The sons of Ben Cartwright experienced romance through the years on Bonanza. The joy of young love was always followed by tragic loss.
The patriarch had lost three wives. He would experience romantic loss as well during the 1860s and 70s in Nevada.
In the first season of Bonanza there was an episode—The Newcomers. Besides having a definite ecological undertone, Hoss would meet and fall in love with a frail young woman, Emily Pennington.
At first Emily is repulsed by Hoss and refers to him as an ugly brute. She is engaged to her brother John’s hydraulic mining partner Blake McCall, a conniving businessman who would stop at nothing, not even murder, to mine the gold of the Ponderosa.
As the story develops Emily comes to see that Blake is the actual ugly brute and Hoss is a gentle giant. Emily and Hoss grow closer, and her illness becomes more apparent.
Hoss tells Emily of his special place in a canyon where in Spring the dogwoods blossom, “a thousand blossoms on every tree” and gold-backed ferns when pressed come off into your hands “like stardust from the sky”. Hoss offers to take Emily if she would come back in Spring. She would be the first to see it.
Later as Hoss takes Emily to meet a wagon train heading for California, she asks him to tell her about the canyon in Spring. Once again he asks her to come back in Spring. She promises if he would go there, she would be there. Her parting words to Hoss are, “I love you.”
Hoss returns to the ranch house where he finds everyone in a sad mood—Emily’s brother, Ben, Adam, Little Joe and Doctor Riley. As he shares his good news about his love for Emily and plans for marriage in Spring, he realizes that something is seriously wrong.
He confronts Doctor Riley and the doctor tells him that Emily only has a month to live. He refuses to accept and pleads with his father for the truth.
Ben sadly states: “It’s God’s will, Son.” Hoss walks away and passes Little Joe and Adam at the main door as he leaves.
Before Little Joe can go after Hoss, his father stops him with these words:
“Son, I had to bury three women that I loved—your mama, Adam’s, and his. For awhile, it’s a hurt which you have to bear alone.”
Hoss, sitting against a tree by the lake, tosses a rock into the water. “I just don’t understand, God. You got to help me.”
After some time Hoss returns to the ranch. The last scene is Hoss using an axe on a fallen tree.
The script by Thomas Thompson and directed by Christian Nyby is perhaps one of the most touching episodes of the series. Dan Blocker made the invulnerable Hoss very vulnerable. The emotions of the last several minutes was a trademark of what made Bonanza a beloved series with characters which people could relate.
G. D. Williams © 2013
Hoss and Emily
THE GOOD OLD DAYS: Bonanza