Ep.2 - The Stray

  Original Airdate: September 22, 1977
Writer: Kathleen Hite
Director: Harry Harris


  A young black runaway boy takes up residence in the Walton barn and attaches himself to John who tries his best to guide him and find him an appropriate home in the community.


  "Looking back to 1939 on Walton's Mountain I had to span a chasm far deeper and wider than nearly 40 years of time. Customs and prejudices that were acceptable in those days have gentled into a greater justice today. But they were part of that time, and to remember them any other way would be false. It was then too that my youngest brother Jim Bob entered a phase designed to drive the rest of the family to exasperation. A time when nothing stayed in his head for very long."



Jim-Bob is looking after the store for Ike and Corabeth. He throws a paper airplane and knocks over canned goods in the process. Verdie Grant comes in and asks Jim-Bob will look after her place while she and Harley are away looking after her sister who has broken her foot. She insists on paying him for his efforts. He refuses to accept at first but when she asks if Ike pays him to watch the store he realizes her point and accepts her money. Back at home the family is annoyed by all the half completed tasks that Jim-Bob has left lying around the farm. His siblings have named him the “Brainless Wonder”. John notices that a fishing pole of his has gone missing but then Grandpa finds a large catch of fish on the back stoop. They think Jim-Bob has caught the fish but when he comes home he informs his Dad that it wasn’t him that he had been working at Ike’s store all day. When he makes his way to the side door he notices a trail of blood on the ground that leads off to the barn. John finds that his fishing pole has been returned to his rack and they find a young black boy hiding under some straw. He tries to make a break for it and is afraid of being hit by John. He relaxes when he learns that John just want to help him. They learn that Josh has a fish hook caught in his foot. John takes the hook out but Josh isn’t so receptive of Olivia’s attempts to offer him help. John learns that it is Josh who has taken vegetables from the garden and eggs from the hen house. He asks Josh if he thinks that is okay. Josh says that he just did what he had to do and caught the fish to repay what he took.

John takes Josh to the Sheriff’s Office to have a chat with Ep Bridges. They try to find out about his parents but it takes awhile to learn that he was under the care of his Grandmother and when she died he was left alone and walked from North Carolina to Virginia.

Josh is not happy about having Ben, Jason and Grandpa watch him as he takes a bath in a soapy wash basin out in the yard. He says that Mrs. Walton is “mean on clean”. He asks Grandpa if she makes him wash and he says every Saturday night whether he needs it or not.

Ben is busy cleaning John-Boy’s printing press. Josh walks into the shed and is amazed by what he sees. When Olivia enters he asks who sleeps on the small bed in the corner that John-Boy used when he worked late. Olivia says that all of her children have beds in the main house but that he can sleep her if he wants. Josh is thrilled and jumps on the bed.

John and Olivia discuss the possibility of keeping Josh but they know that is not possible. John is impressed that although Josh doesn’t say much he always gives a straight answer when asked a straight question. John visits the Jefferson County Orphanage the next day. Mrs. Thomas runs the orphanage and is happy to offer Josh a home but Josh is heart broken when John leaves him there.

The next morning John and Olivia find Josh on their front porch polishing the boots that she gave him. She states that all she has to do is fix Josh some breakfast. John has the hard job to do in figuring out how to deal with the problem of Josh. He asks the young boy why he didn’t stay at the orphanage. Josh says that if felt just like when his Grandmother died and all these women tried to push him around to find an appropriate home for him until he decided to run away. Olivia brings out a early reader to teach Josh the alphabet and how to read. Josh is very receptive to learning from her.

Josh finds Grandpa by the smokehouse and asks what he is cooking. Grandpa gives him a tall story about catching a bear. Later Josh watches “Mr. John” as he calls him using the lathe as he makes a chair spindle in his wood mill. After the men leave Josh secretly cleans the workshop leaving Ben and Jim-Bob with nothing to do when they finally arrive to help. Jason speaks to Josh and asks him why he cleaned the mill. Josh admits he is trying to win Mr. John’s favor.

John and Olivia take Josh to meet Verdie and Harley Foster but learn from Jim-Bob that they have been away and that he has been looking after their place.

John stops in at Ike’s store to pick up some supplies with Josh. They admire a high quality fishing reel. When they return home John discovers that Josh has pocketed the reel. He takes him back to the store to return the item and Ike and to answer for he’s actions. Josh says that he intended to pay when he could but John says that that is not the way things are done. He states his disappointment in Josh.

That evening John asks Jim-Bob if he can trust him to do an important task. He asks Jim-Bob to make a deposit of $28 at the bank for the mortgage on the mill. The next morning the family discovers that Josh has left in the night. When Jim-Bob gets to Rockfish he sees some young troublemakers making fun of Josh who has made his way to town. Jim-Bob tries to protect Josh but the trouble makers over power Jim-Bob and pour beer all over him. When they return home Jim-Bob realizes that he lost the deposit. John is furious but they still have bigger issues to deal with like what to do with Josh. When Verdie finally returns, John asks her if she can find a family to take Josh in.

John takes Josh for a walk to Drucilla’s Pond. Josh asks why he can’t live with him. John tells him that despite the fact that he would like that himself that the time isn’t right for it to be possible for Josh to live with them. Maybe someday it would be possible but not in the time they live.

John takes Josh to Verdie’s to find out if she has found a family for Josh. She is thrilled to say that her and Harley have decided to offer Josh a place in their family. She says that she is gonna raise him to be a fine proud black man. As John walks away leaving Josh with Verdie, tears roll down the boy’s face. He will miss the kindness and trust that John and the Waltons gave him.


  "Josh found his place to belong to, and he grew up to have much to be proud of. To this day, Josh speaks of my father with the deepest affection and regard, and we often laugh together about how he came into our lives during the time that Jim Bob's head was on vacation."

Episode Notes & Interesting Facts:

  • This is the first appearance of the character of Josh.
  • Todd Bridges who performs the character in this episode would go on to star in Different Strokes as Willis Drummond.
  • He will later be played by actor James Bond III.

Additional Cast:



Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Josh (Todd Bridges); Verdie Foster (Lynn Hamilton); Mrs. Thomas (Ketty Lester); Sheriff Bridges (John Crawford); Curt Willard (Tom Bower); Town Boy #1 (Jonas Agee); Town Boy #2 (Ken Shriner)


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