Matt Dillon in Dodge City

He’s the Marshal

Marshal Matt Dillon watches over the main street of town in Dodge City, Kansas.

Marshal Matt Dillon watches over the main street of town in Dodge City, Kansas.

Even with all of its deep western history, Dodge City, Kansas, might be best known as the setting for the long-running television series Gunsmoke. In the series, the fictional Matt Dillon was portrayed by actor James Arness, and it is Arness as Matt Dillon who watches over the real Dodge City in statue form. Unfortunately, Chester, Festus, Doc Adams, and Miss Kitty were not around.

The original 20-year run of the Gunsmoke television series was almost before my time. It ended when I was just 4 years old. But I have seen it in reruns many times, so Marshal Dillon was immediately recognizable to me. This statue is a great likeness of him.

Larger Than Life

Laura and Marshal Matt Dillon in Dodge City, Kansas.

On Gunsmoke, Matt Dillon was a bit larger than life, if you can say that about a fictional character. He was shot or knocked out in fights several times, and that would take a toll on any average man, or even an above-average man.

So perhaps it is fitting that his statue is also a bit larger than life, although not all that much larger. James Arness was 6’ 7" tall, according to the all-knowing internet. Although he would have been taller than Laura, he would not be quite as much taller as he is in this photo. Either way, it was a good photo opportunity.

However, for some reason, we could not get Jaylin into the photo, too. I guess he has never wanted to hang out with cowboys as much as Laura does.


Isn’t it interesting that some of the best-known and loved heroes of our era are fictional characters?

If you ask most people who a hero is, you will probably get either a sports figure or a film or movie character. Maybe that is because it is easy to control the image of a fictional character. The best ones have some flaws, but usually not too many. They are idealized versions of people instead of the real thing. Real people have real flaws, and sometimes more than we would like to admit. Movie and television characters have flaws that are usually resolved by the end of the show. Nice and easy.

Instead of looking up to an ideal that does not exist, try to find someone real as a hero. And not just someone who happens to have athletic ability, either. Find someone who as done something really meaningful. Meaningful events are much better to try to emulate than sports achievements.

Of course, you can’t go wrong with trying to emulate Jesus. If you are looking for a real hero, he’s your guy. A perfect example to follow.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2

About the Photos

The bright sunlight in the middle of the day cast a pretty strong shadow of Matt Dillon’s hat on his face. Fortunately, I was able to correct that somewhat with the Raw file. But the sun also made the colors of the Visitors Information Center in the background nice and bold, and I liked that. It was a contrast with the bronze statue, but I think it works.

Photo: A single Raw exposure, processed in Luminar AI. Read more about photography tips, photo software, camera gear, and more at Steve’s Photography Tips.
Camera: Sony Alpha A7 II
Lens: Rokinon 35mm f/1.8
Date: April 16, 2022
Location: Dodge City, Kansas

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.