"I remember so well the carefree designated crossroads of my life, the points where one could stop and thoughtfully consider which road to take. But there were those other particles of time in which decisions were made more quickly and in one snap judgment irrevocable forces were set into motion. I especially recall such a time affecting my grandmother, and my sister Mary Ellen".
John-Boy writes in his journal while Grandma gathers eggs. Suddenly, Grandma drops the pan and feels a terrible pain throughout her body. Jim Bob wonders what is wrong, but she says everything is fine. Esther returns to the kitchen in order to scour all the pans in the house. Olivia wonders why she is cleaning pans that are already clean. Grandma refuses to tell her. At Dr. Vance’s office, John-Boy wonders if he is really leaving the area, as he prepares an article for the newspaper. Dr. Vance says he cannot afford to stay, getting paid often with hams, eggs, watermelons, and Glenn Porter even paid for his son’s tonsils with shingles. Vance is hoping that a doctoring prospect in Charlottesville will allow him to move. Dr. Vance says that rural doctors all over the country are moving to the city, and refers to the Hippocratic Oath.
At the Rockfish Valley Telephone Exchange, Fanny Tatum instructs Erin with the telephone equipment at her first day of work. John watches on as the two talk about the functions of the switchboard operator. Erin tries to connect to Len Bookings, the head of the volunteer fire department. But Bookings thinks there is a fire, and Fanny has to intercede. The next call goes normal. Fanny tells John about the pressures of the job and hopes that Erin can help her after school and a half-day on Saturdays.
John-Boy tries to explain why Dr. Vance is leaving, and others across the country are doing the same. Grandma won’t listen. Grandpa thinks she is “off her feet” but Olivia thinks it is more than that. In the bedroom Grandma has another seizure. John-Boy and Mary Ellen look for the Hypocratic Oath in books. John-Boy thinks that Mary Ellen might know someone at the university who would like to practice on Walton’s Mountain. Mary Ellen quickly thinks of David Spencer who is an intern at the University Medical School.
John-Boy and Mary Ellen talk with Spencer about the possibility of working as a country doctor. John-Boy writes notes about their discussion. Spencer talks about intestinal flu that has been going on in the area, and tells him the symptoms. He would like to learn the business with Dr. Vance, before he leaves. Grandpa has another attack while the children toss the ball around the table. Mary Ellen thinks that Grandma has intestinal flu, just like what is going on in Charlottesville. They take her to bed.
Mary Ellen nurses Grandma while Grandpa and John look on. She doesn’t allow Elizabeth to come in, because she could be contagious. Mary Ellen says that if she keeps a heating pad on her stomach by tomorrow, she will be fine. Esther is comforted. John-Boy runs off the latest edition of the newspaper. Ben is interested in the ads that pay for the editorials. John-Boy is proud of his headline and story “Dr. Vance’s Pledge To You”: the Hypocratic Oath and the “Patient’s Pledge To The Doctor”. But Ben is interested in the ad, “Pimento-cheese sandwich, and a green river at Cookson Drugstore in Rockfish”.
John-Boy drops off a copy of the newspaper to Mrs. Vance while Dr. Vance is still away looking for a job at Fredericksburg, and Richmond. John-Boy takes Erin to her new job. She is four-and-one-half minutes late, and Fanny makes sure that she will not abide by her tardiness. She will return four-and-one-half minutes later than normal. Esther tells Olivia that she feels bad, while Zeb pours John some coffee. When Olivia comes downstairs Zeb goes up to his wife. Olivia tells John that she is worried about her temperature of 102 degrees, and she keeps hugging that heating pad. Esther tells Zeb to take care of himself. He runs downstairs to tell John to call Dr. Vance right away. John calls the switchboard operator (Erin) from Ike’s store, and she tells him that Dr. Vance is out of town. He calls Mrs. Vance who promises to find her husband. John tells Erin to call Sheriff Bridges to bring over his touring car to transport Grandma to the hospital. But, Erin finds that Bridges is gone from the office. She runs out of the office to search for Sheriff Bridges. Erin finds Ep down the street. They get into his car and race to the Walton house. At the telephone office the switchboard is lit up with calls.
Later, Miss Fannie comforts Erin at the telephone office. She makes a search to find Dr. Vance. David Spencer greets John, Zeb, and Olivia. He says that Mrs. Walton may need surgery, and will need Zeb’s permission to operate. Zeb goes with Spencer. John-Boy and the children wait at Ike’s store in front of the telephone. John-Boy calls Miss Fannie to make sure the telephone is working. Ike suggests they play pool, but they aren’t interested. Elizabeth asks John-Boy, “Is Grandma going to die?” John-Boy looks at her, and decides to go to the hospital. The children follow him.
Jason and Mary Ellen join in the waiting at the hospital. Dr. Vance arrives, saying Fannie Tatum found him. Mary Ellen says doctors don’t operate on intestinal flu, so thinks it isn’t flu (and she made a mistake). The children watch as hospital personnel roll an oxygen tent into Grandma’s room. Spencer tells Mary Ellen that she should not have diagnosed the symptoms because she doesn’t have flu, but acute appendicitis. John-Boy finds out that her appendix burst and peritonitis is spreading.
Grandpa finds Mary Ellen crying in the hospital chapel. He listens to her prayers, and the blame she places on herself. Grandpa reaches out to his granddaughter, and they comfort each other. John and John-Boy go outside for some fresh air. John says that he will have to spend more time with her. He remembers when Ben died, and he would take her on rides all over the place in his old DeSoto, even to Fluvanna county where she was born. John-Boy remembers when he took Grandma to Boatwright University (before he was a student) and she wanted to make sure he took a course on The Bible as Literature. John-Boy knows she is not the type of woman to give up without a fight.
Later, the family waits in the hallway as Jason walks up unable to find Mary Ellen. Jason takes over holding Elizabeth as Olivia takes a rest. She finds Grandpa sitting by himself in the hallway, staring off into the distance. Zeb remembers stepping on her dress on their wedding day. It was a June wedding, at Mount Shiloh church. When the preacher said he could kiss the bride, he gave her a big kiss but the dress ripped when he was stepping on it. He begins to cry, saying he can’t go on without her.
Dr. Vance tells Mary Ellen that Grandma will survive. He lashes out at her, telling her that any diagnosis by her is wrong because she is not a doctor. Mary Ellen says she is ashamed. Dr. Vance tells Mary Ellen that Esther wants to see her. In Esther’s room, Grandma tells her granddaughter that she wants her to forgive me. She said it was wrong of her to ask her to be a doctor when she isn’t one. She takes all the blame. Mary Ellen says she has everything twisted around. The two hug. Grandma says nothing comes easy in this life. Sometimes you just have to go on with life, and try to be the best you can be.
"Our grandmother recovered to live long good years with us, and Dr Vance decided to remain on Waltons Mountain. People there who had always appreciated him began to show it by paying him with money when they could. Mary Ellen stayed in nursing, where she surely belonged, to learn all the things she had to learn".
will you take me to Miss Fanny's tomorrow?
John-Boy: Why don't you ride on Blue, he doesn't take gasoline....
Erin: What's that got to do with it?
John-Boy: Gasoline costs 15 cents a gallon Erin.
Ben: Make her pay you John-Boy! She's earning money now!
John-Boy: It's a good idea Ben. You can pay me too, all your riding around....
[silence.....] Ben? [silence...] Ben?
Ben: I'm asleep......
Erin: Goodnight, Ben.
John-Boy: Goodnight everybody.
A copy of the Hypocratic Oath can be found at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/doctors/oath_classical.html.
Fluvanna county is immediately east of Nelson county (a.k.a. Jefferson county) in Virginia. Information about Fluvanna county can be found at: http://www.fluvannachamber.org/index.html.
Information about the National DeSoto Club can be found at: http://www.desoto.org/.
Dr. Vance remains on Walton’s Mountain.
Gasoline is fifteen cents per gallon.
Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Sheriff Ep Bridges (John Crawford); Fanny Tatum (Sheila Allen); Dr. Vance (Victor Izay); Mrs. Vance (Dee Carroll); David Spencer (Robert Merritt Woods).