Episode 21 - The Statue

(13 February 1975)
Teleplay: Earl Hamner.
Story: Sumner Long.
Director: Ralph Waite.
Music: Alexander Courage.


"For as long as I can remember I never wanted to be anything but a writer. Nor can I remember ever thinking of giving up writing, although at times the agonies of being rejected were painful and frustrating. I recall one Saturday morning when I had gone to pick up my usual batch of rejection slips. It was a day which was to mark the beginning of a new plateau in my career".


John-Boy rides Old Blue as he reads a book on his way to Ike’s store. He notices a banner across the storefront: “Annual Raffle – Benefit the First Baptist Church”. As he walks inside John-Boy sees newlyweds Ike and Corabeth kissing. John-Boy says, “It’s okay, you’re married.” Ike finds that rejection letters have been sent from Liberty, Collier’s, and Saturday Evening Post, but John-Boy sees a promising letter from the Appalachian Journal. The magazine hasn’t accepted his short story, but to meet its minimum requirement of 5,000 words the publisher wants him to length it. Ike wonders what Corabeth is doing looking into the store’s books. He distracts her, asking for some coffee. Corabeth decides to serve it on the small tray with small flowers given to them by Olivia. Ike asks John-Boy if the story is about him, but is told it’s based on the Baldwin sisters. Ike can’t understand what he could find to write about them, but John-Boy mentions Miss Emily’s relationship with Ashley Longworth. Ike tells John-Boy that he should attend the raffle because the first place prize is a “doozie”.


At home, John-Boy finds his mother looking through her Bible, wondering if Grandma is correct when she said a raffle is sinful. John-Boy tells her that one of his stories might be published in the Appalachian Journal, but doesn’t want her to say anything to anyone (except John) after what happened with the Vanity Press incident. She wonders if he might offend Miss Emily with the story, but John-Boy assures her that she will probably never recognize herself, and it’s very unlikely she will ever see the article, since it’s a magazine with small circulation.


John-Boy begins to write in order to expand the story, “Even as a young woman she was always addressed as Miss Charlotte. And it was not as much out of respect but rather from a sense of her obvious destiny. Her friends whispered how unfortunate it was that Miss Charlotte had been born to be a spinster. Miss Charlotte had no such image of herself. She dreamt of a suitor who would love her and with whom she would love in return.


Grandpa interrupts John-Boy’s writings, wanting him to join him at the raffle. He mentions that the Baldwin sisters donated the prize. John-Boy agrees to go, curious as to what the sisters donated. Grandpa learns that his grandson is writing a story based on the Baldwin sisters. He tells John-Boy that they are delicate ladies, and to be careful about what he writes. At Ike’s store, Elizabeth draws the winning ticket: number seventeen. Grandpa suddenly realizes he holds the lucky ticket and runs up. When he unveils the prize, Zeb finds out that it is a statue based on Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Annabel Lee. The Baldwin sister’s Papa commissioned a Florence sculptor to create a statue based on Poe’s poem. Unfortunately their late Mother did not care for the statute, and it’s been in storage. Zeb graciously accepts the prize, saying it is extraordinary. He secretly admits to John-Boy that it is “the spitting-image” of Moselle Lewis, a woman he courted before Esther. Grandpa hopes Grandma doesn’t remember the similarity. Miss Mamie and Miss Emily tell John-Boy that they are excited that Miss Emily’s courtship with Ashley Longworth will be finally told in print. John-Boy excuses him and confronts Ike, telling him he didn’t want anybody to know, and to please not to tell anyone else.


Miss Mamie and Miss Emily are having tea when the front door bell rings. It’s John-Boy who wants to discuss the story. Miss Mamie mentions her suitor, Octaveous Fairweather, but admits he never kissed her. Miss Emily reminisces about that time when Ashley came to court, “out there under the maple tree and a shower of golden leaves swirled about in the autumn wind.” John-Boy feels very uneasy telling the two sisters that his explanation of the relationship is only an interpretation, a fictionalization of the event. Miss Emily feels disappointed, hoping that Ashley might see the article and visit her. John-Boy says that it is unlikely that they will ever see the article because it will be published in a very obscure magazine, the Appalachian Journal. But they say they get it every month, ever since their Papa subscribed to it. Miss Mamie suggests they read the article before it is submitted so they can correct any mistakes. John-Boy doesn’t know what to do.


John-Boy goes to Ike’s store and angrily tells Ike how mad he is at him. Finally, Ike wonders what is really wrong. John-Boy doesn’t know. Grandpa recites part of the Annabel Lee poem as Grandma tells him to remove it from the front yard. Zeb goes inside to appease his wife. John and Olivia sit on the porch, wondering how they will be when they are that old. Olivia doesn’t want to be called “old woman”. John suggests, “old darlin’” John-Boy drives up and stares at the statute. He storms inside the house, still mad at Ike. Olivia asks John if he is sleepy, then goes upstairs. He soon follows her.


Grandma suddenly rises up in bed, awakens Zeb, and insists he move the statute. He agrees, but under protest. In the morning John and Olivia find the statute in the living room wearing Grandma’s apron and one of her hats. John-Boy thinks it is funny. John and John-Boy move it to the barn. But, while milking Chance, Jason leaves to help them, and the cow spills the bucket of milk, and runs off. When Grandpa finds out what happens, he tells John and John-Boy that it is his personal property. He places the statute into his bedroom, but when Grandma sees it she says the tombstone belongs in a graveyard. Grandpa suddenly smiles and agrees with her.


A few days later, Grandma looks for Grandpa, and is told by the children that he is probably at the graveyard, where he has been for the last several days. She finds him there, painting a picket fence that he’s built around their final resting place. Esther wants him to put a gate on the fence, but he refuses. He finally agrees if she will allow him to be laid to the right of her, after spending many uneasy nights sleeping on her left. But when he says he’s going to place the statute there as their tombstone (as she suggested) she insists she will be buried somewhere else.


John-Boy continues his story, “Although it was totally imaginary, she could see his face clearly. She knew the curve of his lips, the slant of his nose, each wave of his corn-colored hair. He had been more fantasy than flesh from the very beginning. And as the years past the unreal became real.” Olivia enters the room, wondering why he is missing supper. He wants to continue writing, insisting he must write the story as he feels best. At the supper table, Zeb declines to say grace, as does Esther. Ben says grace, asking that his grandparents quickly patch things up. Jim Bob wonders why they are fighting. Grandma insists she would rather be buried in the cow pasture than to spend eternity with that statute looking down upon her. Zeb and Esther go into their bedroom to argue as the family discusses an oriole that Olivia saw today in the garden eating a worm. John-Boy comes down, disturbed by all the yelling.


Grandpa decides to sleep in the barn, but Grandma thinks he’ll catch a cold. John and John-Boy find Zeb in the hay mound bleeding from climbing the ladder. Zeb says he could like to have a big funeral, with many flowers and a homemade coffin. But it plans to live to be one-hundred-one-years old. Since he is only seventy-three John tells him he has twenty-eight more years to live. Zeb decides he should get rid of the statute, and John and John-Boy have an idea. The family carries the statute to the bridge that crosses Druscilla’s Pond. They raise it onto the railing, and after Grandpa recites, “For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams, Of the beautiful Annabel Lee”, they tip it over and into the waters.


At the Baldwin house John-Boy reads his story to the sisters:


“Miss Charlotte Ransom’s family was an old and respected one in the town. Even as a young woman she was known and addressed as Miss Charlotte. And it was not as much out of respect but rather from a sense of her obvious destiny. Her friends whispered how unfortunate it was that Miss Charlotte had been born as a spinster. She walked from quiet room to quiet room and the only sounds that came to her was the ticking of clocks and the beating of her own heart, and the realization that she would be alone—loveless—for the rest of her life crowded into her mind. She felt the rise of panic. She stood trembling at the window that overlooked the…(pause)…. She stood trembling at the window that overlooked a maple tree, and there came to her a memory of a day when she had met someone there. He was a young university student, handsome and debonair. And he and Miss Charlotte had loved one another from the moment they first met. As she stood then at the window, in memory, she once again was the young woman she had once been, while he kissed her amidst the swirling, gold autumn leaves. Cruel fate was to stand between their union, but she knew that wherever he traveled he cherished his memory of her as she cherished him. And some day in the future they would be together again.”


Miss Mamie says, “You touched me very deeply.” and Miss Emily, as she cried, says, “You have captured the very essence of my feelings for Ashley, and his for me.”


"My decision not to submit my story about Miss Emily was difficult to make, but later I was glad I didn't send it to the magazine. I did send them a new story called The Statue, it was published and just about everybody who read it enjoyed it very much".


John-Boy: Goodnight Grandma. Goodnight Grandpa. Mama? Mama?
John-Boy: Goodnight. Everybody asleep already?
John: No, son, but no one has much to say to you since they read that story about the statue.
Grandma: Telling everyone I was jealous over Mosell Lewis....
Grandpa: It's nobody's business but mine, what colour my nightshirt is.
Olivia: I have never said a swear word in my life.
Mary Ellen: And I do not practise kissing on the mirror over my dresser.
Elizabeth: And you didn't even mention me at all.
John-Boy: Is there any chance we can talk this over?
John: I think we ought to sleep on it, son. 'Night.
John-Boy: Goodnight.



Information about Collier’s Weekly can be read at http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAcolliers.htm.

Information about the Liberty magazine can be read at http://scout.cs.wisc.edu/addserv/NH/99-12/99-12-15/0030.html.

Information about The Saturday Evening Post can be read at http://www.satevepost.org/history.html.

(Note: I don’t think Appalachian Journal was a real magazine during the 1940s. If anyone has other information, please let me know.)

The poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe appears at http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/annabelj.htm.

In 1901 the Baldwin sister’s went on a family (Papa, Mother, Emily, and Mamie) “Grand Tour” of England, Norway, Paris, Venice, and Florence, Italy.

Ashley Longworth was a student at the University of Virginia (in Richmond).

Miss Mamie also had a suitor: Octaveous Fairweather. But, he only came around once, after her Papa scared him off, knowing that his family had been in Virginia “only” for a hundred years.

John-Boy didn’t submit the article about Miss Emily, but did submit a story titled “The Statute” (which was published).

John-Boy mentions the “Vanity Press” incident, which occurs in The Book, season three, episode ten.


Also appearing:

Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards); Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson); Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe).