In 1959, the infamous Western Bonanza hit television with an hour-long pilot titled A Rose for Lotta. And it was a success from the start.
In the episode, the audience watched as the Cartwright brothers sat and overlooked their ranch and they discussed how the Ponderosa is close to heaven as it gets. And they agree that they’ll do whatever it takes to keep their land in the family.
The opening scene went down as one of the greatest classic TV moments in history. And it was met with just as much praise then as it does now.
In fact, after airing, television critics raved over the genius character introductions and instantly captivating story. And one famous critic was so captivated by the premiere that he couldn’t even remember one of the main characters’ names.
“I’m glad I tuned in to the first episode of Bonanza,” Will Jones, an After Last Night TV columnist wrote in The Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The writers faced a monumental chore here, with so many characters to motivate that even an hour show crowded them, and they proved ingenious.”
The Famous TV Critic Continued to Call the Star Character ‘Horse’
Jones then went on to give a full review of the installment, which included all the major details of the series. And unfortunately, the writer, who made a career out of being a true authority on all things entertainment, recalled Eric “Hoss” as “Horse.”
“First there are the main characters: Ben Cartwright and his three sons – Adam, Horse, and Little Joe,” he continued.
While at first the mistake could have been explained away as a misspelling, Jones went on to refer to the character incorrectly multiple times. And he even explained why the Cartwright family gave the man such a unique nickname. Though, in his defense, the explanation does work for his true name as well.
“The fight that ensued was broken up by Horse, the middle brother, so-named because he’s as big as one.”
And interestingly, Hoss actor Dan Blocker lived the nickname before the series even cast him in his part.
The ‘Bonanza’ Actor Was a ‘Hoss’ From the Start
Blocker was born on Dec. 10, 1928, weighing 14 pounds. And by the time he was a toddler, he had already shot to over 5 feet tall and 105 lbs. At 12, he was 6 feet tall. And by high school, he measured 6 ft 3, 275 pounds, and he wore a size 14 and a half shoe.
The actor passed away at only 43, while was still starring in the show. And he left behind a legacy of being a “huge man” with an equally as huge heart.
“Dan Blocker is one of the great tragedies that take place in a person’s life,” co-star Lorn Greene said in 1986. “A big, huge man, I referred to him as ‘my big son Hoss,’ 6-foot-3 anyway you want to measure it. He was a marvelous human being, a very bright, very bright man. Never hurt anybody in his life. And a little blood clot after an operation took him away. You expect a man like that [to not have] something horrendous to happen [to him].”