Bonanza Wiki
Bonanza episode
“My Brother's Keeper”
Season 4, Episode 28
#128 in Series
Air date April 7, 1963
Production code
Guest starring:
Written by Seeleg Lester
Directed by Murray Golden
Episode Guide
Previous Episode:
Mirror of a Man
Next Episode:
Five into the Wind
External links
My Brother's Keeper on IMDb


During a wolf hunt, Adam accidentally shoots Little Joe, and must get Joe home for the doctor’s attention so Joe can survive.


When Adam and Joe are hunting for a wolf that has killed calves, Joe takes off on his own, leaving Adam finishing up his coffee by their campfire. Joe spies some tracks and follows them on foot. Cochise is spooked and runs off, unbeknownst to Joe. Adam hears Joe fire his gun and goes to investigate. As he rides up to some rocks, Adam sees the wolf and can't resist taking a shot at it. Unfortunately, Joe emerges from the rocks at the same time Adam fires his rifle, shooting his brother instead of the wolf.

Joe falls to the ground, hit in the left shoulder, and the wolf pounces on him. The animal bites Joe, as he tries to fight it off. Adam rushes over, clubs the wolf with his rifle and then shoots it. Adam tends to Joe’s wounds and heads to the Ponderosa. He only has his own horse, so Adam puts Joe in the saddle and rides behind him. They have a long trip and don't get home until the next day.

As Adam and Joe near the ranch, they come upon Emmett Reardon and his daughter, Sheila, who are in Nevada on a "holiday", from Pennsylvania. They help Adam load Joe into their wagon and give them a ride the rest of the way to the ranch. Once they arrive, Adam tells Hoss what happened. Ben has just left on a trip to Placerville. Hoss goes for the doctor, while Adam removes the bullet from Joe's shoulder, with assistance from the Reardons.

Later, as they all wait for the arrival of the doctor, Adam invites the Reardons to stay the night, as it is late. When Hoss returns a short time later, he tells Adam the doctor wasn't in so he left a message. Adam is frustrated and laments that he shouldn't have let Joe go after the wolf alone. He also feels guilty for not using good sense, resulting in his accidentally shooting Joe. Mr. Reardon tries to comfort him by quoting Thoreau: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". He then says that Adam should think about that, as he will find that he is not alone.

Meanwhile, Sheila is worried about Adam blaming himself for Joe's plight. She thinks that because he is such a sensitive, educated man, he belongs back east, away from the violence of the west.

Dr. Hickman arrives and examines Joe. He tells Adam and Hoss he is out of the medicine that Joe needs to save him from the illness and fever from the wolf bites. He hands Hoss a prescription and sends him into town for the medicine, then leaves to tend to a woman who is in labor.

Hoss arrives at the druggist, only to find that the druggist is out of the ingredients needed for the medicine. Hoss learns he must now go to Genoa to get it. While at the druggist, three men, lead by a man named Dowd, tell Hoss they found a horse running loose near their spread with the same brand as Hoss' horse. Sure enough, Hoss looks out to see that it is Cochise that they found. Dowd wanted to find out who it was that did "some wild shooting" and panicked a herd of wild horses they had rounded up. The horses then broke through their fences, stampeded their cattle, and trampled some buildings. Hoss says that must have been Adam, when he shot the wolf that attacked his little brother. Dowd says that their damages are $1,000, "seeing as how it was a Cartwright that done the damage". Hoss tells him he will have to talk to Adam about it. He also asks Dowd to take Cochise to the Ponderosa and tell Adam he had to go to Genoa for the medicine.

Dowd and his men ride to the Ponderosa to tell Adam where Hoss went, but now demands $3,000. Adam says he thinks he is about $2,400 over. Adam tells Dowd they must wait until he can look at the damage for himself. Dowd gets nasty and demands the money now. Adam says he will have to wait and gives them 10 seconds to get off the Ponderosa. Dowd and his cronies then ambush Hoss and steal the medicine to hold it for ransom.

Meanwhile, Joe's fever is very high and he is thrashing about and delirious. As Adam tends to him, he cries out for Adam to get the wolf off him and that he is shot. Adam is very obviously upset, worried and consumed by guilt. Then Hoss arrives and tells him about Dowd stealing the medicine to hold it for $3,000 ransom.

As Adam and Hoss prepare to go out after the medicine, Sheila pleads with Adam not to lower himself to their level. Her father, however, tells her they have to get Joe's medicine and aren't going for the purpose of killing. Adam says that the west is full of animals and savages and "when this is all over, I'm going someplace where a man can live like a decent, human being". Before Adam and Hoss can get out the door, a rock flies through the window and Dowd shouts that they want their money and they mean to get it before they will give them Joe's medicine.

A shootout ensues. Adam sneaks around the side of the house and surprises one of the henchmen and has him drop his gun or he will "splinter his backbone". The second henchmen is on the roof at the window to Joe's room and he fires at Adam. Adam fires back and kills the shooter on the roof. Adam takes the other one inside, at gunpoint. Unfortunately, Dowd sneaks in a downstairs window and puts a gun to Mr. Reardon's head, as Adam is demanding to know where the medicine is.

Just as it appears that Dowd has the upper hand, Mr. Reardon whirls around and knocks the gun from Dowd's hand. Mr. Reardon then takes the medicine from Dowd and gives it to Adam. Adam gives Dowd a cold stare and tells him: "If this doesn't save my brother's life, I'm going to kill you."

Adam heads up to take care of Joe and Ben then arrives home. He also hurries up to see how Joe is doing. Hoss locks up Dowd and his men in the barn until morning. The rising sun finds that the medicine has worked it's magic and Joe's fever has broken. Joe immediately calls for Adam to come to his bedside. Both Adam and Pa arrive to find Joe on the mend. The Reardon's are then on their way and Adam forgets about leaving home.

Cast and Characters[]

The Cartwrights


  • Addison Richards: Dr. Hickman
  • Bob Miles: Gunman
  • Brendan Dillon: Emmett Reardon
  • Carolyn Kearney: Sheila Reardon
  • Jason Johnson: Vince
  • Ken Lynch: Dowd


Did you know?[]

  • German episode title: "Adam Cartwright und sein Problem", meaning "Adam Cartwright and his Problem".


"If this medicine doesn't save my brother's life, I'm going to kill you."
Adam Cartwright[src]




See also[]