Howdy, everyone! As my screenname implies, Bonanza is my favorite show of all time, and I don't think that will ever change. There's just something the Cartwrights have that nobody else does, you know? Being a writer (as we all are), it's about time I wrote a proper fanfiction for my favorite show to express my love for it. So, without further ado, enjoy! Don't forget to leave me a review if you read. I desperately crave any comments you may have on my writing, whether they be of encouragement or criticism. And, if you enjoy this fanfiction, I welcome any comments you may have on any of my other stories, should you choose to read them as well. If you check out my profile, you'll see that I have very eclectic tastes, so there should be something there for everyone, from The Chronicles of Narnia to the Fantastic 4. And now, let's travel together to my favorite place on Earth - the Ponderosa.

Back on the Horse

Chapter 1

It had been a long trip, but the wide-eyed girl in the stagecoach didn't look a bit tired. The other passengers were attempting, quite unsuccessfully, to sleep, all except the tow-headed man seated across from her on the other side of the small vehicle. His eyes were fixed upon her form, which was oblivious to his lustful stare as it gazed out at the great country surrounding them. She held a handkerchief over her mouth to prevent the dust kicked up by the horses from clouding her lungs, but it was all she could do to keep herself from sticking her head out the small window. She had never seen land like this before; it was so rich, so bright, so alive, and so rugged. Of course, in her brief twenty years of life one could hardly expect that she would have seen such a sight, especially when she had previously claimed Maine as her home. She had been travelling for months, and, for someone who had barely stepped outside of her front door, the trip had been not merely overwhelming, but exciting as well. It was a pleasant turn of events from the past from which she so desperately desired to escape.

The neglected book in her lap fell to the floor, waking the other disgruntled passengers. The tow-headed man took this opportunity to bend at the waist and retrieve it for her.

"Thank you," she said with a grateful nod.

"My pleasure, Ma'am." He lifted a hand to the brim of his hat. "Where ya headed?"

"A town called Virginia City," she replied. "Is it much further?"

"'Bout twenty miles, I'd say."

A glowing smile flooded the girl's features instantly.

The man smirked. "You're not from around here, are ya?"

"Is it that obvious?" she laughed.

"Well, from the way you've been starin' out the window like it's the first time you've ever seen country like this, I'd say so."

"I've never seen anything like it." She turned her head once more to look out at the landscape passing her by, begrudging the man for momentarily distracting her from its beauty. "I mean, I've seen mountains, but none like these. They're so regal, so majestic."

"Once you live out here a while you don't stop to notice it."

"I don't see how that's even possible. I could look at something like this forever."

"What are ya doin' in Virginia City?"

"I'm coming to live with my grandfather," she said shortly.

"Well, then you'll get to look at it as long as you like."

She turned to look at the man and offered him a small smile.

"And, uh, if ya ever stop starin' at the scenery, I'd like to see more of yours."

Her face immediately hardened and she returned to the window.

"Ah, now, don't be that way, Miss. I meant no offense."

"I'm sure you didn't," she said briefly.

"It'd be hard for any man not to notice a body like yours."

The girl turned her head slowly to face him, eyes reduced to the size of two small slits, taken aback by his blunt observance. "Excuse me?"

"I just said you're very shapely, Ma'am."

"I may not be from around here, but that doesn't mean I don't know when I've been insulted."

"You misunderstand me. I meant it as a compliment."

"Thank you for retrieving my book," she said, ending the conversation abruptly and throwing her head back toward the window a third time.

The beauty of the mountains, melting with the golden sunshine that drenched the blue sky above, soon soothed her, but she refused to look at the tow-headed man again for the rest of the journey.

William Gillis walked out to his rig, adjusting the tattered hat upon his head as he went. He bent to check the front axel, shaking his head in frustration. He'd completely forgotten to replace it before starting to town, but there was no time now. He'd have to risk it. The stage would be arriving any minute and he didn't want to keep his granddaughter waiting, especially since she had no word that he'd be late. Still, it was a glorious day, the perfect one upon which to introduce her to his world. The shining expanse above was cloudless and the April rains had coaxed the green grass to burst forth from below the earth in vivid color, shimmering under the sun's rays. He clucked at the horses and slapped them lightly with the reins, urging them into motion. The buggy rattled along uncertainly but didn't give out. As the horses trotted along, William couldn't refrain from whistling. Nevada Territory had never appeared so beautiful since the day he had moved there. Perhaps it was because he was seeing it through new eyes, seeing it through the same eyes as she was at that very moment. The air, normally so stale in his nostrils, flowed in and out of his lungs as a foreign refreshment.

Suddenly the buckboard lurched and tipped. He had forgotten about the giant pothole in the road and driven right into it. He muttered several unsavory phrases under his breath as he jumped down into the road to check the axel. Sure enough, it was broken.

Another buckboard came into view on the horizon, making its way toward him at a leisurely pace. The driver pulled on the reins as it approached and stopped beside him.

"What happened, Bill?" Hoss Cartwright asked, observing the broken-down rig curiously.

"Oh, I wasn't payin' attention and drove right into this pothole, and my front axel's been weak for a while. I've been meanin' to replace it but I don't have time today. I gotta get to town, but I just cain't leave the horses."

"Lemme take a look. Maybe we can fix it up well enough to get to town so you can get that axel," Hoss offered, hopping down.

"Thank ya kindly, Hoss, but I'm in a hurry. My granddaughter's comin' in on the noon stage and I gotta be there to meet her."

"Oh, yeah, well, why don't you just go in with Little Joe and I'll stay here with the buckboard, see if I can fix somethin' up to get it to town."

"Are ya sure?" Bill questioned uneasily.

"Yeah, Bill, climb on up," Joe said from his seated position above them. "We wouldn't want ya to keep your granddaughter waitin'."

He looked from Joe to Hoss in trepidation but it only took him another second to decide. "You'd be doin' me a mighty big favor, boys."

"Think nothin' of it," Joe returned as the man climbed into the rig.

"I'll meet ya in town when I get this axel patched up," Hoss said, and with that Joe hit the reins, and he and Bill Gillis took off down the road.

"Looks like we're right on time, Bill," Joe said satisfactorily as they rode into Virginia City just in time to see the stage pulling into the station. He turned to look at the older man with a smile, surprised to find his companion's features much less excited; in fact, he appeared anxious. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"I haven't seen my granddaughter in fifteen years, Joe, since I moved out here to strike it rich."

"I'm sure she'll be happy to see ya," Joe assured him, slapping him on the back jovially.

"She's a woman now, Joe."

"Ah, things might be a little different now that's she's grown, but I wouldn't be too worried about that." He stopped the buggy in front of the post office and they walked up to the red box on wheels as the passengers filed out – the tow-headed man, an older couple, and a stunning young woman in an emerald frock with a matching bonnet, adorned with two white feathers, resting delicately upon her rich, auburn tresses.

Little Joe was immediately taken aback by her deep brown eyes, which snapped with anticipation as she alighted from the stage. He was oblivious to the fact that his legs had ceased to move, and simply stood gaping at her cherry-colored lips, which broke into a dazzling smile as her grandfather approached her.

"Grandpa!" she cried jubilantly, throwing her arms about his neck.

"Is that you, Avvie?" Bill chuckled and squinted at her a moment before squeezing her tight about the waist, then pulling away to take a good, long look at her. "I'm glad you knew it was me, 'cause I'd never a known it was you."

"It's been a long time."

"Too long," he countered.

She nodded.

"Well, let's get your bags. I want ya to meet a friend of mine. Little Joe!"

At the mention of his name, the young man snapped back into action and hurried over to meet Bill's granddaughter.

"This here's Little Joe Cartwright, Avvie. My rig broke down a couple miles outside a town and he drove me in so's I could meet ya. I couldn't be late for that, now could I?"

The pretty maid blushed at the kindness of her grandfather's words.

"I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr. Cartwright. I'm Avonlea Summers." She extended her hand.

"The pleasure's all mine, Ma'am," he replied, gently lifting it to his lips.

The color that had been fading from her cheeks instantly returned, putting her previous blush to shame with its redness. She withdrew her hand and turned her face away, embarrassed at the overt expression of her immediate attraction to this man.

"Lemme help ya with your bags," he offered as the driver lowered a large valise and two bulging carpetbags onto the platform.

"Thank you, Mr. Cartwright."

"Just call me Joe, Ma'am," he corrected with an assuring smile.

"All right, but only if you call me Avonlea."

"You've got yourself a bargain." He winked at her, causing her cheeks to flame conspicuously once again, and then proceeded to lift her luggage and load it into the buggy.