Ep.17 - The Fox

  Original Airdate: January 15, 1976
Writer:Max Hodge
Director: Richard Thomas


  Grandpa is not as excited as the rest of the family about the upcoming reunion scheduled for the Veterans of the Spanish American War. Ben devises a plan to trap wild animals to sell their fur.


  "In the days of my boyhood on Walton's Mountain it was not only home to me but to the wild animals roaming the woods, and though they were not always welcome guests in our house, they were reasonably free and without fear. Sometimes though a threat to their lives would appear."



Grandpa talks about a reunion in Charlottesville being held for the Veterans of the Spanish American War. John-Boy comes up with an idea to write an adventure story for a magazine that pays 2 cents per word. With the radio on the fritz the kids are bored for something to do after dinner. They ask Grandpa to tell his story about when he charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders in Cuba in 1898. The children get all excited, waiting for the part when Teddy yells “CHARGE!” trying to steal Grandpa’s thunder but in good measure he tells his tale with gusto and excitement for all except Grandma who is bothered by the loss of her red handkerchief that Zeb says he planted on top of San Juan Hill to claim it in victory. Watching how excited Grandpa has made his siblings John-Boy plans to write a story about the Rough-Riders charge up San Juan Hill.


John-Boy goes to Ike's store to buy a new pencil to begin writing his adventure story. He finds Maude Gormley there who is rather disturbed by the increase in some of Ike's prices. Ike tells John-Boy about a story in the paper about the upcoming reunion. John-Boy visits the reunion organizer, Allen McCreary and tells him of his plans to write a story about the Rough Riders and offers to host a re-enactment charge up Walton’s Mountain with the reunion attendees.


Grandma tells Olivia her story about waiting for Zeb to return from the war. Her story isn't a happy one like Zeb’s but rather a sad one filled with worry. She was pregnant with John while her husband Zeb was away at the war.


Mr. McCreary calls long distance from Charlottesville to tell John-Boy that he is canceling the plans for event as only 3 men are expected to attend and they are not interested in running up a hill. The organizer who is quite enthralled with the history of the event is surprised that times had changed so much.


Everyone is surprised that Grandpa has become more agitated as the reunion draws closer. He makes excuses and shows no signs of wanting to go and actually heads up the mountain to avoid the event. John-Boy finds him and tells him the it has been cancelled. He asks his Grandfather why he didn’t want to attend. Grandpa admits that he never had the honor of being a Rough Rider or of having the honor of charging up the hill. He was actually tasked with looking after the mules. Grandpa is obviously ashamed to have not been a hero and he felt it was better to come home and tell his wife a tall exciting tale that she could take pride in. He asks John-Boy if it is so criminal to want to have pleasant memories.


When they return home Bob and Elaine Allerton are waiting to meet Zeb. Bob enthusiastically greets Zeb, thanking him for saving his life after being one of the first men shot as they charged up the hill. It seems that Bob may have his own tall tale that he's been telling all these years like Grandpa as well. Zeb is skeptical of where his story is going but when Esther asks what happened to her old handkerchief, Bob pulls the tattered old cloth from inside his jacket and gives it back to Zeb. Where the truth starts and ends will never be known but the affect these old two men leave on their family’s has had a lasting affect.

Secondary Story:


A fox is prowling around the Walton’s chicken coop. Ben decides to trap wild animals and skin them for their fur. His father cautions him on the cruelty of using metal traps and suggests that he build a box trap instead.

Maude stops by the Walton's to look for her missing cat. She surprises Esther who is unaware that Maude has been resting in a chair on the porch when she come out to do the sweeping. Maude asks Esther if she would take her cat Prudence who keeps running away. Esther says that taking in Myrtle the goat was enough. Ben discovers that he has in fact trapped Prudence in his box trap. He takes the cat back to Maude. The next animal he catches is the fox that had been lurking around the property. Elizabeth is upset by Ben’s plan to kill the fox for its’ pelt. His mother talks to Ben about the animals right to live a full life. In the end, Ben decides to release the fox and give up on his plans for a fur business.


  "Grandpa's story of the charge up San Juan Hill was different when he told it after that, but in many ways more satisfying to him and his listeners. Just at dusk of that day, Grandpa rode alone up Walton's Mountain. Perhaps it was San Jaun Hill he saw there at sunset. This time there was only silence and peace, and this time he made it all the way to the top. I wrote my story for Adventure Magazine but it was rejected with a terse note from the Editor - Not interested in the Spanish-American War."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • This episode was directed by Richard Thomas.

Additional Cast:


Frank Ferguson (Allen McCreary), George Chandler (Bob Allerton), Arline Anderson (Elaine Allerton), Merie Earle (Maude Gormley)

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