Played by BOB HOY
The younger half of a pair of brothers who make up the backbone of the High Chaparral crew, Joe Butler is, perhaps, the quintessential cowboy: honest, dependable, respectful and highly skilled, and at the same time possessed of definite opinions and a sturdy practically from which he rarely strays. A man spare of words, Joe allows his actions, most often, to speak for him. His loyalties are secure, to his work, to his friends, and to John Cannon, but first and foremost, it seems, to his older brother and Chaparral foreman, Sam. He can usually be found siding with Sam whenever there is some bunkhouse controversy, and even at those times when Joe finds himself resistant to some stand or action "The Boss" has taken, his loyalty and affection for his brother can bring him around, just by the act of Sam's asking. But this is not to suggest that Joe possesses no opinions in his own right, and Sam readily acknowledges that Joe holds as much influence over the men as he, himself, does.
We know very little about Joe Butler's life before he came to the High Chaparral. We do not know if there was ever a significant woman in it. We do know that he and his brother were orphaned as children and raised in a town called San Felipe by a man named Ben Lynch; a man who subsequently banished Sam from the family for marrying the wrong woman. Of Joe's reaction, or actions, during this time, we know nothing, but we suspect that the younger Butler may have left San Felipe with Sam after his brother's wife deserted him. In any case, it seems that he was rarely out of Sam's company in the years between San Felipe and the High Chaparral, though the legality of their joint activities appears to be somewhat suspect before John Cannon hired them on.
Joe does not appear to have quite as close a personal relationship with the Cannon family as does his brother, although there is no doubt that he is well liked and well respected by all of them. When Sam leaves the ranch for some period, the whole family, including Victoria, agree that Joe is the obvious choice to replace him as foreman. And, after all, it is Joe whom John Cannon chooses to train as his chess partner - no small thing, that. Joe's closest friend, besides Sam, though, is probably Pedro. He is easy among the men, quick to laugh and not above a rough practical joke, whether it is leaving a snake in the bed of some newly hired cowpoke, or dumping the boss's son into a mud hole to keep him from getting too big for his britches. But as willing as he may be to tease and poke fun, Joe is just as quick to leap to the defense when a wrong needs to be righted, as when Blue's authority is challenged from outside. And there is a strong streak of sentimentality in Joe Butler, too. He genuinely cares about his friends, he is fond of children, appreciative of the beauty around him, and he loves his brother enough to defy his wishes to protect his life.
What we see when we look at Joe Butler is a powerful man, squarely built, solid and substantial. He stands with both feet firmly planted, sure of his ground. Joe's is a practical nature, and rather conservative in his opinions, certain that the world order includes a proper place for all things: women, working men, Indians and The Boss. If Joe's words are sparse, it is often his eyes and facial expressions that speak volumes. Whether bright with laughter when amused, or hard and flinty as obsidian when angered, his face generally says it all.
For all that he is a loyal follower and comfortable with the authority of others, Joe is also a talented leader in his own right. When Sam is absent Joe serves admirably as the High Chaparral foreman, even though we suspect he is very relieved when his brother finally returns to the ranch. The united front of the Butler brothers always seems to serve the High Chaparral best. (By Sheryl Clay)
See the Guide to Character Weight to determine in which episodes Joe Butler had major or minor roles.
Return to Bunkhouse
Return to Home/Contents