The Big Valley It’s a man’s world in the 1870s, especially in the Wild West. But when her wealthy California rancher husband leaves Victoria Barkley a widow, she doesn’t sell the property or pass the reins, as might be expected to one of her sons. Tough as nails and smart as any businessman, she steps into her late husband’s role; putting aside her elegant frocks to, literally, wear the pants in the family. Together with her sons and daughter, she sees to it the work of her late husband was not in vain. Viewers enter the lives of the Barkley’s six years after the patriarch’s death, becoming involved in their everyday action, adventure and drama, as the family pulls together to defend their land against swindlers and thieves of all sorts. Widow of successful rancher Thomas Barkley, Victoria Barkley is the gutsy, strict matriarch of the Barkley family, and owner of their ranch near Stockton in the San Joaquin Valley of California in the late 1800s. Sophisticated and intelligent, Victoria is as comfortable wearing jeans, a shirt and cowboy boots as she is donning a frilly dress. She may be tough and opinionated, but she also has a big heart. She loves her children and welcomes Heath, her late husband’s illegitimate son, with open arms as her own. Jarrod Barkley is the eldest Barkley son. A renowned and respected attorney, he is a refined gentleman, displaying impeccable manners and a sense of cool and calm. Though educated in the law and a believer in justice being served through the proper channels, he is not above doling out some frontier justice should a situation demand it. Jarrod handles the family’s legal and business dealings. Nick Barkley is as hotheaded as Jarrod is calm. Loud, boisterous and always poised for a brawl, Nick is more likely to settle an argument with fists than discussion. He might be gruff and impetuous, but he cares deeply for his family, is carefree, and has a sense of humor, is sensitive and well-read, not to mention, he looks rather dashing in his black leather vest, hat and gloves. Nick is in charge of the day-to-day work on the ranch, and though he is demanding of the ranch hands, he is also fair. Victoria’s only daughter, Audra Barkley, is truly cut from the same cloth. Like her progressive mother, she is bold, and can compete with the boys. In fact, unlike the women of her time, she rode her horse astride, not side-saddle. She is an accomplished rider demonstrating skills that might unseat many men. Though hardly demure and something of a tomboy, she is beautiful, fashionable, kind-hearted, though she can be a bit self-centered, she loves kids and would love to find a suitor who is as strong and confident as her brothers. The illegitimate son of Victoria’s late husband, Heath Barkley, is not easily accepted into the tight-knit Barkley clan. Nick and Audra are especially suspicious, and Heath must fight hard to gain their trust and acceptance. As he proves his worth and solidifies his position among the Barkley’s, he is respected and taken in as one of the boys. He becomes particularly close to Nick. He calls Victoria “mother,” and she, without hesitation, refers to him as her son, always reminding him, in times of insecurity, that he is a Barkley. Having grown up in poverty, he has a difficult time adjusting to a life of privilege. He is fair-minded and harbors no prejudice against others. He has a strong moral compass and is especially protective of Audra.