Episode 17: The Heritage


(17 January 1974) 41/2/17

Writer: Dale Eunson.

Director: Harry Harris.

Music: Arthur Morton


The Heritage


"When we were children we never thought of the house we were born in as beautiful, or plain, or anything special, except that it was our home, and was there. But there came a day when we were faced with giving it up. It crept up on us, as so many crises do, through the normal routine of living".


John and Grandpa loads timbers, John-Boy brushes Old Blue, and Jim Bob and Elizabeth play “Cowboys and Indians”. Grandpa sprains his back, deciding to soak it at the hot springs. John-Boy convinces John that he should accompany Grandpa. While soaking they talk about Zeb and Esther’s upcoming fiftieth wedding anniversary. Grandpa wants fiddlers at the festivities and desires to dance The Clog (a type of dancing jig). Charlie Harmon and Bill Dietor interrupt them, saying they are county surveyors. They ask for a sample of the mineral water.


A few days later, John and Jason patch the roof on a hot day. As Olivia brings them lemonade, Harmon drives (from Richmond) saying he is retiring to the area. He offers John five thousand dollars for “lock-stock-and-barrel”. John-Boy walks out, acknowledging that he met Harmon earlier. John tells Harmon he wouldn’t sell for a hundred thousand dollars, but Harmon gives John his business card in case he reconsiders. Olivia sees the house in a new light, suggesting a picnic for supper. John-Boy agrees to help, telling his father his strong feeling never to sell the property.


The family sits next to Druscilla’s Pond as they eat supper and talk about what each would do if they were rich: Elizabeth would buy candy; Olivia a new dress, curtains, and visit her sister Francis in Edgemont; Erin a big car, John would buy Elizabeth a new tooth, shingle the roof, paint the house, fix up the saw mill, pay debts, and put the rest in the bank; Grandpa would buy a new rocker; Grandma wants to be two inches taller, and take twenty years away from her age; Jason would study music in New York City; Ben would buy an airplane and watch the New York Yankees play; and Mary Ellen would go to Hollywood to see Gary Cooper. John-Boy watches on as they talk.


Olivia helps Grandma sew her old wedding dress in preparation for her golden anniversary as Grandpa practices The Clog. As the kids play outside, Harmon knocks on the front door, asking to see John. Olivia directs him to go past the Baptist Church, past Druscilla’s Pond, until he sees the Rockfish River, where John is fishing. John and Yancy are fishing and talking about what a person could do with one hundred thousand dollars.


Harmon tells John that he actually is a representative of a corporation interested in building a health resort on the Mountain. He offers John twenty-five thousand dollars. John tells Olivia about the offer, saying that they could keep the house and saw mill and put the money in the bank at four percent interest. He needs to give Harmon an answer the day after tomorrow. Later, John-Boy rides Old Blue to Ike’s, who is waiting on Mrs. Brimmer with groceries. John-Boy asks for silk thread for Grandma’s wedding dress and to pick up their mail. Mrs. Brimmer relates the fact that she and Esther grew up together, and the rumor that the Walton’s are selling out for forty thousand dollars.


John-Boy learns that his father is considering the twenty-five thousand dollar offer, hoping to take the pressure off of him when he goes off to college next year and to help the other children as they grow up. John-Boy can’t verbalize his feelings, and abruptly leaves. In front of Ike’s store Ben, Jim Bob, and Elizabeth offer Harmon a glass of mineral water for five cents as they advertise “Mirakle Spring Water – Sure Cure for Rheumatism, Gowt, Liver Complaint, Lumbago, Night Sweats”.


At the house, Harmon is happy to learn that John has accepted his offer. But Harmon now states the corporation wants to buy the house and saw mill, too. He offers them thirty thousand dollars, along with the offer to build them a new house, move them into it, and provide John with a job as fishing and hunting guide at thirty-five dollars an hour and gratuities of five to ten dollars a day. John and Olivia are not sure they want to leave their house, but Harmon says he needs a decision within twenty-four hours because the corporation is looking at another location in Albemarle County.


Grandpa and Elizabeth clean up the family gravesite around Rebecca Lee Walton’s and Benjamin Walton’s graves. Grandpa talks to John about owing their ancestors for what they did for them. Grandpa also says that the decision should not be based on him and Esther because most of their lives are past them, and John needs to consider the eleven mouths he is responsible to feed. Grandpa says John would be a fool not to accept the offer.


Esther rubs Zeb’s neck and back as they sit on the Mountain and reminisce about their fifty years together. They remember about the day they first came up to the Mountain, and when Esther was “in the family way” for the first time. Zeb says that all he was able to give her was a piece of the Earth and one anther. Grandma says that memories are most important. Zeb reminds her when it was just the two of them and they took a horse-and-buggy ride to Goochland County to visit Zeb brother’s Ben. The axle broke on the buggy and they stayed over to visit cousins, uncles, aunts, and in-laws.


The couple heads for home. John-Boy visits the old homestead of Rome and Rebecca Lee Walton and remembers some of his Grandpa’s words, “When you’re old you’ll take comfort in knowing that the Mountain will endure long after you’ve turned to dust. The season will come and go, snow will fall, the land sleeps, the violets bloom, and the green leaves of spring come again. They grow for a summer and turn all their colors. And then the snow, and it goes on like this. It’s the way of things.


John-Boy walks to the cave he first wrote in beginning when he was thirteen years old. He finds Jason there playing his harmonica. John-Boy shows Jason that he wrote on the wall “John Walton, Jr.–Author”, and showed him the person who found the cave much earlier “Z.W.–July 1, 1875”. John-Boy thinks that Grandpa was about thirteen years old at that time. John walks up to the Mountain, and looks out over the green land and the blue sky.


Olivia makes the bed to find John standing at the doorway. He is wondering if his decision is correct, hating the idea of leaving this “old house” after “skimping and saving all of their lives, making do and doing without for years”. John doesn’t know if he can take tips, and Olivia doesn’t know what the move will do to Grandpa and Grandma, remembering that John was born in this room, in this very bed, and her children were born here, too. She says that an advertisement in the Woman’s Home Companion guarantees a mattress not to soil, sag, or squeak.


A storm brews over the Mountain. When it begins to rain John finds that he did not fix the leak in the roof, as water puddles in a bowl in the middle of the room. The kids start for bed, but John calls them back, wanting them to tell him what they feel about selling the house. He wants the decision to be a family decision. Suddenly the lights go out. When John lights the kerosene lamp he finds John-Boy missing.


John and Olivia find him in Jim Bob and Elizabeth’s room. As they watch the sleeping children, John-Boy says that the other children will be okay because they have many memories of the house and the Mountain. But he is unsure what these two Waltons will become without the Mountain. John-Boy tells his parents that he’ll never forget the sound just before they all fall asleep and say goodnight to one another. He will never forget the smell of coffee and bacon drifting up to his bedroom on a winter morning, the footsteps of his mother in the hallway, and has a clear picture of his father walking across the meadow on a new-crusted snow. John-Boy believes Jim Bob and Elizabeth should really make the decision. John says, “Let’s go to bed.”


The next day Grandpa dances The Clog as friends and neighbors gather for Zeb and Esther’s golden anniversary. Ep Bridges play the guitar and Jason plays the harmonica, as Ike watches on. Esther joins Zeb in a dance, wearing her wedding dress.


"Many years have gone by since that 50th anniversary. My grandparents are no longer alive, and most of us have moved to other places in the world. We go home when we can, and on those occasions our spirits are renewed by the feelings that flood back, the feelings we had as children growing up in that wonderful old house that stands in the shadow of Waltons Mountain".


Mary Ellen: Here comes the moon, right where it belongs.

Jim Bob: I wonder if Gary Cooper's looking at it too.

Mary Ellen: Probably, he's so romantic.

Elizabeth: Mary Ellen?

Mary Ellen: Yes, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth: If you can have Gary Cooper, can I have Clark Gable?

Mary Ellen: What do you want with Clark Gable?

Elizabeth: I just want his picture.

Mary Ellen: Oh I thought you wanted to marry him.

Elizabeth: I'm too young to get married.

Olivia: That's a relief, Elizabeth! Goodnight, you girls.

The girls: Goodnight, Mama.




Zeb’s middle name is “Tyler”.

Zeb’s brother is Ben, who lived in Goochland County.

Olivia’s sister Francis lives in Edgemont.

Goochland County is two counties to the east of Nelson County, where Schuyler is located.

Albemarle County is one county to the north of Nelson County.

Esther grew up with Kathleen Carter.

For more information about clog dancing, go to http://www.clogdancing.com/


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Mr. Charlie Harmon (Noah Beery), Yancy Tucker (Robert Donner), Sheriff Ep Bridges (John Crawford), Mrs. Brimmer (Nora Marlowe), Bill Dietor (Norman Andrews), Ken Lambert (Charles Kuenstle).


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