"Storytelling was art in our family, it was not only entertaining but a way of preserving family history, local legends, and a few tall tales. Stories of ghosts and nameless things that moved in the night were told by my grandfather in the warmth of the fireplace. But they lived only in our imaginations, until one, quiet, moonless night. It seemed that something was watching us.....".
One night while the family sleeps something mysterious creeps into the barn. A bird is heard, and the animals are disturbed by whatever is outside. John wakes up after hearing the animals. He goes outside with John-Boy and Jason. Once outside, John-Boy says he saw a tall man standing over by the barn. They wonder why Reckless didn’t bark at the intruder. In the morning, John finds Elizabeth making a birdcage. The family talks about the incident while Olivia makes breakfast. Grandpa remembers when the Depression began, and hobos often roamed around Walton’s Mountain. Olivia tells the children to go directly to school and to stay together, and John reassures the children that they will be safe.
Ike puts up a new sign ‘Godsey’s Hall’ next to the store, announcing he is opening his new hall (with new plumbing and electricity, spending $75 on everything). John-Boy and Jason agree to spread the word while they pump three dollars into John-Boy’s car. John-Boy suggests to Jason that he and several of his musician friends rent the hall and plan a dance. Ike tells Jason that the hall rents for three dollars during the week and five dollars on weekends. (Zack Roswell rents his barn for six dollars.) As the children walk to school, Jim Bob stops when he thinks he’s found a headlight in a bunch of junk. Erin and Elizabeth go on without him. As they walk through the forest, they hear a whippoorwill, something they don’t normally hear. They see a man off in the distance, and they quickly run off. Later, at home, Jim Bob says he didn’t see anything a few minutes later when he walked by. John, Grandpa, and Grandma discuss what could have happened. Grandpa thinks it was the ghost of old, tall Paul Tucker, a fellow who was killing many of the cattle around the area. Grandma doesn’t want Erin to work at the telephone office, but John says that she will be all right. Later, John-Boy talks with Corabeth and Ike, wondering why Erin hasn’t called from the telephone office. He calls Miss Fannie, but she says that Erin left earlier. Soon, Erin walks in to say that the Baldwin sisters gave her a ride. Ike promises Corabeth that he will lock all their doors before they go to bed.
As they prepare for bed, Corabeth looks outside and sees a face staring in the window. Ike rushes off to call the sheriff. John-Boy works on the newspaper when Jason and Ben walk in to talk about a possible dance. Jason thinks they would play regular music like ‘Stardust’. The boys think they will make a profit of about fifteen dollars (tickets and an ad in the newspaper will be four dollars, and couples will be charged fifty cents). Ben calls the band “Jason Walton and the Rhythm Kings”. After the boys leave, John hears a whippoorwill outside the office. As the Baldwin sisters turn off their evening lights they see something in the back yard, possibly someone wanting some Recipe or maybe Papa’s ghost. Suddenly, the front door bell rings, and they find John-Boy standing there. He was concerned about them, telling them of a stranger wandering about. They tell them of what they saw outside. He checks outside, through the Recipe room, but doesn’t see anyone He brings in a sack full of apples. John-Boy suggests they make sure all of their windows and doors are securely locked. As John-Boy drives home, he meets a woman calling out for Lorin. He offers her a lift, but she walks on without saying a word.
Jason looks over the hall, telling Ike that he might reserve it for this Saturday. He offers Jason a deal, he reserve it Saturday night if he will provide Corabeth’s lemonade. Elizabeth makes a birdcage for school, while Erin tells her sister that the project is too difficult for her. Jason and Ben announce that they are having a dance this Saturday night at Godsey’s Hall. The girls are excited about getting dressed up, and Jason asks if Olivia and John will chaperone. Grandma says she will go in order to keep their grandfather out of trouble. The children dance in the living room. Olivia and Grandma tell the children that John and Grandpa are up on the Mountain hunting to feed “this crazy bunch”.
John and Grandpa see smoke over at the old Montgomery Place. They find Eva Hadley setting up housekeeping, saying Sarah Montgomery was her mother’s sister. They notice the fine wicker baskets lying about the house. The men excuse themselves and continue their hunting. Grandpa felt that someone was hiding from them; John felt it, too. John-Boy writes in his journal, “Into the peaceful, unchanging pattern of the days, the presence of the stranger moved like a cloud casting a shadow of fear across the village. The people drew away from each other, and not knowing when or from where the menace might appear, they….” Erin interrupts him as he writes down this idea for a story. She wonders if very many tickets are being sold, wanting to meet someone special at the dance.
Ben puts up a sign at Ike’s store “Dance - Saturday Night - Godsey’s Hall”. Jim Bob and Elizabeth also put up signs along the road. In the bushes someone watches them. Back home, Erin irons her dress, and then dances around with it draped across her body. Grandma says as long as her dress is clean, that is all that matters. Erin wants to wear a red sash, but Grandma says that color is only for fancy women. Erin thinks she might be a fancy woman. Grandpa comes in, smelling her donuts. He says John is outside plucking the turkey they shot. He begins to dance around with Grandma singing “The Lady in Red”. John walks in with the turkey. They say that they found a new neighbor at the old Montgomery Place. Ben comes in worried: nobody is buying tickets because they are afraid to go out at night. Jim Bob and Elizabeth continue putting up signs, when Elizabeth sees someone after hearing another whippoorwill. They rush off.
In the morning, Erin, Jim Bob, and Elizabeth go off to decorate the hall while Olivia plants flowers. John-Boy drives them as he goes to Rockfish. John and Sheriff Bridges walk up to the Montgomery Place to investigate Eva Hadley and the goings-on. She is upset for bringing the sheriff. She admits that her boy is also living with her. She tells them that they came from Buckingham County, and her boy will be gone all day. They leave, saying that they will have to look for the boy themselves. That night, the family eats a subdued meal. They talk about Mrs. Hadley. Grandma thinks Bridges works too slow. Jason says that three musicians are coming tonight to practice for the dance, and he is worried about losing money in this venture. Jason goes out to the barn when the musicians arrive. They play “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” but have a problem with the saxophone player. Outside, the stranger lurks about. He appears at the door, and Jason chases after him, followed by the other boys. They catch him, as John-Boy and Olivia closely follow. Olivia calms the boy, who she thinks is scared to death. He whistles, saying nothing else. Olivia and Grandma give him cookies and milk. Grandpa says, “That’s your vicious, night-stalking monster!” Mrs. Hadley rushes in, as her son helps to construct Elizabeth’s birdhouse. She says that he is mute, from the day he was born to today, eighteen years old. She said they came to the Mountain to escape the torment of the city. The family looks on relieved to know he is harmless. John says that he knows of work that he can do. The Baldwin sisters admire his work on their wicker chairs, and listen to him whistle at their bird, Caruso.
The dance is held to a full house, as the community is relieved that the mystery of the stranger has been solved. A small boy who wants to dance with Erin interrupts John-Boy. John brings the Hadleys, and they are warmly welcomed to the dance. Miss Emily dances with Lorin as Grandpa, Grandma, and the others look on.
"Lorin Hadley became a valued member of our community, and his skills supported his mother and himself from that day on. Jason didn't get rich from that dance at Godsey's Hall, but it did provide an unforgettable milestone in our memories of those lean, but wonderful years".
girls like dancing better than boys!
Erin: Because girls are more romantic!
Ben: Is a boy supposed to talk to a girl when they're dancing?
Erin: You're supposed to whipser in her ear.
Jim Bob: Nobody does that!
Elizabeth: Oh Daddy does!
Jim Bob: He does not.
John: Yes he does!
Elizabeth: What does he say, Mama?
The year is 1937.
The Hadley’s has moved into the old Montgomery Place from Buckingham County. Lorin is eighteen years old. Mrs. Hadley’s husband left her earlier. Her mother is the daughter of Sarah Montgomery’s sister.
Zack Roswell has a barn that he rents out for six dollars a night.
Old, tall Paul Tucker killed cattle when Zeb was younger, and the men in the community were forced to kill him.
Jason and fellow musicians (Lou, Tex, and Eddie) play at the dance as “Jason Walton and the Rhythm Kings”.
The musicians practice with Shuffle off to Buffalo, whose lyrics can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Cafe/8636/shuffleoff.html.
Grandpa sings The Lady in Red, whose lyrics can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Cafe/8636/ladyinred.html
The Baldwin sister’s parakeet is called Caruso, for opera singer Enrico Caruso.
Ike and Corabeth Godsey (Joe Conley and Ronnie Claire Edwards); Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson); Sheriff Ep Bridges (John Crawford); Mrs. Eva Hadley (Peggy Webber); Lorin Hadley (Gary Tomlin); 'The Rhythm Kings': Lou on saxophone (Brian Longley), Tex on banjo (Larry McNeely), and Eddie on drums (Ralph Henley).