My brother started this by e-mailing me that Pernell Roberts, the actor who played Adam Cartwright on the TV show, Bonanza, had passed away.
Then my husband found a recording of Lorne Greene, Pa Cartwright himself, singing the words to the Bonanza theme. Apparently this version was used only in the first episode, then they decided to use an instrumental version.
This was a totally new set of words for me, familiar as I was with the Johnny Cash version. I always loved that twangy guitar introduction and bridge.
A little time on YouTube this morning—okay, far too much time on YouTube—unearthed this German version. Not speaking German, I have no clue what the words are in this one, but my brother and I agree that this one captures the Bonanza spirit we remember. Apparently, Bonanza was and is hugely popular in Germany.
From time-to-time on this blog, I’ve confessed to being enamored of various television characters. I have to admit that Adam (played by Pernell Roberts) was my favorite Cartwright son. By the time Roberts left the show in 1965, I was old enough to understand what a contract dispute was, but I was also completely willing to accept Adam going east to college. I thought he’d make a fine engineer and architect. I imagined a full, interesting life for him, traveling around the world on engineering projects.
Nostalgia is a funny thing.
The plots on Bonanza were—let’s be kind—often not up to the rigorous discipline I aspire to in my own writing. It was a foregone conclusion that any woman who became involved with Cartwright pére or fils would, by the end of the show, either be dead or have urgent business on the other side of the world. While they did make a token attempt to present conflicts based on racial intolerance, the resolutions always rested too much on the come join our melting-pot and be just like the rest of us for my liking. I was glad that the family had prospered and accepted that they’d worked hard for what they had, that did not give them, in the words of one version of the theme song “the right to pick a little fight.” Might didn’t make right, even on the Ponderosa.
And yet, I get nostalgic for life on the ranch. Perhaps it was the gorgeous scenery. Or maybe the equally gorgeous scenery of sweaty men and horses. Or that comforting myth that no matter what happens in the rest of the world, family will always comfort you, and there will always be food on the table.
I’ve been thinking a lot about nostalgia lately. About how we need that golden revery for things that we know darn well were made of baser materials. About how we get stuck in one time, in one place. There’s even a term for it, immobility of fragmentation. It means that when we move away from a place, what we expect to find when we return is that that place is just as it was when we left.
Is nostalgia a trap? I don’t know, but it’s an interesting idea to play with. I’m keen to write a mystery where nostalgia is the motive for murder. Maybe I’ll even find room in the story for a character name Adam. For old times sake.
Quotes for the week
Fortune smiled the day we filed the Ponderosa claim.
~Bonanza theme song, sung by Lorne Green
Our birthright is this Cartwright.
~Bonanza theme song, sung by Johnny Cash