Episode 17 - The Fox

(15 January 1976)
Writer: Max Hodge.
Director: Richard Thomas.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"In the days of my boyhood on Waltons Mountain it was not only home to me but to the wild animals roaming the woods, and though they were not always welcome guests in our house, they were reasonably free and without fear. Sometimes though a threat to their lives would appear".


Ben walks to the mill with a trap in order to catch a fox that has been raiding their chicken coop. John and Elizabeth walk up to find that Ben wants to go into the fur business. John shows Ben the cruelty that happens when an animal is caught in such a trap. John recommends a box trap that doesn’t hurt the animal. Grandpa tells John where he thinks good Virginia pine lumber is located. John decides to thin them out. Grandpa wants to go to the Charlottesville reunion of the Veterans of the Spanish-American War. He states that he rode with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in the Battle of San Juan Hill.


Olivia and Grandma make a cake, but Olivia wishes for the day when she can buy one already frosted. John-Boy walks in quoting poetry. Grandma thinks he is getting to be more like Zeb every day. Olivia says, “Is that bad?” and Grandma just smiles. John-Boy walks in on Jason who is practicing his guitar on John-Boy’s bed. John-Boy says he is interested in submitting a story for Adventure magazine because they pay two cents a word according to Writer’s Digest magazine. Jason doesn’t think John-Boy has any experience writing about adventure, saying two possible titles could be: “How I shot a Turkey and Missed” and “Stalking the Jungle of Walton’s Mountain with Slingshot and BB”.


Jim Bob turns on the radio but has trouble tuning to a channel. He thinks the (vacuum) tube is burned out, and Jason agrees with him. Grandpa doesn’t like the idea of missing Amos ‘n Andy and Jim Bob will miss Gangbusters. Jim Bob says he has nothing to do, and Grandma suggests he do some chores. Grandma likes the peace and quiet at the end of the day, without the noise of the radio. The kids ask where sugar is made, and Grandpa remembers seeing sugar cane when on his war adventure in Cuba. Grandpa recounts his story of the Battle of San Juan Hill. It was early morning July 1, 1898...gathered in front of San Juan Hill...the sun rose up high...burning, blazing hot...shapnel, machine guns heard...magnificent voice says...it’s your own Gatling guns...Teddy Roosevelt “Dress on the colors”...enemy pill boxes...someone’s been shot...we charged up the hill...to the very crest of the hill...village of Santiago...planted red bandana on top of San Juan Hill. Grandma doesn’t like the talk of war, and reminds Zeb that her father gave her that red bandana on her wedding day. The kids and Grandpa scream and yell at the conclusion of his story. John-Boy looks on, thinking about this as a possible story for his adventure article.


Maude Gormley asks Ike why peas are marked at eleven cents when they were nine cents last week, and why is five pounds of sugar marked at nineteen cents? Ike says he can’t help it because his suppliers raised their prices. John-Boy comes in to find that Mrs. Gormley’s cat (Prudence) is missing. John-Boy needs a number-two lead pencil sharpened. Ike gives John-Boy an article in yesterday’s paper about a reunion of the Spanish-American war in Charlottesville. Allen McCreary is in charge of the event. Ben convinces Elizabeth to try the fox trap. She puts a stick inside the trap and the lid comes quickly down. Jim Bob is still playing with his yo-yo. Ben hopes to make a lot of money, quoting Grandpa who says, “Great oaks come from little acorns”.


John-Boy visits Mr. McCreary in his office. McCreary thinks Zeb was in the second brigade, after John-Boy looks at a picture marked “Cuba July 1898”. John-Boy says he has an idea about an article involving a reenactment of the charge up San Juan Hill on Walton’s Mountain. McCreary is excited about the possibility, adding a parade to the festivities. McCreary says will be a lot better than the basement of the Methodist Church, which gets awfully hot in July.


Grandma and Olivia shine the silverware as they talk about why Grandpa is against going to the war reunion. Grandpa comes in wondering where is his “little chickadee”. John-Boy comes in to say that he doesn’t have to go to the reunion, because the reunion is coming to him. Grandpa wonders who thought of that fool idea. John-Boy says it was his idea. Grandpa says that they can keep it in Charlottesville. When John-Boy tells Olivia and Grandma that they plan on having a reenactment, Olivia thinks it is glorifying war. Grandma says it was not fun for those that stayed home, and not fun for those that went, even though they say it was fun.


John-Boy tells McCreary that his family was against their plans, so he’ll have to cancel them. But McCreary says it is important to him to keep the plans because the newspaper has already published the speech he’ll give, all the town is planning, he’s decorated his car, and has even cleaning his old uniform. John-Boy returns to tell Grandpa that he couldn’t cancel the reunion, but they will have it on the other side of the Mountain.


A fox has been caught in the trap. Ben can’t believe his good luck. He calls all the other children over to see the animal. They talk about women wearing dead foxes around their shoulders. Ben says he will whack the fox over the head to kill him. Elizabeth is upset about doing such a thing to the fox. Ben says he might buy some chlorophyll to put him to sleep. Mary Ellen says that is an improvement over being whacked over the head. Elizabeth tells Olivia what Ben’s plans are for the fox. Grandma tells John-Boy not to blame himself over the reunion. Several of Zeb’s buddies were killed on the battleship Maine, and he was upset. Grandma said she told him that war is for single men and forbid him to go. Grandma finally told him to go off to war because she didn’t want him to hate her for making him stay. Grandma gets upset at remembering all of those memories. John-Boy gets a long-distance call and rushes off to Ike’s store. Grandma and Olivia hug each other.


At Ike’s store, John-Boy gets a call from McCreary. Only three men responded to his reenactment idea, and all three didn’t like the idea. The four men will go to the Methodist church and have dinner at the diner. He is very disappointed. John-Boy returns home to find that most of the family is at a prayer meeting. Grandpa has left a message saying, “Gone to the Mountain. Be back when the war is over.”


Ben stares at the fox, unsure what to do with him. Elizabeth says he wants to kill the fox to buy firecrackers. Ben thinks he might keep him as a pet. In animal years, Olivia says the fox is about the same age as Ben. Both have a full life in front of them. Olivia says it is not fair to cage the animal so it can see all of life around it but can’t join in. Ben decides to let him go. The fox races off into the forest. Elizabeth gives her brother a kiss, as does Olivia her son. Old Blue sounds off as Zeb sits next to him at an old cabin. John-Boy finds him to tell than that the reunion has been called off. Zeb tells his grandson that he has been telling a white lie for over forty years. Zeb says that he never was a member of the Rough Riders. He was in the army, but only tended mules. He never made the charge up San Juan Hill. He couldn’t tell Esther the miserable truth. After a while it got to be believable to him, too. Zeb asks John-Boy, “Is it so criminal to want pleasant memories?”


John-Boy and Zeb return with Mr. and Mrs. Bob Allerton visiting Esther in the living room. The man knows Zeb, but Zeb doesn’t recognize the man. Finally, Zeb remembers “little Bobby Allerton”. Bob says Zeb saved his life in Cuba. Just before the charge up San Juan Hill, Bob was one of the first men hit. Zeb tied a red bandana around his leg and carried him to the aid hospital while bullets screamed around his ears. Grandma wonders what happened to that red bandana. Bob shows them the bandana. Zeb and Esther, with tears in her eyes, share a glance.


"Grandpa's story of the charge up Sanwan Hill was different when he told it after that, but in many ways more satisfying to him and his listeners. Just at dusk of that day, Grandpa rode alone up Waltons Mountain. Perhaps it was Sanwan Hill he saw there at sunset. This time there was only silence and peace, and this time he made it all the way to the top. I wrote my story for Adventure Magazine but it was rejected with a terse note from the Editor - Not interested in the Spanish-American War".


Elizabeth: Ben, don't you feel good, letting the fox go?
Ben: Well, what am I going to do for firecrackers on the Fourth?
Elizabeth: How about me? Pop! Bang! Bang! Moo!
Ben: You wouldn't fool anyone.
Grandpa: Who's shooting off firecrackers this time of night?
Elizabeth: See! I fooled Grandpa!
Grandma: Old Man now don't you encourage their foolishness. You children go to sleep!
Ben: Ok goodnight.
Elizabeth: Goodnight.
Everyone: Goodnight.
Elizabeth: Boom!
Everyone: Pow! Bang! Shutup! Boom! Bang!
Grandma: Oh, good Lord....



It is the summer because Grandma says John-Boy is happy that summer vacation is almost here. And it is around the end of June or the beginning of July because Mr. McCreary says that the Methodist Church gets awfully hot in July and Ben doesn’t have any firecrackers to shoot off on the fourth of July.

Information about the Battle of San Juan Hill can be found at: http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/The_Great_Republic_By_the_Master_Historians_Vol_IV/thebattle_bg.html

Information about Writer’s Digest magazine can be found at: http://www.writersdigest.com/aboutus.asp.

Information about Amos ‘n Andy can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/2587/.

Gangbusters was one of the most popular and classic successes of old time radio. It ran for 21 years on various networks from 1936 to 1957.

Zebulan Tyler Walton is mentioned as Grandpa’s full name.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Allen McCreary (Frank Ferguson); Bob Allerton (George Chandler); Elaine Allerton (Arline Anderson); Maude Gormley (Merie Earle).