Proud, Stubborn, Defiant
The sight of the Cartwrights charging down a hillside on
horseback-Old Ben with his great mane of hair whipping behind him like a
Biblical prophet; Adam, with the deadly eyes of a swooping hawk; Hoss, so
huge of chest and shoulder that the giant bay under him looked puny by
comparison; and Little Joe, a wild rebel yell on his lips was enough to
cow the coolest man. And this close-knit family of men stood between the
silver barons and the most extensive stretch of timberland in the
Comstock Lode area.
The Cartwrights controlled the vast Ponderosa, a ranch that extended
from the lush shores of Lake Tahoe down the snowcapped slopes of the
Sierras and east to the desert-like environs of Virginia City. Over part
of its thousand square miles roamed 10,000 head of cattle, grazing in the
grassy lowlands; the rest of the acreage was covered with thickly wooded
hills, studded with magnificent evergreens. Some trees were huge and
ancient, others just slim seedlings, carefully planted and nurtured to
replenish the forest and the earth it stood upon.
With the help of 200 men who tended the cattle, operated and
homesteaded on land, the Cartwrights developed the Ponderosa into a ranch
of great value. Their ranch house, with its giant halls, thick oak
furniture and mammoth stone fireplace, was almost baronial in style. The
job of patrolling and protecting their holdings, of guarding the
treasured territory against cattle rustlers and timber raiders, was a
task calling for the utmost vigilance and bravery, the sharpest eyes, and
the surest aim. The Cartwrights possessed these qualities and more. Woe to
the stranger who set foot on their land. Dozens of dead could testify to
the futility of expeditions organized to take over the Ponderosa. But the
Cartwrights knew the mining tycoons would never give up trying. They and
their adversaries also knew that as long as they were together, the
Cartwrights would never be beaten.
Ben, The Father
The day Ben Cartwright first clapped his eyes on the
pastures, timbered hills, and soaring mountains of the western corner of
Nevada, he said goodbye to the California-bound wagon train with which he
was traveling, and settled down to raise his three sons and create
something worthwhile out of the wilderness. As the years rolled by, he
persuaded passing pioneers who loved the land as he did to join him, to
build homes and bring up families, as he was doing.
It took Ben Cartwright many years and hundreds of miles of
wandering before he found his own Garden of Eden. Tragedy had sat down on
his shoulder since his early youth, when he helplessly watched his first
young bride, Elizabeth, daughter of a down East sea captain, die in
childbirth. Taking his firstborn son, Adam, with him, he made his way from
New England to Saint Louis, where he invested the money his parents had
left him in a profitable trading business. Soon, Ben fell in love
again, this time with Inger, the hardy daughter of a Swedish
immigrant. She could ride and shoot, and gladly followed him westward when
they were married. But shortly after Ben's second son, nicknamed Hoss, was
born, the Cartwrights were ambushed by Indians near Denver, and his bride
of a year was killed by an arrow.
Pursued by bitter memories, he traveled South to New Orleans, where
he tried his hand at importing and exporting. There he met and lost his
heart to a fiery Creole beauty, Marie, whose father had been one of Jean
Lafitte's henchmen. Surrounded by suitors, she aroused such feelings of
passion and jealousy in Ben that he vowed to have her for himself
alone. He wooed and won her in a cyclonic courtship. She bore him a third
son, Little Joe, but after a few happy years death struck once more, and
Ben's wife lost her life in a horse riding accident at the
Ponderosa, which was just freshly built by Ben in Nevada. Before his arrival in Nevada, Ben was witness to the destruction of the lush Sutter Valley, in California, and in the wake of the aftermath, decided to journey to Nevada, with young Adam and Hoss, to build his empire.
Now, twenty years later, Ben Cartwright is old, but he stands strong and
straight as one of his own pine trees. A devout, Bible-quoting man filled
with righteous fervor, he stares down at the sprawling new city, swollen
with strangers, pronouncing in terrible tones that it is a veritable
reincarnation of Sodom, a city of evil. His great mane of flowing white
hair crowns his head as with an angry halo. But when his magnificent
temper is soothed, his face can soften and his eyes glow with love, for
his ranch and his sons. He watches over them paternalistically, curbing
their revelries; joining in their horseplay with the rich, full laughter
of a man without fear; and cherishing them, not only for themselves
alone, but also for the fond memories of their mothers evoked by their
widely differing appearances and mannerisms.
Adam, Guardian Of The Ponderosa
The son who most clearly reflects old Ben Cartwright's rock-ribbed
integrity and purposefulness is his first born, Adam. It is he who most
seriously shoulders the awesome responsibilty of running the ranch. It is
he who is naturally closest to his father, who feels the need to share
his father's half-ridden grief for the loss of his beloved wives.
Adam posses the hard-headed, tight-fisted qualites of his New England
ancestors. There is a gruffness about him, at times even a
bitterness, savage and sharp as a Northeast wind. But old Ben knows that
there is a lonliness deep inside the man that can only be assuaged by
love-the free and unstinting love of his father, the love of the woman
who has the courage to get close to him.
Roaming with his father through the rugged Western badlands, Adam has
developed an extraordinary keenness of mind an eye and toughness of the
body. He has survived many a skirmish with savages, has been exposed to
onslaughts of the elements that would kill a lesser man. Cold and
fearless, with a normally narrow-eyed, tight lipped expression, he is known
throughout the territory for his deadliness with a six-shooter or
rifle, and for his iron-willed determination to serve his father. Together
they will keep the Ponderosa and it's tall trees inviolate, swiftly and
boldly smashing any attempt at the desocration of their holdings.
Hoss, The Gentle Giant
Hoss, five years younger than Adam, is a colossus of a man, broad and
powerful as an ox. He has the clear blue eyes, wheat-colored hair and
sturdy structure that bespeak the son of a Swedish-born mother.
Yet beneath his mighty physique, Hoss is gentle and
childlike. Although he is capable of killing anything with his bare hands
if provoked, he loathes violence of any kind. Shy and awkward with
people, especially women, Hoss is most comfortable with animals. His
nickname arose as much from his habit of taking better care of a horse
than himself, as from his bulk and brute strength. People are too
complicated; animals he can understand, and they seem to understand him, as
he talks soothingly to a sacred heifer or threatens to throw an ornery
mustang the length of the corral. Anyone who harms one of nature's
creatures becomes an enemy for life. He is proudest of the time he
rescued a full grown brown bear from a trap, nursed its leg and then
triumphantly returned the beast to its natural habitat.
Hoss' idea of human companionship is the tug and sweat of a
"rassle", a good-natured cuff between the shoulder blades, a friendly bear
hug. He is a hearty man with a robust sense of humor and a perpetual grin
on his open face. Also, he is a man with an insatiable hunger, who dotes on
the massive meals lovingly prepared and served by the Ponderosa's
Chinese cook, Hop Sing.
Hoss has an abiding need to know that the Cartwrights stand as
one, that no dissention breaks their ranks. He is fondly protective of the
family's "baby", Little Joe, whose impulsiveness and pugnacious nature
often bring on trouble.
Little Joe, The Fiery Gentleman
Little Joe, in his late teens, is a laughing cavalier who loves to
assume the courtly manners of the South, of the wordly city of his
birth, New Orleans. To him, New Orleans possesses a glamour and
sophistication heightened by the stories he dimly remembers being told
by his mother when he was a boy. And although there was an unsavory side
to his mother, Little Joe knows nothing of it and holds her in the
highest esteem, with the encouragemement of his father.
He is gay and romantic, forward with women who attract him and in
turn are attracted by his lithe good looks and flashy smile. He dresses
as impeccably as a New Orleans gentleman, but his neat garments clothe a
body as wiry as annealed steel, as graceful as a wildcat. With a
cocky, insouciant smile always lingering on his lips, Little Joe seems to
invite all comers, all sizes, all ages, to tackle him at their risk.
In keeping with his fondness for the courtly ways of his mother's
world, Little Joe is an accomplished duelist, sporting an epee in his
saddle. He is also unerring with a knife or rope, and would much rather
use these weapons than the omnipresent gun that rules the West. He
refuses to accept the normal code of his environment, much to the mused
chagrin of his father and brothers.
Little Joe does not seem to take life seriously, a trait that often
vexes his brother, Adam, whereupon Joe will taunt him to the point of
rage. But although he would be rather charging across the countryside
whooping a rebel yell, or dueling an imaginary adversary, or serenading a
flesh and blood girl, Little Joe is not irresponsible. He knows that he is
needed-to pitch in and help in the back-breaking work, to defend the
ranch with his life if need be.