(First USA transmission 5 October 1972)
Writer: John McGreevey.
Director: Robert Butler.
Music: Arthur Morton.
"A mountain has no need for people, but people do need mountains. We go to them for their beauty, for the exhilaration of standing closer to mysterious skies, for the feeling of triumph that comes from having labored to reach a summit, and I remember a day in the 1930s when I went to Waltons Mountain in search of manhood".
John-Boy aims his father’s old gun at chickens in preparation for his first turkey hunt tomorrow. Elizabeth and Jim Bob look on as Olivia wonders what she’ll do for eggs if her son murders her laying hens. John-Boy says that he’s going to bring back the biggest turkey gobbler. Mary Ellen sneaks up behind him, popping an air-filled paper bag. John-Boy becomes mad at her antics. Mary Ellen says the gun is so old that he could never hit anything, except by accident. John-Boy becomes frustrated and shoots a tin can off the fence. Later as Jason plays his harmonica and Reckless lies around, John walks into the barn as John-Boy cleans the gun. John calls him “Sprocket”, a name that Charlie Sneed gave him as a “wee baby”. John-Boy says he is no longer a baby, wishing his father would call him by his given name.
Mary Ellen, Ben, and Elizabeth walk into Ike’s store as Ike reads Liberty magazine. Mary Ellen has brought in a payment of seventeen cents for a catcher’s mitt. Ike tells Mary Ellen that she only needs twenty cents more before the mitt is hers. Mary Ellen is anxious to buy the mitt so she can handle anything that G.W. Haines throws to her. Just then G.W. enters with Martha Rose Coverdale to buy two cents of peppermints. Martha Rose admires a “sweet” dress that Ike says costs two dollars ninety-eight cents. Mary Ellen doesn’t understand why G.W. likes Martha Rose.
At supper John imitates the call of a turkey saying he is the “Rudy Vallee of the flock”. Grandpa wishes he could come along, but says his hunting days are over. He tells the children the time he brought down four turkeys with one shot. According to the story three hens were sitting on one branch when Grandpa took aim, shot, and dropped all three. Ben then asks, “But you said four!” Grandpa goes on to say that the fourth bird was an old tom turkey that flew right into the line of the shot. Suddenly the family hears something bothering the chickens. John and John-Boy load their guns and investigate. John tells his son that a bear raided Nicholson’s farm last night and killed a calf. The pair finds nothing. John comments about the warm feeling it is to look onto the house, knowing loved ones are safe and warm inside. John-Boy thinks it was that way before life became so civilized. John says that on tomorrow’s hunt with Charlie Sneed and Hawthorne Dooley, they are “going to have a solid-gold, one hundred percent good time”.
At bedtime Olivia wishes John-Boy could stay home to fix a hole in the chicken house. She thinks her son isn’t looking forward to his first hunt, having never before killed a living thing. Olivia wishes she could “hold back time, keep these happy days of children with me, young and innocent”. In the morning John hears Charlie and Hawthorne arrive. Grandma says that Charlie Sneed is the “first to cross the line whenever there’s any kind of a hunt or an open bottle”. John and John-Boy greet the men. Knowing that John-Boy will unlikely shoot a bird with John’s old gun, Grandpa gives John-Boy his gun so he will be at the hunt in spirit. The hunting party leaves with Reckless tied up, anxious to go. Olivia realizes Grandpa is sad about being left behind, and invites him to join her for a cup of coffee.
The men race up the Mountain, and stop at the site of Roan Walton’s old cabin. Mary Ellen teaches Jim Bob and Elizabeth how to collect things for Jake the Junkman. Erin realizes what Mary Ellen is doing and tells on her. Olivia wonders how her eldest daughter can do so much. Mary Ellen says that she is a good organizer. Just then Jake noisily drives up in his truck filled with assorted junk. Jake negotiates with Mary Ellen first offering twelve cents to her twenty-five cents, and finally agreeing to twenty cents, a hat for Jim Bob, and a parasol for Elizabeth. Olivia invites him for coffee, after saying he had cider at Ike’s and the Recipe (lemonade) with the Baldwin’s. He mentions that the sisters saw a wounded bear. Olivia is worried, knowing the bear will go off to die into the woods, where John and John-Boy are hunting.
Reckless gets loose from his rope and runs after the hunting party. John-Boy turns his ankle but decides to continue. Mary Ellen asks her mother if she can go to the store alone so she can dream by herself. John-Boy finds Reckless pawing at a partially eaten rabbit and John tells the dog to go home. Olivia makes sweet potatoes to go with turkey while Grandpa wonders if John will kill a tom turkey that is as old as him. Grandma says she hopes not because the turkey is probably “as tough as shoe leather”.
The men hear turkeys and silently approach the flock. They give John-Boy the first shot. He looks at a turkey down the barrel of Grandpa’s gun but finally says, “I just can’t do that.” Father and son sit down as John remembers the day Grandpa threw him into the water so he could learn to swim. John wonders if he forced his son to do something before he was ready. John-Boy says that he is a coward. John tells him that he is a Walton and that he’s never done anything to shame him. John philosophizes, “Life is a mystery, a sacred mystery, part of that mystery seems to be the struggle we all have to stay alive, to keep life in ourselves, and in those we cherish. Sometimes we have to take life. It’s the way it is with all living animals, all the way down the whole chain of life.” John-Boy decides to go home. Charlie and Hawthorne understand and help John-Boy to feel better.
Ike is excited that Mary Ellen has enough money to buy the mitt. But Mary Ellen decides to buy the dress because G.W. is playing a different game. Ike is confused. On the way home John-Boy brushes up against blood on a tree and sees a bear’s foot print. He loads his gun, sensing the bear may be around. Olivia finds Mary Ellen wearing a new dress, but upset at how she looks in it. Olivia says she is a “fine-looking girl, next door to beautiful” and suggests she just be herself. Mary Ellen decides to return the dress for the mitt. John finds Reckless injured. He carries the dog to a comfortable spot when the wounded bear appears. John-Boy calls out to his father. John tries to reach for his gun but the bear catches John and wrestles him to the ground. John-Boy rushes to his father’s aid. He aims the gun and shoots the bear dead. John recovers and says, “You’re a good man to have around!” Back home, the adults sit at the supper after a turkey meal talking about the day’s adventures. Grandpa wonders when they’ll eat bear steak. Grandma says its time to clear the table or the men will continue to brag all night. Mary Ellen is outside playing catch with G.W.
"I became not a hunter but a writer and I hope a source of some pride to my father. For to be a good hunter or a good writer one must know why he hunts or why he writes. And the ‘why-of-it-all’ for me lies in that house and in the memory of voices that rise in the night and will sweetly haunt my life for ever".
John-Boy: What you want, Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: Are you asleep yet?
John-Boy: Not yet.
Elizabeth: What' you doing?
Elizabeth: I'm proud you killed the bear, John-Boy.
John-Boy: Me too.
Elizabeth: Goodnight John-Boy.
John-Boy: 'Night, honey.
Mary Ellen received seventeen cents from selling to Miss Mamie three quarts of wild honey for fifteen cents, along with a two-cent tip. The catchers’ mitt at Ike’s store costs three dollars. Previously Mary Ellen had deposited two dollars sixty-three cents for the mitt. The seventeen cents makes the total deposit of two dollars eighty cents, with only twenty cents to go.
Rome Walton is John-Boy’s great-great-grandfather, the original Walton who arrived on the Mountain with only a mule, plow, and rifle.
Charlie Sneed comes from a long line of farmers.
Hawthorne Dooley, a local minister, has a large family.
On the video box, this episode is mentioned as being the first episode of the series. It definitely did not air first, but perhaps it may have been made first and intended to be the one that aired first.
Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Charlie Sneed (Tom Peters), Hawthorne Dooley (Theodore Wilson), Jake the Junkman (James Nusser), G.W. Haines (David Doremus), Martha Rose Coverdale (Cindy Eilbacker).
(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)