Biography of Joseph Francis Cartwright
Written by Tye, June 2016
Joseph Francis Cartwright—nicknamed Little Joe because he’s the youngest of three brothers—is the only Cartwright to have been born on the Ponderosa. His mother, Marie died when her son was still very young. Little Joe—like his two older brothers—grew up without a mother, and is fiercely possessive of her memory.
Leaner and smaller in frame than his father and brothers, Joe is nevertheless agile and athletic. Born to the saddle, he’s a natural on horseback and is particularly attached to his paint pony, Cochise. (His famous swing-mount is legendary.) He’s also quick on the draw and, as a left-hander, wears his gun on that side. Boyishly good-looking, he knows how to turn on the charm with the ladies and is a shameless flirt. He falls in love too easily, but is apparently beset by the same ill fortune as his father and brothers when it comes to love, and his many romances are destined to fail or end in heartbreak.
As the youngest member of the Cartwright family, Joe exhibits a strong determination to prove his worth to his family. That, coupled with an impulsive and headstrong nature and a quick temper, often lands him in trouble. He can be stubborn and impatient, all too often rushing into situations before thinking them through rationally. On the other hand, like his father and brothers, he is driven by a strong sense of justice, and is troubled frequently by matters of conscience.
Of all the Cartwright men, Joe is the one who most often wears his heart on his sleeve. Despite his apparent self-confidence, he is easily hurt and is regularly overcome with emotion to the point of tears. The only one of Ben’s three boys prone to open displays of physical affection, he demonstrates a remarkable resilience to injury (which is as well since he is forever being shot or beaten up). He possesses an impish sense of humor and an infectious giggle, and is especially fond of a practical joke at the expense of his brothers.
Although all three brothers are close, Joe has a special bond with Hoss. Despite Hoss being the older by several years, it’s Joe who invariably takes the lead when the two of them are together, especially when it comes to scheming (for which Little Joe is renowned!). His well-meaning but hare-brained schemes invariably land both of them in trouble, leading to many entertaining misadventures.
Little Joe is a complex character, developing over the years from an eager, volatile and impetuous youth, to a well-balanced, mature man. But throughout, his energy, his sensitivity, his courage, and his loyalty to the people he loves remain constant.