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Bonanza episode
“A Matter of Circumstance”
Season 11, Episode 28
#28 in Series
Air date 19 Apr. 1970
Production code
Guest starring:
Written by B.W. Sandefur
Directed by William F. Claxton
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What Are Pardners For?
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A Matter of Circumstance


During a cattle drive, Joe stays at home to wait for a new cook. While he's waiting Joe is injured by a spooked mare during a storm. He spends the rest of his time tending to his injuries and keeping himself alive even if it means amputating his own arm.


There’s a storm brewing and everyone is preparing for the cattle drive.  Hop Sing goes to the barn to tell Joe that Hoss is ready to go any minute.  Joe is just finishing preparing the horses as well as Ben’s.  While Joe is in the barn a mare gets spooked by the wind and thunder, Joe calms her down then leaves the stable with Chub and Buck. 

Hoss and Ben come out of the house with Hop Sing and each takes their respective horses.  Hop Sing isn’t going on the cattle run since his cousin is sick, Joe points out that Hop Sing always happens to have a sick cousin every time they go on a drive.

Since Hop Sing can’t make the drive, Joe has hired another cook called Griffin and is staying behind to meet him at the Ponderosa and then he’ll meet everyone at Beaver Flats.  Ben judges that Joe should be there by sundown the next day with a lot of people ready to eat.   Everyone leaves including Hop Sing.


The storm is unrelenting and Joe looks at the sky, he then hears the mare in the barn again spooked by the noise of the storm and the banging doors,  Joe goes into the barn.  The mare is out of its stall and is scared, Joe slowly tries to calm her down and takes her reins patting her as he takes her back to a stall.  He goes to tie her to the stall when she rears up again due to the thunder and banging, she knocks Joe over and he falls down, this time the horse rears up and brings her hooves down missing Joe by inches.  She rears up again but this time brings her hoof down on Joe’s leg, he screams.  The horse continues to rear up and hit Joe until he falls unconscious.


Joe is lying on the ground he has a wound on his left arm and his face has been grazed, the mare is no longer scared and is scraping at the ground next to Joe.  Joe stirs and sees the horse he crawls away from her and he attempts to walk but doubles over in pain.   He has moved a fair distance from the mare and looks up, his vision is blurry and he crawls some more to the other side of the barn.  He makes it to the corner and manages to stand on his good leg against a cabinet.  He smashes the door to the cabinet and pulls out a bottle full of liquid.  He attempts to sit down but all he can do is flop haphazardly against the


sacks in pain.   He uncorks the bottle and drinks the liquid inside it, the bottle reads ‘Colic Remedy and Pain Killer.  For Equus.  And Bovine’(sic).   Joe reaches for a saddle blanket and hugs it for the little warmth it provides, he drinks from the bottle again and looks around but he can’t focus properly everything is swimming before his eyes.  Joe attempts to get up again but collapses instead.

Ben comments on how small their cattle numbers are and Candy tells them that not all of them are there, due to the weather they’ve bed themselves down in the brush.


Joe wakes up due to a leaky roof dripping down on his face he looks around and sees a lantern hanging on a post.  Joe uses a broom to unhook the lantern and lights it with matches that are on the table next to him.  Joe then crawls around the table and grabs a chair, as soon as he grabs it he smashes it to pieces.   Joe then grabs a couple of leather straps hanging near him.

Back at the drive everyone is camped down for the night.  Hoss is grumbling because he’s cold.  He’s jealous that Joe is back home sitting in front of a warm fire with a hot toddy.


Joe picks up the broken pieces of chair and positions himself so that he can thread his bad leg through a fence, he then uses his other leg to pull against his bad leg and straighten it leading to some very intense pain for him.    

A boy is waiting outside a chuckwagon, he looks bored.  He peeks in the wagon and then climbs up and scoops some water with a ladle from a barrel and pours it into the wagon.  A man appears soaking wet asking him why he did that.  The boy tells him that he was having trouble waking him since he was drinking the previous night.  The boy tells him that his drinking has cost them 6 hours and most likely the job with the Cartwright’s.  The man scolds the boy for being just like his mother and tells him to hitch up the horses since he’s anxious about the job, the boy goes to do as his father tells him.


Joe is asleep in the corner of the barn, his leg is all tied up in a splint and he’s wrapped up in a blanket.  Griffin arrives at the Ponderosa and shouts his presence.  His son tells him that no one is there and they all left without them.  Griffin tells his son to look in the barn, he climbs down from the wagon and runs to the barn and opens the door, he peeks in but doesn’t go in, from his point of view there’s no one there.  He runs back to his father and they leave.


Joe wakes up just as they have left, his eyesight is still swimming and he can’t focus properly, using a broom Joe gets up and moves across the barn, he’s clearly struggling but makes it anyway.  He goes to Cochise's stall and unties her from her stall.  Joe manages to pull her out and leans against her and starts crying.  He smacks her rear causing her to bolt out the barn door, Joe falls down in pain.  He grabs the broom and limps outside.  He see Cochise outside and then makes his way to the house.


Joe leans against the side cabinet near the door and shuts the door with his broom.  He leans there for a while and then the clock strikes 12.  He looks at the clock and then his arm then sees a decanter on the table on the far side of the room.  He limps towards it using the broom as a crutch, grabs the bottle and then makes his way to the corner of the house where they usually eat.  There’s another side cabinet in the corner and he opens the drawer there and pulls out a pile of napkins and throws them on the floor.  He then lowers himself to the ground somewhat haphazardly and carefully removes his jacket, he then tears his sleeve to reveal a nasty wound on his arm, and it’s all swollen and bruised.   He removes the stopper on the decanter and drinks from it before pouring it over his arm.  He picks up a napkin and puts it on his arm, he smiles then begins to tear the napkins with the help of his teeth, while doing so he mutters “This is a hell of a day” while laughing slightly at his predicament.  He wraps the torn piece of napkin around his arm.

Griffin stops his wagon and his son asks why they’ve stopped.  Griffin tells him because they’ve reached the Flats and this is where they’re supposed to meet everyone.  His son tells him that it looks like no one has been through here and his father tells him it’s because they’ve arrived before them.  His son doesn’t want to wait around and his father asks him why.  He tells him that the longer they leave it the more chance they have of hiring another cook.  His father doesn’t like his son pestering him all the time but his son tells him that they should move on because it won’t be that hard to look for a herd of cattle and once they show up they’ll be grateful for the food and won’t get mad because they’re late.  His father tells him that if they miss the herd he’s going to leave him home next time.

The clock strikes 4 and Joe has been asleep on the floor in the corner where we last saw him, he slowly wakes up and peers at the clock and again laughs to himself and says “Four o’clock and all is well.”  Joe realises now that he’s cold and decides he needs to build a fire, he hops over to the fireplace and opens the log chest, it’s empty.  He laughs to himself and says “That’ll teach you not to bring in the wood at night.”  Joe hears a bell ringing and it takes him a while to realise it’s the bell outside that someone rings when they come to visit.  Filled with hope he makes his way outside shouting for someone only to find it really windy and no one there.  The wind is the only visitor Joe has, he lets out a laughing cry.

Back at the drive everyone is taking a break, Hoss asks what’s for supper, Candy tells them it’s jerky same as what they had for breakfast.  Hoss grumbles.   Hoss finally asks where the wagon is because he’d rather start the morning by eating something substantial now.  Ben tells him that Joe knows where they are so they’re probably on their way.  Hoss wants to be sure so he rides out to see if he can find them.

Back at the ranch Joe is filling a sack with wood for the fire.

Hoss manages to find Griffin’s wagon trundling along on the dirt track, he introduces his son as Tim to Hoss.  Hoss asks him where Little Joe is and Griffin tells him that they must have missed their connection and they came out without him.  Hoss shrugs it off and believes that Joe will catch up with them; his main goal is getting the wagon back to camp so Griffin can cook supper.


Joe is in the kitchen butchering a piece of beef, he then hobbles over to the stove and throws his steak in the pan.  It’s sizzling nicely.  Joe stares at the flames coming from the stove, he seems to be mesmerised by the dancing flames.  While he’s staring through his blurred vision he begins to feel dizzy, stumbles, spills some pots and pans on the floor and then falls to the ground, he gets back up and makes his way to the sink, it seems so far away .  He finds it hard to concentrate on his goal, he managed to get to the sink only to lose consciousness as he reaches it.


Back at the drive Griffin is making sure everyone has been fed and everyone is stuffed.  Hoss of course still has room for more, and complements Griffin on his cooking.  Tim comes in to take the cook pot away and Ben queries Joe’s absence and their missed connection, Tim starts to tell them that they didn’t miss the connection and that they did go via the house but is stopped by his father mid sentence.  Ben looks confused, since he didn’t know they had been to the house thinking that they had just come straight to the Flats.  Griffin tells Ben that they were a couple of hours late and put it down to Joe going ahead of them because of that.  Hoss isn’t so sure since his only job was to meet them before coming to the Flats.  Griffin and his son start to panic and Griffin tells them that there was no one there and Tim checked the barn as well.  Ben tells them not to worry about it and that Joe will be along soon, they thank Ben and leave the tent.  Ben believes that Joe probably rode into Virginia City to look for a new cook, Hoss thinks he's probably right.


Back at the house the stove is cold and the steak has turned into a lump of charcoal.  Joe is lying on the floor by the sink and he’s stirring and sweating.  When he moves to get up his left side causes him pain, he knows something isn’t right and slowly lifts his left arm.  His whole arm including his hand has swollen and doubled in size.  Joe realises that his predicament is more serious than he previously thought, he rushes to the front room as best he can falling over a dining room chair.  He reaches a bookshelf in Ben’s office and pulls out a medical book.  He takes the book to the table and flicks through the pages stopping on the chapter X, ‘Gangrene’.  He reads through the symptoms and comes to the conclusion that amputation is the only answer to save his life.  Joe looks at chapter IX titled ‘Amputation’.  Joe looks at his left swollen hand, he reads some more, the book tells him that a poultice of tea and tobacco is sometimes valuable.


Joe is back in the kitchen; he’s cooking up napkins in his tea and tobacco solution and draping them over his swollen arm.  He’s sweating even more and is finding it hard to stay awake, the book tells him to keep the poultice on his arm.  Joe thinks back to the barn and the mare that was scared of a door and some lightning, he tells himself that he doesn’t blame the mare but he does blame the door and the lightning and starts laughing to himself.   Joe likes his medical book as it tells him what he needs to know, he reads from it.   Joe tells himself if only Hop Sing could see his kitchen now, he can hear him yelling in Chinese.  Joe starts to cry.  He tells himself that everything is going to be alright, and then focuses his attention back to the poultices.

The next day at the drive camp Candy tells Ben and Hoss to hurry up but they tell Candy to go ahead.  Candy asks what’s wrong and Hoss tells Candy they want to check on Joe and make sure he doesn’t come back with an extra chuckwagon. 


Back at the house Joe is heating up a honing rod in the stove.  He sits back down and within his eye line the cleaver he used to chop his steak with is stuck in the chopping block where he left it.  Joe picks up a bottle of whiskey and drinks from it, he looks at the medical book and slowly closes it.  He looks over at the cleaver on the chopping block, the chapter on gangrene flashes in his mind and he focuses on certain words and passages he read.  Joe picks up the honing rod that’s been sitting in the stove for a while.  Joe makes his way towards the chopping block.

Outside Ben and Hoss arrive back home.  Ben spots Cochise wandering outside.  On closer inspection Ben notices dried blood on her.   Hoss checks out the barn while Ben looks inside the house.


Ben enters the house and looks around.   He notices Joe’s gun belt still on the side cabinet, he then notices the dining room chair tipped over and goes to pick it up.  As he does so he notices Joe’s jacket on the floor on the other side.  He picks up Joe’s coat and notices the blood on it.  He runs to the kitchen and almost trips over some pots and pans on the ground.  Ben looks around the kitchen and sees Joe on the ground and runs over to him.


In his room Joe is in bed with his arm all bandaged up, the doctor is there with Ben and Hoss.  The doctor tells Ben that the book Joe read was entirely correct and that Joe’s diagnosis was correct also however he was premature.  The doctor tells Ben that amputation is a harsh remedy and fortunately due to the infection Joe didn’t have the strength to do it.  Ben is visibly upset that Joe went through what he did, the doctor tells Ben it will take a while but he’ll be fine.  Hoss finally says that Joe would do anything to get out of a round up.

Cast and Characters[]

The Cartwrights[]



  • Ted Gehring: Griffin
  • Vincent Van Patten: Tim