Route 662: Where to Find Dillon, Festus, Miss Kitty, and a U-Haul Trailer

I am staring at a black mug that reads “Forever Doing The Stance.” There are two images on the mug. One is clearly identifiable to me as Marshal Matt Dillon. The other might be recognizable to some Columbians as their former sheriff. Both stand with hands grasping their belts in an iconic pose made famous on “Gunsmoke.”

It’s this artifact that is a clue as to why a U-Haul rental office north of Columbus is a treasure trove of Hollywood memorabilia. This unique place is viewable just by stopping at the old service station now serving as Watkins U-Haul on Hwy 45N. A visitor here will reap the reward of viewing an impressive collection of TV western ephemera.

As to why it is here has to do with the Sheriff, the one from Columbus, that is. His connection with the “Gunsmoke” show is a fascinating story best told by his son, Bobby Watkins. If you are lucky, Bobby will be able to break from his busy customer service to tell that tale and a few more that anyone would find entertaining.

Over the years, the Watkins cultivated a friendship with Ms. James Arness that resulted in many of the items collected here. Also, many of Amanda Blake’s (Miss Kitty) precious things are on exhibit. And don’t forget the fun things featuring Festus…for the rest of us! Clearly, Columbus, MS has a lot of Dodge City, Kansas in it now.

If you were a fan of some other western TV show, don’t skip the “Gunsmoke” museum. I’d be willing to bet you’d find your western well represented among the other countless TV western artifacts. Also, you may discover Bobby’s fun collection of U-Haul toys and other branded objects. The diligent treasure hunter will surely also discover other rare antique finds and hidden delights before getting out of Dodge. Worth the visit!

Watkins U-Haul Dealership, 4754 Hwy 45 N, Columbus, MS, seven days a week, FREE.