Do you think maybe the writer just wanted a reason to name Adam "Bull of the Woods"?
My daughters are I are not watching Bonanza
in order, and all have lists of episodes we want to watch, so whenever we have time for a few eps, there's always a bit of discussion on which episodes we're going to watch. So here's how I convinced them to pick this one last time:
Me: Let’s watch “The Prime of Life.”
Middle Daughter: Why?
Me: Adam is the Bull of the Woods.
Middle Daughter: He’s the what?
Me: Adam is the Bull of the Woods. He says ‘moo.’
Both daughters: “Sold!”
Ben's pity party seemed way out of character since he'd had hired help (usually ranch hands) die over the years.
I thought it made sense because this time Ben was quite directly responsible for the death. I was actually pretty annoyed at how people -- including the victim's daughter! -- insisted it was "just an accident." Using a block and tackle that was cracked like that was insane at the best of times -- and it was outright petty to do it over what would likely be a missed hour of work! That was about the most predictable 'accident' imaginable. Frankly, I not only thought Ben was right to feel responsible, I was surprised Hoss didn't feel guilty as well!
What I thought out of character was that Ben had a handshake agreement with the stable guy; a good businessman would want all his ducks in a row on a contract that important. I can see Ben having handshake agreements, just not with a guy who has the stable guy's attitudes.
This ep has one of my favorite saloon brawls. Hoss hangs his guy from a hook on the wall and Joe throws an extra punch when the fight finally ends. Adam looks fantastic as he swings his fists.
I also love the Bull of the Woods fight--how kind of the timber men to take turns.
. Hoss enjoys the fight from start to finish and I get a chuckle out of him holding back Joe.
Yes and yes. Also the last scene.
In the episode it was made to seem like an envelope of "guilt money" , but in reality it was workman's comp since Gabe died on the job from a preventable accident. His family was entitled to it.
Agreed. While it was a long way from the standard, it was not uncommon for good business owners to give the families of employees killed or injured on the job a cash settlement of some sort -- or to keep an injured or elderly worker on in some other facility, even if he wasn't technically earning the pay, which seems to have been the case with Gabe. And seamstresses didn't usually earn enough for a woman to support herself in any kind of comfort, let alone support a child. Although if they owned the house outright and had a good garden and whatnot, I suppose she could have done it -- also if she rented out rooms, which was one way widowed women often supported themselves. Although there were interesting exceptions on the frontier where women took over the family business after their husband died, for the most part women didn't have access to jobs that would support them very well. That's one reason there are etiquette books from the 1850s that told men, "You have a responsibility to marry!" If enough men refused to marry, there'd be a lot of women needing financial help from elsewhere.
Even though it seemed unfair to leave everything up to his sons, they were grown men. Plenty of men their ages and younger owned their own farms, businesses and/or ranches and they ran them without benefit of their "Pa". Since the Cartwright "boys" lived at home, fans seem to think of them as younger than they were.
Middle daughter spent much time during this episode yelling at the screen, "They are not boys! Adam's practically thirty!"
But I do think it was unfair of Ben, because businesses run on established trust relationships, still, and even more so back then, and first Ben maintained enough control his sons hadn't established those sorts of relationships yet, and second he just disappears on everybody. Sons taking over a business often do have a hard time convincing people they can do the job as well as their father, and Ben made that an even bigger challenge by demanding the boys take over completely so abruptly.
Two more little notes: firstly, I think part of Ben's guilt (or what he's questioning about himself) is how important the Ponderosa is to him. He's ALWAYS stood on the principle that people's lives are more important than land, yet his land means so much to him that sometimes in the earlier episodes he walks a fine line.
As someone earlier put it, part of Ben's problem is that keeping your priorities in order is important to him, and here he's gotten them so screwed up, someone died!
I also agree with you that seeing Joe influenced Ben, but I think all three of his conversations through that section did (son, employee's daughter, old rival). His problem was complicated, and having all three of them on top of each other was a nice way to address a lot of complicated issues in a short space of time. I think he needed Martha's forgiveness, but, perhaps even more importantly, he needed to hear her say that he has a responsibility to those still here, reinforcing Joe's point.