Native Texan & DeKalb's Favorite Son - Dan Blocker

Dan Blocker played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show Bonanza which ran from 1959 - 1973; second only to Gunsmoke as the longest running western. Standing 6'4" tall and weighing 320 pounds as an adult, Dan was a big child as well. When he was born in DeKalb, Texas on December 10, 1928, he weighed 14 pounds. His father and his poor, poor mother moved to O'Donnell, Texas when Bobby Dan ("Dan" was his stage name) was six years old and opened the Blocker Grocery Store. The grocery store provided a modest, but steady middle-class income for the family. It was a good thing they owned a grocery store as Bobby Dan grew to be 6' tall and weigh 200 pounds by the age of 12.

Dan played football at Sul Ross State Teacher's College in Alpine, Texas and then worked as a rodeo performer and a bouncer in a bar while earning a Master's degree. After graduating, Bobby Dan became a high school English teacher in Sonora, Texas before moving to California where he again took a high school teaching position. In 1951, he was drafted into the Army and went on to become an infantry sergeant in Korea. He saw a lot of action from December 1951 to August 1952 and received a Purple Heart for wounds he received in combat along with eight other medals.

With a Master's degree in theatre arts, it still took four years after his return from the war before he began to land appearances on various TV shows and small parts in a few movies. His big break came in 1959 when he won the part of Erick "Hoss" Cartwright when Bonanza began its run.

Playing a big, friendly, gentle giant, (a good reflection of him in real life), Dan was actually pretty tough. While shooting one of the episodes, Blocker's horse fell and threw him off, breaking his collarbone when he hit the ground hard. The bone was protruding from his skin when Dan got up, but he refused medical attention, stuck the bone back in place himself and resumed filming. After filming was finished for the day, he was convinced to go to the hospital where the broken bone was set. The doctor gave him strict instructions to not ride for six weeks. When he was allowed to ride again, evidently Blocker's horse forgot what it was like to carry the big man  because the first time Blocker swung up into the saddle, much to his embarrassment, the horse collapsed under his weight and the cast and crew collapsed in laughter.

Because of his unassuming, caring and down-to-earth ways, he was the television crew's favorite actor on the Bonanza set. According to all who knew him, he never forgot his small town upbringing and manners. Unfortunately, on May 13, 1972, Bobby Dan died in Los Angeles at the early age of 43 from a pulmonary embolism following gall bladder surgery. Bonanza lasted only one more season without Hoss. The 14th and final season ended on January 16, 1973. Dan, befitting his personality, is buried in a simple common grave next to three family members in the Woodsman's Cemetery in little DeKalb, Texas.


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