Are you the only honest Haggen? — Matt
Who said I was honest, Marshal? — Festus

If all you've ever seen of Festus Haggen is the 1966-1974 color episodes usually in syndication, you might think that the onliest thing he's ever done did was Deputyin' for Matthew. As Festus himself says, that's a dang lie and I can prove it.
Why, before he started into lawin' Festus was um... well... sort of shiftless or sort of shifty depending on your point of view. After helping Matt Dillon round up his outlaw uncle, Festus took a liking to Dodge City and got to work a lollygaggin' around The Longbranch, the blacksmith's shop and, of course, the Marshal's office. When asked what it is he does for a living in 1964's "Kitty Cornered" Festus replies, "I do just as little as I can and mostly what I please."'
He claims, "That ain't part of the Haggen nature, workin'." The Haggens are hill folk and it seems they don't place much trust in the law. (Perhaps because moonshinin' and other even less respectable avocations are the usual ways they earn a living.) The Haggen heritage is a little difficult for Festus to overcome at first. "You just never got it out of your head, have you? Just ain't never forgot that I'm a Haggen!" he tells Matt angrily when questioned about a murder in "Once a Haggen." The Marshal was also a little tentative in the early days of their relationship, once noting, "There's one word Festus knows how to spell and that's trouble."
Festus is nothing if not adaptable and after a year or two he overcomes his disdain for the law and earns Matt's complete trust. Although he always takes pride in being a Haggen, gradually his ties to the clan become secondary to his new found family in Dodge City. His first bond is with Quint Asper (Burt Reynolds). He chooses the sometimes taciturn blacksmith as his playmate and teasingly refers to him as "Comanche." It's not until after Quint leaves town that he begins to forge a close relationship with Doc, who becomes his new, albeit very grumpy, best friend. His respect for Matt becomes unswerving loyalty and Festus eventually wears his deputy badge with pride. His initial joking flirtation with Miss Kitty quickly evolves into a brotherly affection.
Festus, like the rest of his family, never learned how to read or write. He is, however, universally considered the smartest Haggen. He has common sense, cunning and an intuitive understanding of townfolk, which the other Haggens lack. In fact, as he himself points out, Festus is good at a lot things. Cards, horseshoes, singin', dancin', fishin', huntin', trappin', trackin', drinkin' sweet-talkin', tusslin', cussin' and shootin' all come naturally to him. And to compensate for his illiteracy, he has a vast knowledge of oral folklore and a prodigious memory. He can, for instance, recite every book of the bible.
Festus always follows his instincts and his heart. Consequently, he makes some mistakes, but he always manages to set things straight. He has a fondness for children, and women as well, but no desire to be married. He also has an affinity for animals, particularly his mule Ruth. Although he seems to

enjoy it when he's got money, Festus doesn't care too much for material things. He is a divergent thinker and seems to have ample time to ponder such profound and far-sighted matters as men living on the moon and X-Rays.

Festus is friendly, optimistic, brave, kind-hearted, generous and loyal. In short, an ideal friend and companion. Although you do have to buy him a beer every once in a while.

Well, was your beer cold enough for you? — Doc
It's kinda hard to tell on just one. — Festus

Festus Drawings
Click above to order.

[Festus Art]

Down there in Dodge City, a Haggen resides
In a shanty northwest of the creek.
His first name is Festus (the mule’s name is Ruth)
And he’s got this particular “speak.”

When talking to Dillon, the marshal of Dodge,
It’s usually “Matthew” or “Matt.”
And when he’s a problem to “study” and solve
He turns to Miss Kitty to chat.

Of course he respects her—she’s “thoughty” and kind.
And “looksome” she is, don’tcha see.
He “swallers” a beer at the Long Branch Saloon,
though often he has two or three.

His friend the Comanche’s the blacksmith in town,
And “fullers” round Dodge know they’re friends.
With April the “ninny” he tries to be tough,
though she knows that he only pretends.

His best friend in town is a “quackety quack,”
Galen Adams, known fondly as Doc.
“Golly bill,” that “old scudder” can insult and taunt.
Though he never would hurtfully mock.

Haggen though has a temper, it shows now and then,
like a “red tailed ole’ badger” he’ll growl.
But mostly he’s ornery, shifty, carefree.
He's a crooner, and boy can he howl.

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

You “stay in the buggy” he’s said once or twice,
When danger was lurking about.
And when he encounters a “blabberty mouth”
He tells ‘im to just “cut it out.”

In spite of the whiskers and hat full of dust,
(and always a scarf at his nape),
he cleans up real perty, and dare you say not
he’s on you “like ugly on a ape.”

A “pearl buttoned bangled” old billy he’d be
If he had a new suit in his poke.
A visit to Jonas for fancy new duds
would make Festus the stud of Gunsmoke!

To find out more about Gunsmoke fan/poet/author Sandy Henry you can visit Sandy's home page. You may also click above for information on her recently released first novel available from and other fine stores. Sandy will be do a book signing in Pittsburgh on July the 2nd (Ken Curtis' birthday!) More details are available at the home page mentioned above.

I'm much obliged to Mr. Rick, the TV Tome Gunsmoke Forum and the TVLand Gunsmoke Gang for all the Festus Quotes they (knowingly or unknowingly) contributed.
Papa always said us Haggens was born to be hung. —“Once a Haggen”
I'll find her. Us Haggens has got an eye for saloons. — “Island in the Desert”
You catch a Haggen in a lie and a streak of lightning will hit you from the clear blue sky —“Cattle Barons”

Festus Insults

They're a hair trigger outfit just meaner than a four-headed rattlesnake. — “A Family of Killers”

If this gun goes off, it'll be the first thing that ever was inside yer head" —“Hard Luck Henry” Festus to Jefferson Dooley.

If that ain't a ornery looksome polecat. Look at them beady eyes! —“Like Old Times” (Festus is looking at a picture of Frank Eaton, who also is played by Ken Curtis)

Them two cubs of yourn was triple distilled ornery. The worst I have ever saw. —“The Avengers”

Let me tell you somethin’ about some of these folks in Dodge. They’re the greediest, cheaten’-ist, double-dealin’-ist bunch of yahoos that I have ever saw —“Byline”

You're a mighty man, Ben Snow. But you ain't got the sense to holler suey if the hogs are eatin' you up. —Island in the Desert

Festus Advice

The onliest thing you get from straddlin’ the fence is a sore backside. —“Prairie Wolfer”

I'll tell you this, you keep a stuffing them vittles away like that, you're gonna get so blamed fat you can't even stand up. —“The Hiders”

The way it appears to me, a doctor is supposed to be patient with his patients expecting him to have patience. And you're just a gonna wind up to where you ain't got no patients if you don't start a havin' some patience, I'll tell ya that! —“Doctor Herman Schultz, M.D.”

Newly, you hadn't oughta be a squallin' at these folks like that...—“The Hanging of Newly O'Brien”

My pappy learnt me real early that they’s only three times when a feller handles a gun. That’s when he’s cleanin’ it or when he’s loadin’ it or when he’s fixin’ to use it. —“Killer at Large”

Festus Tongue-Twisters

Well now, when a doctor doctors another doctor, well, does a doctor that's a doin' the doctorin' doctor the doctor that's a gettin' doctored the way that the doctor that's a doin' the doctorin' wants to doctor the doctor that's a gettin' doctored or does the doctor that a gettin' doctored tell the doctor that's a doin' the doctorin' to doctor the doctor the way that the... —“Doctor Herman Schultz, M.D.”

"Supposin' I was to go to work and learn how to... to read writin'. Well, how'd I know that the feller that... that wrote the writin' was a writin' the writin' right? See it could be that he wrote the writin' all wrong. Here I'd be just a readin' wrong writin', don't ya see? You probably been doin' it your whole life, just a readin' wrong writin' and not even knowin‘ it. —“The Devil's Outpost”

Festus Philosophy

I don't give a hoot. I'll cut me a willer pole, get me a handful of worms, and I'll catch more fish than you caught in your whole blamed life." —The Hiders

The more a feller’s got on his mind, the less time he's got to think on any one thing. —“Prairie Wolfer”

A Feller hadn’t oughta run from nothin’ cause a man jest can’t git nothin’ did that a way. —“Killer at Large”

They just ain’t no sense a killin’ somebody over a bunch of silly words. —“Killer at Large”

You learn a thing a day, you store up smart.


If you're thinkin' what I'm thinkin' you're thinkin', that old dog won't hunt. — “The Sharecroppers”

‘Pears I made a bigger mess than a sow's bed —“Deputy Festus”

Not on your ol’ tintype. —“Hard Luck Henry” and many others

I'll get after you like thunder after lightnin’.

It makes ya feel kinda soulsome and roundy.

The tee-aye-inkdum-dinkdum

A faunchin’ and a bellerin’

Ain't you startin' to itch before you git bit?

Sincere as a preacher's kids at a $5 funeral.

Faster than you can say rat run over the roof with a piece of raw liver in his mouth.

If I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’.

Hold yer taters.

That's harder than I'd slam a door.

You talk like my foot's asleep. — “The Sharecroppers” (This is Festus' last line in the entire series.)

If'n you'd like to suggest a quote just go ahead on and get it did by emailin' me whenever you're of a mind to.


For some unknown reason the name "Festus" never caught on even at the height of the character’s Gunsmoke popularity… for naming children that is. Apparently it did catch on with pet-owners and animal breeders. The most likely recipient of the name? Why a mule, of course.


Disclaimer: Any copyright infringement is pure dee accidental. If you think I got anything official-like to do with Gunsmoke or Festus or any of them there folks at Paramount or Viacom, you done treed yurself the wrong possum. This here website was made by me, Teresa Murray. Anything I done did my own self is copyright 2004-2010.