Hoss finds a young Indian who's been left to die by his tribe because he is lame. He is brought to the Ponderosa, where the doctor is able to heal his leg so he can walk again. Hoss tries to teach him to overcome his hostility to the white man as well.
If the Pony Express is to survive the growing Indian problem must be addressed. When things get out of hand, it is Ben Cartwright who steps in to save the life of the Indian Chiefs son and secure a peace treaty.
A band of rowdy young punks accidentally kill a deputy in a barroom brawl. With Sheriff Coffee out of town, the mayor sends for legendary peace officer Wes Dunn to take his place temporarily and track down the gang. But it soon becomes apparent that Dunn is totally ruthless and brutal in the methods he uses to catch them.
Ben's old friend Joshua Norton is a brilliant inventor who has ideas for a new type of bridge. He is also an eccentric who fancies himself as, and dresses as, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. When Norton encourages Chinese mine workers to stand up for their rights and higher wages, the mine owner petitions to have him committed, and Ben tries to defend him.
Claire Armory comes to Virginia City to live with her brother Carl, an invalid neighbor of the Cartwrights. Carl encourages Claire to see Ben, and soon Claire and Ben fall in love with each other. But Carl is a manipulative man who uses his condition in order to get Claire to do what he wants, and tries to use her now to get money from Ben. Claire struggles with whether or not to break free from her brother and marry Ben.
Ben's cousin Matthew visits the Ponderosa, along with his ward Elizabeth and his son Jamie. Jamie is a spoiled and arrogant brat who constantly insults both his father and the Cartwrights. When Matthew decides to leave Jamie with the Cartwrights while he and Elizabeth visit San Francisco, Ben has his work cut out for him in teaching the young man a lesson in behavior.
Little Joe falls for beautiful young Wendy Daniels, who has arrived in Virginia City to wait for her father, who plans to start a stage and freight line there. Wendy has nothing but the highest praise for her father, but the town banker receives information that Daniels has not told Wendy the truth about his financial situation, a fact which could deeply disappoint the girl.
Against Ben's better judgment, Hoss hires drunken Will Smith as a ranch hand on the Ponderosa, hoping to straighten him out. It doesn't work out; he is soon fired for drinking on the job. Then Hoss discovers that Smith is actually a famous poet, William Warlock Evans. He determines to help turn Evans around to his former self.
Angered that his longtime friend, Ben Cartwright, would ask him to retire into easier work after 50 years of wrangling, aging ranch-hand Dan Tolliver falls in with two disgruntled drifters who plan to rob the Ponderosa payroll.
When it's unclear which of their two bullets, fired simultaneously, brought down a wanted horse thief, Little Joe allows his friend, rancher Morgan Tanner, to take the credit and claim the much needed reward money. But when the outlaw's brothers come to town for his body and revenge, Joe must make a difficult decision that will save his friend, but may destroy their friendship.
Four sisters come from Boston to try to prevent a property left to them by their uncle from being auctioned due to back taxes. They arrive the day of the sale but are short the full amount due. When Ben steps in and pays off all that is due, one of the sisters wonders what's Ben's motive. But are her suspicions aimed in the wrong direction?
Charlie is well liked by everyone. He's always full of stories and plans for making money. One day a man, with a reward on his head. tries to rob his livery stable and is accidentally killed by his own knife. When the man's family comes to town looking for revenge, Hoss has to try to let everyone know who was actually in that knife fight before Old Charlie gives up his life for the reward.
Special Deputy Hoss goes in search of the gunman who shot Little Joe, tangling with testy townsfolk, two crafty brothers, and their mother, who is more interested in protecting her sons than seeing justice done.
Maggie Dowling's father's indifferent insults about her appearance, and his embarrassing attempts at matchmaking, drive her to despair; but Little Joe intervenes to help her prod widower, Jared Wilson to declare his affections for her.