The Last Straw

(7 February 1980)

Writer: William Parker,

Director: Harry Harris,

Music: Alexander Courage



"As the Second World War raged on in Europe and the Pacific those of us on Waltons Mountain were adjusting to the quickened pace of wartime living. Our family was enjoying a degree of prosperity previously unkown, but our changing fortunes were bringing changing values. And so it was to my father, who's strength had always been an unquestioned source of assurance that the pain of doubt and uncertainty would come"


Easy Jackson helps with the work at the mill but, as usual, works slowly. While hurrying to deliver an order John topples over the load of lumber on a sharp curve in the road. At supper the children talk about Ben while John remains quiet, upset at becoming further and further behind. After John returns to the mill, the family comments about how tired he looks. Jeffrey also has a problem - he needs to find a school project but can't decide what to do. Cindy suggests a soapbox racer and Jim Bob remembers a set of plans that he used when trying to build a racer but, instead, got the mumps. Out at the mill, John labors over paperwork.


In the morning Jim Bob and Jeffrey look over the racer plans while Cindy waits for Jim Bob to unstop her drain so she can take a bath. Upon taking food out to her father, Mary Ellen finds J.D. leaving the mill upset at John for being late on an order. Jim Bob quickly leaves Jeffrey when he realizes his father expects him at the mill. Easy emerges from the house after Rose fixes him a sandwich to find John upset at him for not loading the truck an hour ago. Easy tries to quickly complete the job by driving the truck toward the lumber. However, the truck backs into the mill and traps Jim Bob underneath the wood and equipment.


At the hospital Dr. Vance tells John and Mary Ellen that Jim Bob has a simple fracture and a mild concussion. Back home, Easy apologizes to Jim Bob. After Jim Bob and Mary Ellen go inside, John fires the man. Jason is not sure it was a good idea, with the shortage of manpower. John says he doesn't need that kind of help. Jason and John begin to clean the mill. Later John goes to the co-op hoping to find extra machinery. But, Joe Murdock says he can't help.


The family discusses what color to paint Jeffrey's racer. John walks inside to say that the old saw could be used to finish the orders. But as the job begins, the saw burns out. John can't believe it and decides to give up, to quit. That night, Jeffrey and Jim Bob work on the racer while John sits on the porch without a care in the world. Mary Ellen joins him to reminisce when she was a little girl. She wonders if he is okay. John says he has cut his 'last piece of lumber'. Mary Ellen compares battle fatigue of a soldier to his condition.


Over breakfast the next morning Cindy writes a letter to Ben while John happily joins the group, hoping to take the boys up on the Mountain to hunt rabbits. Jason and John later go hunting, saying it has been "a dog's age" since they last went hunting. Just before shooting a rabbit John recounts the time that John-Boy killed the bear while on a turkey shoot and saved his life.


In the barn, Rose helps Jeffrey by attaching a wheel to the racer. On the supper table John prepares his fishing lures while reminding Elizabeth about 'Old Joe' the ten-foot catfish they are trying to catch today. Later John enters Ike's store hoping to convince him to play pool. Since Corabeth is in Charlottesville shopping for perfume Ike agrees to close the store. After many games and drinks of The Recipe Corabeth finds the men intoxicated saying, 'What in the name of Job is going on?' That night Jason receives a telephone call from Corabeth wondering if he has seen Ike. Jason says no, also unsure where John is. Jason finds the two at the Dew Drop Inn, even drunker than before. Jason marches them home until they reach the bridge over Drucilla's Pond. Ike and John tumble into the water, taking Jason with them. Later that night John tells the family he has been gong through a tough time and has been acting like a kid. He says it is time to clean up the mill, look for new machinery, and somehow get back to business.


In the morning Jeffrey's racer is finished but at the store Ike tells him the All-American Soapbox Derby people have postponed the race until after the war ends. Jeffrey is disappointed, telling Ike to keep the racer. With John fixing up the mill, Easy asks for his job back. Just then J.D. drives up telling John he is glad he is back in business, happy to deal with him rather than others. Cindy talks with Ben over the telephone, glad he is coming home for the weekend. Elizabeth and Serena try to lighten Jeffrey's mood when Jim Bob says Ike has stopped by. Ike announces they will conduct their own time trials complete with scarf and goggles. Rose fires the gun and pulls the rope to start the race. Jeffrey crosses the finish line to the applause of everybody. Ike presents Jeffrey a trophy for winning the first annual competition.


John and Easy drive in to find Ben, Joe Murdock, and other men working on the mill. Matt Server has even sent a new joiner. John thanks all of his friends and his family saying he will never give up again.


"Thanks to the efforts of friends and family the mill was soon back in operation. My father, armed with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence continued to serve as a source of strength and assurance in the days to come".


Serena: Elizabeth, are you sure there's a 10 foot catfish in Drucilla's pond?
Elizabeth: I'm sure.
Serena: Did you ever see it?
Elizabeth: No, but it's there.
Serena: I don't believe it.
Jim Bob: Will you girls be quiet I'm trying to get some sleep.
Serena: How d'you know it's there if you've never seen it?
Elizabeth: 'Cos Daddy told me. Goodnight Daddy.
John: Goodnight Honey.



Ike owed John fifty cents while betting on their pool games when Corabeth stopped the activity.

Jeffrey's racer is red with 'Godsey's Store, Walton's Mountain, Virginia' written across it.

John comments to Jason about the time John Boy killed a bear and saved his life. The incident occurred on The Hunt (season one, episode four).


Also appearing:

Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards), Cindy Walton (Leslie Winston), Rose Burton (Peggy Rea), Serena Burton (Martha Nix), Jeffrey Burton (Keith Mitchell, John Curtis (Michael and Marshall Reed), Easy Jackson (Britt Leach), Joe Murdock (Ted Gehring), J.D. Pickett (Lewis Arquette), Carl (Bob Hastings), Dr. Vance (Victor Izay).