Summary: I wrote this story for David Dortort’s 90th birthday party to which I was invited. In the story, I used all 430 episode titles so the story might sound a bit strange to some. I had the story bound in book form for Mr. Dortort and given to him as my gift celebrating his 90 glorious years. It was my way of saying thank you for the joy he brought to so many lives and especially for the friendship that developed between us that I will always cherish. It has never been shared with anyone except David, until now.
Rated: G (5,000 words)
Celebrating 90 Glorious Years AND 430 Episodes of Bonanza!
“I have A Rose for Lotta,” said Joe Cartwright, Detective. He’d waited Forever to hit The Big Jackpot, down in Reno, but then, he’d gotten word from his father, who was in San Franciscoto confer with The Colonelabout a lumber deal for The Mill, when Joe had decided to propose to his ladylove.
The Sisters and he were Old Friends, so they allowed Joe to enter The Way Station where Lotta was waiting for him. He had ridden there, in a Frenzy, when he’d heard that there was a New Man in town trying to cut in on his time with the lovely Ballerina. He was Saddle Stiff; he’d never ridden so long and hard For A Young Lady before. But he had traveled all through The Long Night working on a Blind Hunch. The man, Shanklin, a former Tax Collector and who claimed to have once owned The Burma Rarity, was attempting to take away his true love. The man was of a Breed of Violence, and was also one of The Prisoners who had escaped from The Rattlesnake Brigade and had taken The Grand Swing around Twilight Town in order to keep him from paying A Visit to Upright.
But Joe wasn’t to be put out. He had The Luck of Pepper Shannon, The Lonely Man who had Second Sightand who knew all The Customs of the Country. He’d told Joe that loving a woman such as Lotta was based on A Matter of Faith and that only he held The Power of Life and Death in his own hands. He’d have to take care and not get Bushwhacked along The Truckee Strip.
Joe had heeded his advice. He had used all the tricks his family had ever taught him on being careful and how to survive on his own. He was like A Single Pilgrim, toting The Gold-Plated Rifle his father had given him when he’d been on The Jury and had voted for Cassie, winning Thornton’s Account and finally finding A Home for Jamie. Joe had traveled the last few miles down Danger Road, under The Burning Sky, letting The Bucket Dog lead him.
Walter and The Outlaws had been seen with The Desperado and some of Gallagher’s Sonsand Joe had learned that they had planned an Ambush at Rio Lobo, so he had changed directions and gone instead into Bitter Water where he had stopped to rest and eat at a place called The Stronghold. He was glad for The Gift of Water, his mouth had become so dry, he was almost speechless so, he sat back and listened to the talk.
He’d picked up more information, mostly useless but he’d learned about The Saga of Annie O’Toole, and heard that she was coming back for a Return Engagement. Seems the Lady From Baltimore was famous for singing a Broken Ballad. Joe was even more surprised to learn that The Artist turned performer, sang a tune she dubbed Ballad of the Ponderosa.
Joe pushed back his chair and walked to the bar. The bartender was wiping up a spill from the counter.
“Say, has A Stranger Passed This Way?” he asked. “Besides me that is,” Joe added.
“Sure, The Tall Stranger, who claimed to be The Roper for The Sun Mountain Herd,” the man said.
Joe pondered the information. It wasn’t the man he was looking for.
“Another beer,” he said and then, taking the mug, sat back down.
Minutes later, another man entered and ordered a bottle of whiskey. Joe watched him cross the room and sit down. It wasn’t long before several others joined the man and with the loud talk, Joe learned that this man was the one they called, The Reluctant American. Joe counted him more like The Wild One. But he heard the man swear that he’d fight, when The War Comes to Washoe. But to Joe, the man seemed to have a Vendetta and was playing The Waiting Game. Apparently someone, beside himself, agreed because Joe heard one man tell another, ‘that was The Way of Aaron’.
For another hour, Joe sat alone in the bar, listening. He heard other patrons talking about the Bank Runand the Decision At Los Robles to hold The Newcomers responsible for causing it. But then The Witnesswho knew more than he was telling, explained that The Trouble With Jamie, who turned out to be a crooked sheriff that wore his Badge Without Honor, had also once been one of The Companeros who had caused a Riot down at the territorial prison several years before being elected as the town’s sheriff. So, The Trouble with Trouble, or Trouble Town as it was later called, elected Gideon, The Good who had always been known about town as The Good Samaritan.
Joe was just about ready to leave when another man burst through the door. Every man in the saloon stood up to cheer Abner Willoughby’s Return. From what Joe could make of the conversation, Abner had been riding with The Conquistadores, as one of their Trackers, a Top Hand, all winter when he’d been forced To Kill A Buffalo in order to provide for the gang’s Winter Kill. The Indians apparently hadn’t liked Abner killing their game and had taken out after him. Abner then had left the country, going to Spain and was later said to have won The Wormwood Cup in a race riding an unlikely steed named, Yonder Man.
Feeling refreshed but tired of the chatter, Joe decided it was time to move on. “Thanks For Everything, Friend,” he called to the bartender as he slipped out the door.
He made TheRide, A Ride in the Sun, but he was as a driven man, determined. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been riding or how many miles he had traveled, but Joe stopped to rest. The fork in the road left him wondering which way to go. Dismounting and moving to the signs posted to show the way, Joe read each one. One in particular caught his eye and he couldn’t keep from laughing. The sign read, “Caution, Easter Bunny Crossing”. His laughter lightened his burdened soul and reminded him of Hoss and the Leprechaunshis brother had found last year.
Seems as if the little green men had The Dowry, a box full of gold dust, and The Deserter, The Flannel-Mouth Gun, who had on more than one occasion used the Alias Joe Cartwright, had cast A Dark Shadowaround town when he attempted to steal the box from the little green men. But the little fellas had their Day of Reckoning, when The Deserter had been caught and sent to jail. The poor man learned all about an Anatomy of a Lynchingwhile waiting trial. Somehow, his little buddies couldn’t go through with sending their Amigo to jail, so they had dropped the charges. The sheriff had pointed out to his prisoner just how lucky he was that he still had Another Windmill to Go. Dressed in his dark suit, the gentleman took The Oath then and there, saying that The Pride of A Man would not allow him to become The Pursuedever again and told the group of little people how Blessed Are They that they showed him The Quality of Mercy that had given him his Return to Honor. He swore never again to be The Running Man, for now, he was ready To Ride the Wind. Hoss, satisfied with the way that The Deed and The Dilemmahad turned out admitted to all of them that Right Was the Fourth R.
Joe had so many thoughts racing through his head that his head had begun to hurt. Perhaps being in the hot sun for so many hours was affecting his thinking. Oh, he thought, how he’d love To Ride the Wind, to feel the cool air in his face, blowing through his hair. Maybe he’d find a place to rest when he reached the next town. But, The Silence at Stillwater that greeted him was as Silent Thunder or A Song in the Dark as he rode into town. Easing from the saddle, Joe tied his horse at the railing. It was then that he heard it…The Sounds of Drums. He slipped unnoticed into the bar and over to the vacant table in the darkest corner. The Trail Gang was there, listening to the soft sounds of the drummer. Their leader, a man known as Square Deal Sam was telling them about The Thunderhead Swindle. How appropriate, thought Joe, on this dreary night. He wasn’t really interested in listening to more stories, but he’d learned that it had all started with The Wooing of Abigail Jones, The Spitfire who later was left To Die in Darkness.
Abigail had broken a number of hearts, promising that she’d ‘Bloom for Thee’ for more than just a couple of cowhands. Not meaning to Speak No Evil of the lovely temptress, the weaver of stories explained to his listeners that Abigail had once had an affair with El Jefe, a Patchwork Man who was later only a Shadow of a Hero. Abigail had stolen The Spanish Grant from the man and had tried to escape. It was her misfortune that she took The Desperate Passageand wound up buried in The 26th Grave. Her death had caused The Passing of a King, for no more was her lover Shining in Spain.
Joe swallowed his drink and returned to his horse. He’d heard enough stories to last him a lifetime. The Saga of Muley Jones, A Dublin Lad known for his Hound Dogwas only one but then there was the Saga of Squaw Charlie who turned out not to be an old Indian but The Savagewho had instigated The Abductionof El Toro Grande, a famous breeding bull once owned by The Fear Merchantsand later sold to his father, Ben Cartwright.
At last the weary young man had reached his destination. He dismounted and entered, anxious to see Lotta, for many days had passed since their last meeting.
Lotta was a vision of loveliness as she entered the room, smiling at Joe. She was his Queen High in A Deck of Aces…he was getting a Second Chance and he felt deep within him a Sense of Duty. Joe was determined to make an honest woman of Lotta. She’d been called a Fallen Woman by the False Witness who claimed she had a Dark Past and who had lied about her during The Flapjack Contest and then again when Lotta had dared to ride The Hayburner on that night just Dark Enough to See the Stars. Even The Gentle Ones snubbed her. They said he was Dead Wrong to be involved with a woman like Lotta. But it made no difference to Joe, he loved her anyway and though she’d once been A Bride for Buford, she was now The Bride for him and he The Bridegroom.
The Friendship they shared soon blossomed and then The Courtship had deepened and before long they were both in love. Joe had become determined to further The Blood Line by marrying Lotta and filling his father’s Lonely House with the merry laughter of children when they made The Return after their marriage.
But first, he’d have to fight The Stalker for her hand. He had no choice; it was A Matter of Circumstance. Joe knew he would not win The Medal if he killed The Thirteenth Man, but he was being forced into it just because he had been The Witness when The Weary Willies had stolen Six Black Horses.
Oh…it was a Black Friday for sure and Joe could only hope that there’d not be too much Blood On The Land when they had their Showdown at Tahoe. He sighed heavily. He felt like The Outcast, his home had become A House Divided. His older brother, Adam, had even begun to call him The Gunman. But nothing was furthermost from the truth. He didn’t really want to kill The Stranger, but he’d been forced into the Showdown.
Justice, that’s what Little Joe called it. His father had said that one day the Company of Forgotten Menwould return and one man would call him out into the street to play The Deadliest Game. Ben had told his youngest son that it would be A Far, Far Better Thing if he’d drop the entire matter, Lotta included.
Hoss, who was A Man to Admire, agreed with his father. The gentle giant had gone so far as to promise his younger brother that new Stallion they’d seen when they’d gone in The Wagon, The Long Way to Ogden to attend The Marriage of Theodora Duffy, Hoss’ First Love when He Was Only Seven. Joe had refused The Gift, determined to face The Hidden Enemy.
And then Adam spoke up a second time, insisting that they were The Survivors in a hard, raw country and that Joe should remember that there were many lovely young ladies from which to choose. Such as Erin,the Little Girl Lost, and Sweet Annie Laurie who was one of The Real People of Muddy Creek, and The Girl Named George, she was one of them as well. Adam had reminded his brother of Amy, but Joe claimed that The Trouble With Amy was that she wanted To Own the World. Joe had insisted that he had made the Commitment At Angelus and he was going through with his promise.
Adam had lost his temper and called Joe a Child and said he was Star Crossed and going so far out on a limb that he was breaking the Blood Tie his family was known to have. He had walked out then, referring to Joe as The Younger Brother’s Younger Brother, meaning Hoss. Adam had paused at the door, picking up The Gold Detector and heading up to The Gold Mine with Honest John to wait for The Arrival of Eddie, one of The Greedy Ones who said he was a son of one of Napoleon’s Children.
Hop Sing had gotten in on the argument as well, trying to give Joe A Dream to Dreaminstead of just being one of The Dream Riders and reminding him of The Crime of Johnny Mule who had raised The Price of Salt, just for the love of a no-account woman. Johnny had faced Judgment at Red Creek and had been hung by The Hanging Posse. It certainly had been A Hot Day for A Hanging that day.
Hop Sing had gone on to inform the youngest Cartwright that Four Sisters From Boston would be arriving soon and he bet Joe that if he would not act like Half A Rouge, but like The Prince instead, he wouldn’t have to take A Bullet for A Bride. The loyal house servant reminded the misguided young man that once, there had even been Three Brides for Hoss. That had been a big joke, one woman, Meena, The Actress, had wanted Hoss to learn to play the violin and insisted that Hoss be called Maestro Hoss. The event was A Knight to Remember, nearly causing a Ponderosa Explosion when her father, The Emperor Nortonshowed up just as Hoss had stepped into The Spotlight, claiming that the young lady was his First Born and that no Ponderosa Matador was going to marry one of The Hopefuls.
When Adam tried to explain the difference between Maestro and Matador, Denver McKee, who was in The Prime of Life, spoke The Pure Truth when he claimed to be No Less A Man than Hoss and accused Adam of being part of The Triangle.
It was like Rain from Heaven when Ben declared that Any Friend of Walter’s could play this Pressure Game but that neither he nor his sons would be party to it. So, with their heads hanging low, The Impostors, The Deadly Ones, walked off having lost The Cheating Game.
Nothing had prevented the most ardent Cartwright from pursuing his ladylove, not even The Magnificent Adah, who arrived with The Gentleman from New Orleans, Mr. Henry TP Comstock. Both arrived the same night, The Night Virginia City Died.
Joe only recalled his first impression of Adah, thinking ‘She Walks In Beauty’. He had approached the lovely vision, believing that Henry was just another one of those Stage Door Johnnies that his father had told him about. But Adah had whispered to him, ‘Love Me Not’. She failed to recognize The Unseen Wound, so Joe retreated carrying his heart on his sleeve.
After Adah, there had been other girls, Clarissa, even Mrs. Wharton and the Lesser Breeds, and the lovely Emily, who was the owner of The Clarion. They had all broken his heart. Joe learned a hard lesson, that the world was A World of Cannibals. That was The Last Vote. Joe left like A Man Without Land, so he left home and became the Pursued, the hunted instead of The Hunter.
The Search for love left Joe in a Search in Limbo, until he met The Lady and The Mark who had introduced him to Lotta. Instantly, Joe had been smitten. Being The Hostageto her love, he was willing to fight for that love. The Sounds of Sadness had gone from his heart, from his life.
Now, he stood in the street, A Heritage of Anger behind him, praying that the Face of Fearwas not evident.
The Silent Killer emerged from the saloon. The Stillness Within him caused Joe to glance at the sun. It was A Time To Die; The Terror at 2:00 had begun. There’d be no going back. Joe silently prayed that he’d not drawn One Ace Too Many.
The Avenger stood across from his opponent. Joe saw The Frenchman scan the streets and thought, ‘he’s looking for A Place To Hide’. Tired and fed up with the entire situation, Joe wished he could run away, Escape To The Ponderosa. But instead, he took a deep breath and straightened his Warbonnet; he felt as if he’d just started The Paiute War.
Suddenly, The Rival went for his gun, firing at Joe. Joe had drawn his as well but before he could fire, Lotta had run into the street between The Unwanted and Little Joe. Her luscious body fell into the dirt. Joe, stunned, rushed to her side, lifting her head into his lap. Lotta, weak and dying, fought to focus on the handsome man’s face as she whispered to him, “I see The Dark Gate. I must follow the Dark Star” Her eyes closed; Lotta, The Smiler, was dead.
Joe felt a Vengeance spread across his heart. He looked up into the eyes of The Fugitive and slowly rose to his feet, turning to face his lover’s murderer. Ben rushed into the street, to his son’s side coming to The Rescue just as Roy Coffee, a Peace Officer who lived by The Code, clamped the cuffs around the wrists of the killer.
Joe’s eye released his building tears. “Don’t Cry, My Son. The Storm will pass,” muttered the anxious father. Joe allowed Ben to lead him away.
The Lawmaker wearing The Tin Badge led The Guilty man toward the jailhouse. He’d earned the Credit for A Kill. Roy shook his head claiming that A Lawman’s Lot is Not a Happy One.
Many weeks later, it was early Springtime and Joe was outside. The young man had just returned from town, having gone to get his Last Haircut. He arrived home with news about the Phillip Diedeshiemer Story and how the man had been in trouble with The Law and Billy Burgess, who was just recently Home from the Sea. Joe had told his father about an event the pair was telling around town that happened in Cut Throat Junction. They said it was An Earthquake Called Callahan and that a Found Child claimed that she’d been raised by The Ape, a King of the Mountain sort of man who ate with The Jackknife he kept in his rear pocket.
Adam and Hoss had laughed at him and told their younger brother about the Lila Conrad Storyand how she had started a Land Grab right here on the Ponderosa after convincing everyone that their father was dead. The whole ranch had become a Kingdom of Fear when The Lady and the Mountain Lion had sought Desert Justice by claiming that she and The Late Ben Cartwright had shared a Love Child together, Lothario Larkin, whom Lila called The Other Son.
Their tale had brought smiles to their younger brother’s face so they expanded the story for Little Joe’s benefit.
“See Joe,” Adam went on to say, “Lothario was Once A Doctor, who owned Old Sheba, an elephant, but in truth he was one of The Many Faces of Gideon Flinch.”
“Who was he?” Joe had asked.
“Well, he was My Friend, My Enemy, you might say,” Adam explained.
“I hope that story about Pa wasn’t really true!”
“Of course not…but it took Five Sundowns To Sunup to hush the story up! When it was over, they all vanished, Five Into the Wind, you might say. This happened around the holidays if I remember correctly. But it sure didn’t make for A Christmas Story!”
“No, but I bet it was a Night of Reckoning…you know, Different Pines, Same Wind,” Joe had declared.
“True, so true,” Adam had laughed.
Ben found Joseph leaning against The Fence seemingly staring at The Auld Sod so he went to him. Sadness had lingered long in the young man’s hazel eyes. ‘Oh, Marie, My Love…however can I help our son? He wears The Mark of Guilt on his young face’, Ben’s heart cried. He paused, feeling a flutter in his own heart and then, listening carefully he heard the words muttering softly, ‘Mighty Is The Word’ and then he knew what he must do.
Ben leaned against the fence, close to his son; The Mission must be accomplished. He spoke in a soft, tender voice.
“Joe…sometimes in our lives, A Pink Cloud Comes from Old Cathay, and it becomes as Check Rain, pouring sorrow into our hearts…but you must Look To The Stars and listen to the whispering of All Ye His Saints. Right now, you’re caught in a Catch As Catch Cansituation, but someday, you’ll take The Gamble again. It’s as The Crucible pull in your heart that tells you to let go, that you must.
I remember once, Inger, My Love, who had always been Her Brother’s Keeper, and I attended The Initiation of an organization of inventors called The Fighters who fought for something they deeply believed in. They lost their first struggle with success, but that didn’t give them reason to quit trying. When asked, Is There Any Man Here who was willing to try again, those men who had never had Feet of Clay, did In Defense of Honor, take The Infernal Machine that they developed, named it The Iron Butterfly and proved to the world that they could do what they set their heads and hearts into doing.”
Ben paused in his speech and waited for his son to say something. When Joe said nothing, Ben went on, hoping to convince his son that It’s A Small World and that love would come to him once again, when the time was right. At this point in time, Ben welcomed the thoughts of even The Mountain Girl whom Joe had taught to speak with her hands.
“Joseph, Elizabeth, My Love once told me that most things in life were simply Easy Come, Easy Go…and not nearly as complicated as an Elegy for a Hangman…
Leave your pain and sorrow with The Miracle Maker. You will find a new love and it will be The Beginningof something wonderful. What has happened to you is a Journey Remembered. Don’t think on it as a Journey to Terror. It’s all about A Question of Strength.”
Joe looked deeply into his father’s eyes as Ben continued to offer his comfort.
“Don’t allow yourself to become A Toy Solider, out To Stop a War by moving and living automatically. One of these days, maybe real soon, The Thunder Man will resound in the heavens and A Woman Lost, or A Woman of Fire, to match your own, will walk into your life. It will be as if a doorman had shouted out, Enter Thomas Bower…come sing of The Lonely Runner and of the Knight Errant so ill fated …Enter Mark Twain and put pen and ink to paper, write of the Judgment at Olympus that freed lost souls and opened hearts…so Joseph, shall your heart be!”
His voice became low and thick with emotion as Ben took a deep breath and pressed on.
“Joe, you’ll know it’s real love because you’ll feel like a Rich Man, Poor Man, you’ll think you’re a Little Man, Ten Feet Tall.
My Son, My Son, I know you have A Passion for Justice, that you don’t want Justice Deferred but please don’t bring Calamity Over the Comstock. Please, let’s not make this like The Julia Bulette Story. Don’t allow what’s happened to you become the Invention of a Gunfighter. Son, I’ve left you a part of The Legacy, don’t throw it away.”
Joe put his hand on his father’s arm and for the first time in weeks, smiled for real.
“Don’t worry, Pa, even though I feel caught Between Heaven and Earth, and wish I could just fly away, like The Ponderosa Birdman, I’ll not become The Scapegoat again, nor The Underdog. I’ll continue The Questfor true love. I won’t let another woman make a Jonah out of me, not even for The Honor of Cochise! I know I fell into The Trap, but that’s over. I know Lotta is Dead and Gone.”
Joe smiled again. “You know Pa, right now what I really need is A Good Night’s Rest.”
Ben couldn’t help but laugh. “So do I, son. I’m glad The Dilemma is over. Shanklin faces Death At Dawnand then The Debt for murder will be paid.”
“Thanks, Pa,” Joe said softly.
“Hey, What Are Partners For?” laughed Ben.
Together, father and son made their way to the house. Ben’s arm was about his son’s shoulder.
“Joe, how about riding into town with me tomorrow? I have to take The Brass Box, you know, the one we keep Logan’s Treasure in…well, I have to have The Boss at the hardware store repair the latch before The Secret gets out. And…there’s someone I want you to meet.”
“Sure Pa…hmm…who is it?” asked Joe, suddenly curious.
“A friend…a lady in fact. Meredith…Meredith Smith.”
Joe froze, pulling his father around so he could see Ben’s face.
“She doesn’t have the Devil on Her Shoulder, does she?”
“No,” laughed Ben. “She’s Destiny’s Child, once The Countess but she gave that up and made The Decisionto marry The Duke. She’s bringing her daughter, Gabrielle, with her. They’re coming here on a Last Mission. It’s for the Last Hunt of the year and it’s meant to win the very Last Trophy”
“Oh great,” moaned Joe. “She sounds like The Strange One. Remember Pa…I’m now The Reluctant Rebel. Introduce her to Hoss, he’s A Natural Wizard and casts A Big Shadow on the Land. Or Adam, he’s The Genius, he’ll know how to handle A Woman In the House!”
Ben’s laughter was loud and brought Adam and Hoss running from the house to see what was so funny. Neither Ben nor Joe said a word.
“Well, you gonna tell us what’s so funny?”
“Yeah, echoed Hoss, “what in Sam Hill are ya laughing about?”
Ben glanced over at Joe and then turned to his older sons. “No, there’s The Unwritten Commandmentthat says ‘Something Hurt, Something Wild isn’t worth A Dollar’s Worth of Trouble or A Dime’s Worth of Glory’. Saying nothing more, Ben led Joe into the house and closed the door.
Hoss looked confused. “Heh?” he said, scratching his head. “What in blazes was that supposed to mean?”
“Hey, look, I’m not My Brother’s Keeper, But, it’s simple,” Adam explained, appearing to understand the statement. “It simply means that our little brother is looking for a Horse of A Different Hue and to find one, he has to go to A Real Nice, Friendly Little Town, find Old Charlie, The Last Viking and Tommy, The Horse Breaker, then light Five Candles, make The Wish and then it will be The Sure Thing. Afterwards, Little Joe has to fight The Bottle Fighter, Pa will deem it A Time to Step Down, tip his hat in A Salute to Yesterday…he’ll become a Mirror of a Man like in The Saga of Whizzer McGee…you remember him, don’t you Hoss? He was one of The Horse Traders, and then…”
“ADAM! Just a dang second! Now you ain’t making no sense. Can ya just say it plain and simple so’s I can understand?”
“Sure,” Adam said smugly. “Joe’s got a Severe Case of Matrimony!” He turned and went inside, leaving Hoss alone on the porch.
“Oh…hmm…well why didn’t he just come right out and say it like that in the first place!” Hoss sighed as he let his exasperation flow from his chest. Yawning, the big man turned toward the house singing softly to himself, “rock-a-bye baby, Rock-A-Bye- Hoss…….”
October 23, 2006