Episode 6: The Chicken Thief


(18 October 1973) 30/2/6

Writer: Richard Carr, Director: Ralph Senensky, Music: Arthur Morton


The Chicken Thief


"When I look back on Walton’s Mountain, I remember that our parents by word and by example took some pains to teach us the practical lessons of life and its virtues. But though I had been well taught there came a time when I doubted my own honesty and questioned its true value".


John-Boy rides Old Blue to the store to find Ike waiting on Mrs. Pierce. John-Boy tells Ike that he comes into the store every day but doesn’t really know anything about him. Ike tells John-Boy that his Momma’s Sears, Roebuck package didn’t arrive, but a letter to Ben from Liberty magazine did arrive. John-Boy finds Grandpa winning twenty-five cents from Yancy playing pool. Yancy tells them it’s time he see his customers. While Grandpa and John-Boy ride the mule back home, John-Boy asks his grandfather what Yancy does, but Zeb says some things are a secret.


At home John-Boy finds John mad that he’s late, and Grandpa finds that Grandma is also mad at him for being gone all day. John-Boy gives Ben his letter but his brother acts strangely, not saying what it contains. Grandpa and John-Boy help John with the fence post order for Charlie Potter that’s due at day’s end. At the Potter farm, Charlie tells John that he’d almost given up on him while John-Boy walks to the barnyard. He sees Yancy stealing two chickens, and Yancy sees John-Boy as he runs off. Potter asks John-Boy if he saw the thief, after losing chickens last week. On the way home John-Boy asks his father what he should do if he sees someone break the law.


Walking home from school Mary Ellen tells John-Boy that G.W. told her something romantic. John-Boy notices that Ben is obviously troubled by something. At the house John-Boy finds Yancy talking with Grandpa and John. He goes into the barn to stack hay, as Yancy follows him supposedly to tell him a story. Yancy explains to John-Boy that he’s kinda like a modern-day “Robin Hood” taking from people who have plenty and giving to people who can’t seem to make ends meet. John-Boy says that he’s now involved because he saw his crime. Yancy agrees to return the chickens so John-Boy will not feel guilty.


Grandpa oversleeps for breakfast, but the children all say, “Good morning Grandpa!” John says it’s time to do chores, even though it’s Saturday. John-Boy comments to Ben about getting another letter from Liberty, but Ben just shrugs and goes to clean his bedroom. John-Boy goes to Ike’s to pick up his Mamma’s package. Ike gives John-Boy all of his mementos about his life, so he can write about him. But, John-Boy isn’t sure when he’ll write about Ike. Sheriff Bridges arrives to say he is tracking the chicken thief that shot Charlie Potter yesterday. Ep thinks he knows who it is. Back home John-Boy asks Jason and Jim Bob to do some things for him, so he can talk with his father. John-Boy tells John what happened to Charlie Potter, and thinks he knows who did it, telling him the story about Yancy. At the same time Olivia and Grandma look at the new fabric, eager to make dresses for the girls.


At Yancy’s house, John and John-Boy find no one home. Olivia is sewing when Ben tells her he won first price at the poetry contest for the courier boys at Liberty magazine. She is proud of him, but he confesses he stole the poem from John-Boy. Olivia says to tell the truth to John-Boy so he’ll feel right about what he did. At Floyd Carter’s house they find that Yancy left four fat chickens at his house two or three days ago. But Floyd said he took the chickens to Lenny Blankwitz’s family. At Maude Gormley’s house, the pair learns that Yancy left some eggs yesterday. After a half tank of gas and a half-day of looking John and John-Boy return home to find Yancy telling tall tales to the family over lunch. While talking to Yancy on the front porch Sheriff Bridges drives up. He arrests Yancy for shooting Potter, and takes him to jail. Later, while John-Boy reads John tells his son that he doesn’t think Yancy would be carrying a gun if he were returning the chickens. They decide to talk with Yancy after church tomorrow.


Back from church Grandma wonders when Grandpa will stop sleeping at church. Zeb says that he’ll stay awake when the preacher changes his sermon. Ben tries to talk with John-Boy but he and John leave before Ben can start. They find Ep reading Literary Digest magazine while Mr. and Mrs. Kilgore, Floyd Carter, Mrs. Blankfort, and Jane Aspen visit Yancy after bringing delicious food. Alone, John-Boy tells Yancy he wants to tell the sheriff that he was only returning the chickens. But, Yancy says to “let nature takes its course”; knowing Bridges has no evidence to hold him.


Back home, Ben confronts John-Boy telling him that he won a poetry contest. John-Boy praises his younger brother but is a little bit annoyed that he is still unpublished. Ben confesses he stole one of his earlier poems. But when John-Boy compares the two poems, it doesn’t see the resemblance. Ben says he stole the idea, but John-Boy responds that taking an idea and writing a better poem is not wrong. Ben realizes that his mother was right when she said, “When you’re honest you can just about clean-up anything.”


John-Boy helps out with the chores around Potter’s farm. He notices Mr. Gilgore return chickens while feeding the chickens. He also sees Maude Gormley return a chicken while feeding his horse. While milking Bay, the cow, he observes a boy return chickens. All the while John-Boy notices Mr. Potter watching from his house. Later, John-Boy tells Charlie that he now has thirty-eight chickens. Potter says that he’s never had more than thirty chickens.


John knocks on the door, telling Charlie that Dr. Vance told him that he was shot with a “twenty-two”, but Yancy only owns a “thirty-thirty”. Knowing that Charlie’s favorite gun is a “twenty-two”, Potter finally confesses that while chasing the thief he tripped and shot himself. Hoping the Yancy would wiggle out of the charge, Charlie says he was too embarrassed to tell anybody. But Potter tells them that he will inform the sheriff what really happened. John and John-Boy tell Charlie that Yancy is “just a good old, likeable chicken thief”.


Back home, John-Boy yells to the family that the new issue of Liberty magazine just arrived. Eager to read Ben’s poem, John-Boy agrees to read the poem entitled A Winter Mountain by Benjamin Walton:


Our mountain in winter is something to see,

At times it is just like a person to me.

A giant in white all covered with snow,

It changes each day as the heavy winds blow.

And when I'm alone and I go for a walk,

It's almost as if that old mountain can talk.

It seems to say, “Welcome my wintry friend,

I was here at the beginning; I'll be here at the end.”


"Outside our mountain the world was in deep depression, but we were sheltered by a common bond. The accomplishment of one was the accomplishment of all. We shared our glories, our defeats, our hopes, our aspirations, but mostly our love".


Elizabeth: Ben?

Ben: Yes, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth: Will you write a poem about me?

Jim Bob: Me too.

Erin: Me three.

Mary Ellen: Me four.

Ben: Anybody else want to be in my poem?

John-Boy: Why don't you just put everybody in, Ben.

Elizabeth: Will they print it in Liberty Magazine?

John-Boy: They'd better not it's my turn now.

Everybody: Oh goodnight!



Brewster is the maiden name of Ike’s mother. She lived near Scottsville, Virginia.

Ike was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army.

Sheriff Bridges reads Literary Digest.

Mrs. Blankfort has several children at home.

Jane Aspen works at the Nip-n-Tuck café on Route 29. (Cissy Wellman also appear as Sissy, eventually marrying Yancy.)


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Yancy Tucker (Richard Donner), Sheriff Bridges (John Crawford), Charlie Potter (Richard O’Brien), Mrs. Potter (Meg Wyllie), Maude Gormley (Merie Earle), Jane Aspen (Cissy Wellman), Floyd Carter (David Moody), Mr. Kilgore (Charles Kuenstle), Mrs. Blankfort (Dorothy Meyer).


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