Episode 2 - The Stray

(22 September 1977)
Writer: Kathleen Hite.
Director: Harry Harris.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"Looking back to 1939 on Waltons Mountain I had to span a chasm far deeper and wider than nearly 40 years of time. Customs and predudices that were acceptable in those days have gentled into a greater justice today. But they were part of that time, and to remember them any other way would be false. It was then too that my youngest brother Jim Bob entered a phase designed to drive the rest of the family to exasperation. A time when nothing stayed in his head for very long".


Jim Bob is minding the store while Ike and Corabeth are in Charlottesville. When Verdie Foster asks Jim Bob to look after her house and garden while she and Harley visit her sister in Asheville, she is unsure whether he is listening. The family has also noticed that Jim Bob’s mind wanders when Elizabeth says, ‘his head isn’t working’, Erin comments, ‘he’s the brainless wonder’, and Olivia adds that John-Boy had the forgetfulness record before Jim Bob. John is perturbed with Jim Bob when his fishing pole turns up missing. After Grandpa finds a mess of catfish on the steps, everyone assumes Jim Bob is making up for his misdeeds. John confronts Jim Bob but before much is said, Jim Bob notices blood leading from the back porch to the barn. When they investigate, a small Negro boy is found hiding in the hay. He is bleeding from a fishhook embedded in his foot. John removes the sharp hook with Curt approving of his surgical technique. Josh has been living in the barn, taking vegetables from the garden and eggs from the henhouse, and doing his best to repay his debts with such items as the fish he caught with John’s fishing pole. John and Josh go to Sheriff Bridges office to find where Josh belongs. He tells Ep that he walked to Virginia from North Carolina after his Grandma Beale died.


Olivia brings John lemonade while he works in the mill. With Josh at the house John admits that Josh, ‘grows on you, he doesn’t say much but when you ask him a straight question, he gives you a straight answer’. Later, Olivia finds that Josh has never seen such a wonderful place as the shed, especially the bed. Olivia says he can sleep there, but first needs a bath. Grandpa, Jason, and Ben assist in the endeavor to clean the reluctant Josh who insists Olivia is “mean on clean’.


After Josh puts in an exhausting day of hard work, Olivia and John want to keep him but know that is impossible. As a last resort, John reluctantly takes Josh to the Jefferson County Home for Colored Children, hoping to find him a good family. Josh continues to look up at John with a questioning -- Why are you doing this to me? -- look on his face. After leaving him with Mrs. Thomas, John admits to Olivia that it was ‘one of the hardest things he’s ever done’. The next morning they find him on the front porch shining his shoes and, as he says, ‘just bein’ good’. After being moved from family to family who did not really want him Josh says, ‘I’m most content with you, Mister John.’


Olivia decides to teach Josh to read. He is a quick learner—a little too quick though. In less than one day, Olivia discovers him reading a book. Olivia comments to Erin that she must be the ‘world’s greatest teacher’ but realizes he already knew how to read and only wanted to please her. After Grandpa tells Josh a wild tale of catching a bear with honey, Josh asks Grandpa to tell John that he is good to have around. Finding the mill spotlessly cleaned, Jason learns that Josh is trying his best to please John so he can stay with the family. But Josh tries a little too hard when he steals a level winder reel from Ike’s store. Finding what Josh did, John marches him back to the store in order to return the reel. John tells Josh he is ashamed of him because he knows the difference between right and wrong.


John asks Jim Bob is take twenty-eight dollars to the bank as a down payment on the mill. In the morning as Jim Bob rushes off to the bank the family cannot locate Josh. John blames himself for being so hard on him yesterday. When Jim Bob arrives in town, he sees Josh being picked on by several bigger boys. Jim Bob intercedes but in the ensuing scuffle has beer poured over him. Returning home John and Olivia are glad that Jim Bob rescued Josh but when beer is smelled on him they jump to conclusions. Josh explains what happened. Then Jim Bob discovers the money is gone. After John becomes very mad at Jim Bob, he admits, ‘Things just don’t stick in my head anymore. Didn’t you have a time like that when you were young?’ John responds, ‘I guess maybe I did go through something like that. I guess I forgot.’ While Josh pours water over Jim Bob as he takes a bath Josh says he did not like the orphanage because it had too many children. Jim Bob responds, ‘Come to think of it this place is full of boys and girls, too.’ Josh adds, ‘But they is yours. You was born belongin’. It must be the best kind of thing—belongin’ somewhere.’


Jim Bob suggests to John that he should take Josh to Verdie’s. With a good idea finally coming from Jim Bob’s head, John takes Josh to the Foster’s. Verdie agrees to inquire around for a good family to take in Josh. As they return the next day, John tells Josh that whatever happens ‘always hold your head up’. Verdie and Harley have decided to adopt Josh themselves. Verdie tells Josh, ‘I’m goin’ to raise you to be a fine man—a fine black man and proud!’


"Josh found his place to belong to, and he grew up to have much to be proud of. To this day, Josh speaks of my father with the deepest affection and regard, and we often laugh together about how he came into our lives during the time that Jim Bob's head was on vacation".


Jim Bob: You awake, Daddy?
John: Yep?
Jim Bob: You stop and think about it, Josh is luckier than most guys.
John: How's that?
Jim Bob: Well Verdie just saw him and picked him up to be their son, and that's kind of special.
John: Um I guess you're right.
Jim Bob: We were just born to you and Mama, we didn't have any say about it at all.
John: Sorry about that. Guess we weren't thinkin'. 'Night son.
Jim Bob: 'Night Daddy.




Also appearing:

Josh (Todd Bridges); Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Curt Willard (Tom Bower); Verdie Foster (Lynn Hamilton); Mrs. Thomas (Kelly Lester); Sheriff Bridges (John Crawford); Town Boy #1 (Jonas Agee); Town Boy #2 (Ken Shriner).