Might even wake up
the whole congregation.

Doesn't look like much, does it?

No sir, sure don't.

Don't you think it's just
about time, reverend

for admitting that you can't
do this all by your own self?

I'll do it.

Well, fiddle.

I knowed what you's
gonna say 'fore I ever even

asked a question.

You know, I was
thinking riding back here

it wouldn't do no good
if a whole herd of angles

come right down
from the pearly gate

and give you that same
advice to harp music.

That's the kind
of a stubborn old...

Beg your pardon reverend.

I got disrespectful-some there.

What do you think you're doing?

I'm fixing to help
you build your church.

But you're a law man.

You have responsibilities.

Well fact is, there's a
couple fellers back yonder

in Dodge that
can fill in for me.

I don't like imposing on you.

Well, I'm up the creek
this far with you reverend.

Might as well help you
paddle the rest of the way.

I don't wanna hear no more.

My mind's done made up.

Well now, look at that
plate of yourn there.

You ain't eat
hardly nothing at all.

Well, as man gets
older, he eats less.

That there don't
look like the Bible

you're reading there, Reverend.

Well, it's not.

I study the Bible for
the text to my sermons.

But I promised that
I would give myself

an hour's reading for my
own pleasure every night.

You know that there preacher I
seen back yonder in Nescatunga,

he could spout off the
Bible like it was a new well.

Marshal, I concluded
a long time ago

that the time I'd use
memorizing the Bible

would be better spent trying
to do the good it recommended.

There I go putting myself
over others again, eh?

I didn't wanna be the
one to say that at all.

Well, what is that book
you're reading, Reverend?

It's the story about a man
named Ahab, a fisherman

who is trying to catch a whale.

A whale?

You mean one of
them great old big fish

that lives in the ocean?


A white one.


Golly Bill.

Yes, maybe the biggest
in the whole ocean.

Maybe in the whole universe.

Do tell.

Well, did he?

Did he what?

Did that feller Ahab
catch that white whale

that he's a fishing for?

Oh yeah.


But of course it killed him.

(slow music)

Appears to me like

preacher wants to
read about whales

he oughta be satisfied
to read about old Jonah

and his tribe in the Bible.

Leastwise, that there
had a happy ending.

- (Festus snores)
- (Reverend recites)

Reverend, who in the
tarnation you talking at?

Oh, I'm sorry Marshall, I
didn't mean to wake you.

I have this pamphlet from
the Department of the Interior

about the Comanches.

It has a few simple phrases.

I couldn't sleep. So I...

Figured you'd learn yourself
some Comanche, is that it?

Yes, I thought I'd try
learning the language.

You go to sleep.

I'll quiet down.

If that don't beat all.

Spout off no words from
the Bible and here he is,

trying to learn a
whole nother language.

- (dramatic music)
- (moaning)

Oh, drat!

This time you get nothing.

We had a town meeting last night

and I got a lot of
folks behind me.

Now, look here.

Just hold your taters, Reverend.

Now mister, I don't give
a hoot if the whole blame

territories are backing you up.

We have came
here for some lumber

and some nails and vittles,
and we aim to get them.

Marshall or no Marshall, not
another scrap of my lumber's

going up to that reservation.

Please, Mr. Dunbar.

We don't need that
kind of trouble here.

Now, let's all just
calm down for a bit.

You sir, might I
have a word with you?


- Now, Reverend?
- Byrne.

Reverend Byrne, then.

I wanted to ride out
and talk with you.

Then why didn't you?

Well, my responsibilities
here, of course.

I had hoped to
try to dissuade you

from this business of
building a church out there.

I shouldn't have to.

There already should
be a church there.

And a school and
a medical facility.

That's what happens
when men such as you and I

take their vows,
perform their duties

and live their faith.

I can understand
that having recently

come from the East,

you might jump to
certain conclusions.

But you don't
understand the situation.

The Indian Wars have only
been over for a few years.

Memories are fresh.

- Perhaps later, when the...
- I have no later.

Now, I want to know,

were you at that meeting
the shopkeeper talked about

where the residents of this
town denied me my supplies?

I thought so.

They would want their
prejudice sanctified

by the resident spokesman.

Now, stand out of my way.

You, storekeeper, I'm
going to enter that building

and take the supplies
I need for my work.

If you're going to
use that weapon

you'd better start using it now.

(suspenseful music)

Come along, Marshal.

Oh, this is in return
for the apple, is it?

Not the way it's supposed to be.

Missionaries all wise in giving.


Want me to eat it, eh?


Um, good, good.

Wait a minute, wait.

See, watch this now?

(organ music)

Don't be afraid.

Now you try it, here.

Sit right here.

Try it.

No, it needs help.


(organ music)

Pretty, isn't it?

Isn't that nice?


You can hang me from a tall oak.

When my wife died
I assessed my life,

and I was not happy
with what I came up with.

It seemed to me that I had
not accomplished very much.

Now hold on, Reverend.

Just being a preacher
and a herding folks

toward truth and light.

That there ought to
count for something.

Yes, Marshal, if
the folks are in need.

But each Sunday as I looked
out over my congregation

of the richest merchants in town

it occurred to me that I
was being maintained,

and maintained very
well, let me tell you,

as a sort of
spiritual bed warmer.

It was not the ideal
I'd set up for myself

as a young man.

Then my sermons
took on a sterner note.

Downright raspy, you might say.

I don't think my parishioners
were unhappy to see me go.

My bishop received
several letters

and he was not the sort of man

who'd enjoy letters
of that nature.

Well then, you
just sort of got fired.

Sort of.

(Festus snoring)

(mysterious music)

(horse neighing)

(fire crackling)

(horses neighing)

Oh no!


Them there ornery, no
good knot heads from town!

He wouldn't let this happen.

He wouldn't.

(loud crashing)

(somber music)

None of it mattered, did it?

Oh, Reverend.

Look at the hatred
I've stirred up.

I turned ordinary
citizens into night riders.

Maybe tonight they'll
burn the child's village.

Oh, my God, what have I done?

No, they ain't gonna stir up no
ruckus with Injuns, Reverend.

They don't want
that kind of trouble.

Well, I'm gonna take me
a ride into town, Reverend.

I'll be back before sundown.

(congregation sings) ♪
Sowing in the morning ♪

♪ Sowing seeds of kindness ♪

♪ Sowing in the noon time ♪

♪ And the dewy eve ♪

♪ Waiting for the harvest ♪

♪ And the time of reaping ♪

♪ We shall come rejoicing ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ We shall come rejoicing ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

♪ Bringing in the sheaves ♪

What do you want?

Just for the time being, I'll
figure that you don't know

about last night.

What are you talking about?
What happened last night?

I'll guarantee you there's
some of your flock here

knows what happened last night.

Whatever is bothering you,

this is neither the
time nor the place.

I figure this here's the
mainest place, Reverend.

You don't go tromping
on a man's dreams

and not get called for it.

Now, I ain't no preacher.

I ain't had me no
school learning at all.

Whatever I'm fixing to say here

might not be the
fit and proper words

but I figure you'll all
get what I'm meaning.

I wanna tell you about a man.

Worked hard all his life
preaching the gospel.

Mostly to a bunch of
folks that never done

no practicing on it,
except on Sunday.

Just like I figure a
lot of you folks does.

Now, this here man tried
to do good all of his life.

One day he got old.

And them that run his church

figured he wasn't
worth a hoot to nobody

so they run him off.

Well, he didn't figure he
was done by a long shot.

So he went to looking
around every place,

trying to figure out
somebody that he could help.

Finally come clean out
here wanting to build a church

for the Injuns.

Whether he was crazy
or whether he wasn't,

that's what he wanted to do.

He done it all by his own self.

Spent every last
penny he had a doing it.

And I figure he had
the right to give it a whirl.

To try it.

Come right here to
your town in Nescatunga

wanting to do good.

He got hisself good
and tromped on

by some of you righteous,
God-fearing Christians.

Now, all of you didn't
strike them matches

that set his church
on fire last night,

but you was egging
on the ones that done it.

The mainest one is your
preacher Atkins here.

Marshal, I want
you to understand

I had nothing to do with
whatever happened last night.

I didn't even know
about it until right now.

Reverend, I figure
there's a right

and there's a wrong.

Appears to me a
lot of your flock here

don't know which is which.

Helping them
decided which is which

is the preacher's job.

Or ain't nobody
never told you that?

That's all I got to say.

(dramatic music)

What do you think you're doing?

They's some of these
here boards we can still use.

Then we got all them good
boards we brung from Nescatunga.

It's not worth it, Marshal.

Nothing's worth it.

I don't know whether
it is or whether it ain't.

Onliest thing I
know is, Reverend,

the first step is to
get a church built.

(dramatic music)




- I'm all right, I'm all right.
- My foot, you're all right.

I've had trouble with my heart

but it always passes.

Well, that's why you've
been in such an all fired hurry

to get your church built.

It's almost done.

And now that there's a church,

the first step is to
find a congregation.

I kind of figured that
there'd be the next first step.

Reverend, you get
yourself some rest now.

I'll be back directly.


You ain't even
hear-ed me out yet

and you've done
went and said no.

There's no need to hear you out.

Onliest thing I'm
asking you, Chief,

is to come down
and listen to him once.

Maybe talk to him a little.

But we have no need
for what he offers.

We have our own ways.

Them old days is gone, Chief.

But as many of the old
ways as we can keep alive

we will, no matter how
we are forced to live.

Tonkawa, it's just one old man.

Leave us alone!

This here ain't the pony
soldiers, don't you see?

It's just a tired, sick old man.

Only our own way.

As many of them as we can keep.

There's no more need to talk.

(somber music)

I forgot my manners
there, Chief.

Them old ways you
was talking about,

see, I come here in peace.

You let me come in peace

and my gift to you is
my mule, Ruth, here.


We met in peace.

Your gift is a very
generous one.

I have nothing so generous
to give you in return.

Yes you have, Chief.

(donkey braying)

Reverend you sure
look spiffy in your get up.

Just the way a
preacher ought to look.

Good book in your hand.

You were worried about
that, weren't you Marshal?

Well, I...

- You think he'll come?
- Oh course he'll come.

Maybe not all of them.

Maybe not even most of them.

But they'll be enough to...

Enough to what?

They'll come.

(donkey braying)

(dramatic music)

I am sorry that I cannot
speak your native tongue.

But, perhaps those
who do understand me

will tell the others
what I have to say.

I cannot pretend
that I am one of you.

Or hope that I ever can be.

But although we are different,

in many ways we are the same.

I am told that the
Comanche believes that

death is not the end.

But that there is another
life beyond the sun

that sets in the west.

I too believe this.

I also believe that the Comanche

when he wants to
speak with his God,

goes out and seeks a vision.

I want to tell you
today about a man

who lived many years ago.

And when he wanted
to speak to his God

he too went out
into the wilderness

and ate nothing for 40 days.

♪ Rock of ages ♪

♪ Cleft for me ♪

♪ Let me hide myself in thee ♪

♪ Let the water and the blood ♪

♪ From thy wounded
site which flowed ♪

♪ Be of sin the double cure ♪

♪ Safe from wrath
and make me pure ♪



Oh not yet. Oh,
dear God not yet.

- Reverend.
- There's so much left to do.

He's dead?

He was a strange man
to come here and die.

So far away from his own people.

But, I do believe
he was a good man.

Wasn't none better.

(somber music)

You and he gave a
generous gift to my people.

I have nothing else
of value to give you.


He was right, about everything.

We should have come here before.

I wanted to talk with him.

He wasn't much for talking.

Mostly for doing.

He was right about me, too.

We came to help him rebuild.

We will.

I am going to try and
follow his path, Marshal.

First step is to
finish the church.

- Second step...
- I know.

Be mighty proud
to hear that too.

Was it worth it, Reverend?

You bet.

(upbeat music)

(announcer) Stay
tuned for exciting scenes

from our next Gunsmoke.

(upbeat theme music)