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The Song That Changed Your Life: Picks

Bonanza! by Johanna Zomers

Immigrants to Canada, we were rural pioneers in a challenging landscape. Alone at the end of a tiny rural road, without hydro, running water, radio, telephone or television, we were happy with the childhood peasant games taught by our mother. Green summers, white winters passed.

Go play outside  Mother said.

What will we play?

Play the farmer with stolen geese 

It's no fun anymore we replied in Dutch. Mother suggested more favorites. Lost wooden shoes. Nope. Jumping over the polders.  Our imaginations needed more.

While we played, progress had crept into our valley and the general store placed the first television set on a  shelf above the counter. Village families discovered the need for a loaf of bread or a mousetrap at 9 pm on Sunday evening. We were among the last to discover the  magic which began precisely with the tiny dot of flame and that spectacular theme song. 

Enthralled, we claimed our heroic Cartwright personas. The shade under the apple tree became the Ponderosa. This was more like it:  a heroic family who rode through the flames licking at the map of Nevada, while the stirring theme echoed from the television grille cloth.

Once again, our play made sense. Every recreated episode began with us hollering the Bonanza theme at the top of our lungs. We galloped into the frame, met, smiled, doffed our hats, holding the reins loosely, confidently. We wheeled imaginary horses up cowpaths chasing rustlers and bandits. Our posses holed up along the ridge. As we played, our family dynamics took shape.

Brother Tony, authoritative as Ben. Me, the eldest, a reader and writer, happiest alone.  I staked claim to Adam. Sister Mary, charming as Little Joe. Bert, dependable Hoss. Little Henrietta, too small to gallop the pastures, stayed behind and made supper as Hop Sing. By the time our youngest brother arrived in 1963 and was anointed Sheriff Roy Coffee in his stroller, I had turned my attention to Nancy Drew and writing my own stories.  Bonanza was forgotten as  bicycles, hockey, and predictable adulthood claimed our lives. 

Until a recent health emergency.  It was our our best selves who gathered around our 87 year old fathers' hospital bed in response to his serious fall. The room was crowded.   Stalwart Ben, Little Joe, sensible Hoss.  Hop Sing brought the soup.  And Adam heard the song. Saw the flames.

Johanna Zomers is from Eganville, ON

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