Episode 24: The Car


(14 March 1974) 48/2/24

Written: Chris Andrews, Director: Philip Leacock, Music: Arthur Morton


The Car


"In every town or village there used to be the hidden people, those who for one reason or another are shut away from life or, for some strange reason shut themselves away from the world. My quest for a car in which to drive back and forth to college was eventually to lead me to two of those hidden people".


The family cleans up the yard around the house and the barn after a storm swept through last night. John-Boy tells his father about the car that Buck Higgins owns that he’d like to buy in order to drive back and forth to Boatwright University. John says they will go over to look at the car after finishing with the cleanup. Grandpa says he knew the storm was coming, because he heard it on the radio and then felt it in his bones. He says he and the boys can finish the rest of the cleanup, so tells John and John-Boy to go and look at the car.


John-Boy is impatient on the ride, hoping no one else buys the car before him. Buck Higgins speaks with John while John-Boy looks over the car. Buck offers John thirty-five dollars for the car, and John counters with a year’s supply of firewood. But, Buck needs cash, so the deal falls through. John-Boy is disappointed during the drive to Ike’s store. After John tells Ike to fill up the truck with gas, Ike tells John-Boy that he knows someone who might exchange his “flibber” for work to repair his roof damaged in yesterday’s storm.


John-Boy decides to ride Old Blue to see Mr. Hyder Rudge, the owner of the car. Mr. Rudge tells John-Boy that he has a “game” leg and can’t perform the roof repairs. He is hesitant to trade his car, trying to convince John-Boy to take his mechanics tools. But, John-Boy insists he must have a car in order to drive back and forth to college starting in the fall. Mr. Rudge tells John-Boy that besides fixing the roof he will have to clean up the year, fix all the windows and doors, nail the loose floorboards inside the house, and chop enough wood to last the winter. John-Boy agrees but insists to see the car that he’ll be working for. Mr. Rudge begrudgingly shows him the car inside a locked garage.


The vehicle looks to be in perfect condition, and even has a rumble seat. Mr. Rudge won’t allow John-Boy to run the engine, saying he’ll have to take his word that he can do the work just like John-Boy will have to take his word that the engine runs. John-Boy says he’ll have to be able to hear the engine if Mr. Rudge is satisfied with his first day’s work. John-Boy leaves for home, noticing that Rudge goes back into the garage.


Inside, Mr. Rudge rubs down the car, remembering memories of his son. John-Boy tells the family about the car and Mr. Rudge. Grandpa thinks Rudge is strange, never says anything while he is inside Ike’s store. John tells them it’s none of their business whatever their troubles are. Olivia agrees to prepare John-Boy a lunch tomorrow: ham, biscuits, and vegetable soup in a jar. The children want to see the car, but John-Boy doesn’t think the Rudges like children.


Mrs. (Martha) Rudge goes inside the garage to find her husband still there. She doesn’t believe that he will be able to give up the car to John-Boy. He doesn’t respond.


In the morning, John-Boy picks up shingles and tells Mr. Rudge what he plans to do with repairing the roof. Rudge responds with “Do you always talk so much?” While John-Boy responds Rudge walks off. Mrs. Rudge explains that, “He doesn’t mean any harm.” It’s “because of the car”. She tells John-Boy that he “doesn’t appear to be a boy to go into much for foolishness”. She tries to explain, but when she asks John-Boy to promise not to tell anybody, he is not sure if he can promise. She doesn’t tell John-Boy. When John-Boy tries to fetch a ladder from the garage, Rudge insists he retrieve the ladder. When John-Boy takes the ladder over to the house, he hears Rudge start up the car.


Inside, Mr. Rudge remembers more memories about his son. That night John-Boy tells the family what happened. Mary Ellen and Erin want to make the car look special. John-Boy just wants to paint the car a “dignified tan”. John-Boy’s back is aching and decides to go to bed early. Grandma is concerned with the Rudge's, but John knows that their son will be in many situations where they won’t be able to help.


John-Boy talks with Mrs. Rudge after she gives him a glass of milk. He tells her when the family had to go without milk when their milk cow died. She remembers walking past their house one night and hearing the sounds of all the children. She invites him for dinner, knowing that she and Hyder would enjoy hearing a young person’s voice in the house. Over dinner, John-Boy relates the time that Mary Ellen tried to change the color of her hair, but managed to turn Jim Bob’s hair to orange. When John-Boy asks what brought them to Walton’s Mountain Mr. Rudge abruptly leaves the table. John-Boy asks Mrs. Rudge why he acts so peculiar. She says he will have to ask her husband that question.


John-Boy sets down the ladder and finds the garage door unlocked. He decides to sit inside the car. But Rudge discovers him and throws him out of the car and demands he leave the garage. That night John-Boy relates the story to the family. Olivia is concerned that Mr. Rudge won’t let go of the car. John-Boy says that if this happens he’ll have to talk with Sheriff Bridges.


While in bed reading, John-Boy hears Jason knocking at his door. Jason tried to walk Patty Ann Summers home from church on Sunday but she left with Matt Nelson because he owns a roadster (and they drive up to Flea Rock). John-Boy agrees to let him use the car to ask the girl out on a date. Next, Mary Ellen comes in but John-Boy already knows she wants to learn to drive his car. He agrees. Jim Bob and Elizabeth walk in, asking to be the first to have a ride in the rumble seat. He agrees, knowing that only Grandma hasn’t asked and he doubts if she cares. But, Grandma comes in next, and she does want a ride in the car, specifically in the rumble seat. After everyone leaves, John-Boy falls asleep.


In the morning, Mary Ellen and Erin visit John-Boy at the Rudge’s, hoping to measure for the seat cover. John-Boy isn’t sure Mr. Rudge will allow them to see the car. But he decides to ask Mrs. Rudge. She tells John-Boy that he has every right to do whatever he wants with the car. But, when Mrs. Rudge goes into the bedroom (where her husband is supposedly sick) she finds him gone. She tells John-Boy, who then finds the car missing. Through the back garage window John-Boy sees Rudge returning to the house. He tells John-Boy that the car will never be his. Mrs. Rudge looks on in disbelief.


Later, at the Walton house Mrs. Rudge tells John-Boy that before they came to Walton’s Mountain they had a son. They made him their whole life. He joined the Merchant Marines when he was twenty years old, but was killed at sea when two ships collided. Mr. Rudge has been taking care of their son’s car like it would bring him back. She was hoping that her husband would let the car go when he saw what a good purpose John-Boy had for the car. She tells John-Boy to take the car, saying the car is probably at the glen next to Druscilla’s Pond. She hopes that John-Boy can help her husband face the truth so he can start living again.


John-Boy finds the car and drives it back to the Rudge house. John-Boy faces Mr. Rudge, saying he knows about his son. When John-Boy tells Mr. Rudge that he would like to know more about his son Hyde, Mr. Rudge begins to open up to John-Boy, telling him experiences that they shared while the boy was growing up. John-Boy listens as Mr. Rudge says, “Now he’s gone, and he’s never comin’ home again!” Mr. Rudge motions to John-Boy and they drive to the Walton house. Mr. Rudge tells his wife that he needs her home. Mrs. Rudge says, “It’s not been a home.” And Mr. Rudge responds, “Well, maybe now it can be one.”


Mary Ellen and Erin place the new seat cover on the newly painted tan car. John-Boy asks Jim Bob and Elizabeth if they would mind if Grandma took the first ride in the rumble seat. But, Grandma believes all three can ride, if Elizabeth sits on her lap. They drive off in John-Boy’s new car.


"The Rudges remained hidden people to a certain extent, rarely involving themselves in our lives or that of the community. Perhaps they just didn't need us, that without the false dream they were finally able to find contentment in their lives together".


Mary Ellen: I'm getting to be a pretty good driver!

John-Boy: You're supposed to watch the road, not look around to see if G.W. Haines is watching you.

Mary Ellen: He sure did look surprised when I drove by.

John-Boy: You can't blame him, you headed straight for him....

Mary Ellen: Can I drive it again tomorrow, alone?

John-Boy: You can't drive it alone until after I graduate.

Mary Ellen: But that's four years from now!

John-Boy: I know. Goodnight, Mary Ellen.

Mary Ellen: That's not fair!

John-Boy: I know. Goodnight, Mary Ellen. Goodnight Mama, goodnight Daddy. Goodnight, Mary Ellen.

Mary Ellen: Oh goodnight.




The Walton’s live twenty-eight miles from Boatwright University in Weston, Virginia.

Buck Higgin’s farm is near Bascomb’s Hollow. He has a small child who has the whooping cough.

John-Boy is eighteen years old. He is enrolled in the School of Journalism.

Mr. Rudge’s car has license plates 76-905 Virginia.

The Rudge’s son was named Hyde. He joined the Merchant Marines at age twenty years old, but was killed when two ships collided at sea.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Hyder Rudge (Ed Lauter), Martha Rudge (Bonnie Bartlett), Buck Higgins (Paul Sorensen).


(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)