"Whoever sees his father clearly? I believe I often saw my father, not as he was, but as I needed him to be. Then one difficult autumn I had a chance to glimpse the whole man and to understand him more fully".
John and John-Boy are driving in the truck when another truck speeds up from behind them, in an obvious hurry. They let it pass. Ben shows a new girl, Courtney, around the house, but Jim Bob, Erin, and Mary Ellen interrupt him. He shows her the rabbit, with new babies. All the people around astound her. He is about to kiss her when Jason comes out of the smoke house. He shows her the barn, and Old Blue, Chance, and Myrtle. She wants to go on a ride on Old Blue, but Ben thinks he should do the chores. He tries to kiss her, but Courtney thinks he should ask his mother first. John says that the new mill has been giving them rough competition. He does have a contract from Horace Brimley. They arrive at Horaceís place, but he tells them that heís going to have to cancel the rest of the order because he got a better deal from Murdock. John understands. Ben and Courtney ride Old Blue back to the house. Elizabeth walks up, saying that Old Blue canít stay where he tied her because itís where Myrtle eats. Suddenly, Courtney says maybe they shouldnít be dating because she is more mature than he (even though she is only eight days older). She kisses him on the cheek and leaves. Ben thinks about what she said.
John and John-Boy enter the house, looking glum. They are about to tell Grandpa what is happening when Jim Bob tells them that Ben is upstairs packing. John enters his room, wondering what is wrong. Ben says he is going to Charlottesville to find a job. He thinks no one around here treats him like an adult. John agrees he can go when Ben says he has to be his own man. The girls talk about Ben leaving while in the kitchen and Olivia overhears. She rushes up to his room. She is upset at John for not conferring with her first. Olivia says that Ben doesnít know about the world, but John says it is about time he finds out. That night, the family sits on the front porch. John wants to discuss the new lumber company that is selling lumber cheaper than they can. Grandpa says he and John-Boy will go over there and look around. John thinks they will have to cut prices and work longer hours. It begins to rain, and Olivia is worried about Ben. Ben is talking about chickens and Olivia is worried because they donít know where their son is. She is still upset at John for letting Ben go out on the most miserable night of the year.
In the morning, Grandpa and John-Boy drive over to the new mill site. They find that a whole mountain slope has been totally cleared of trees. Grandpa is upset at Murdockís wasteful way of cutting trees. Ben tries to find a job at a business but is told in no uncertain terms that they donít need a new employee. Olivia and Grandma talk about Ben while cutting vegetables. Olivia decides to go to Charlottesville to find him, and Grandma says she is going with her. Grandpa takes Jim Bob and Elizabeth near a waterfall because Grandpa wants to show them proper conservation measures. He shows them a tree with a musket ball indented in it; another tree stood there when he charged up San Juan hill; a clump of trees (the other side of the ridge) was started when the Wright Brothers first flew; a bunch of white cedars was planted by him when Elizabeth was first born; and a young clump was started when our Depression first started. Grandpa says that it takes over a hundred years to make an inch of soil, so it is important to be concerned about soil, and when you cut one tree you must plant another three.
Olivia is driving twenty miles per hour, and Grandma says she doesnít need to drive like a speed maniac. She relates the story when her Cousin Irisí boy ran away to Portsmouth and spent the night at a speak-easy near the port drinking liquor. Olivia speeds up to twenty-two miles per hour. Jason tells Grandpa that John and John-Boy went off to the Rockfish Railroad Depot because they heard that the C & C Railroad had a washout at a trestle last night and were hoping to get the order for railroad ties. Ben tries to get a job at a store as a clerk, but he doesnít have experience. He sees Olivia and Grandma drive by in John-Boyís car. They have already tried most of the streets in Charlottesville, and decide to return home. John and John-Boy arrive to find a person from Murdock is already there. Bill Cobbs, who works for Murdock, says he already has the contract. But Frank Willis, of the Depot, says he needs lumber from both companies. John-Boy notices that Willis is asking for bids on a warehouse order. He suggests that first company who gets an order of lumber to the washout site will get the warehouse order. All agree to the proposal.
Ben hitchhikes and is picked up by a man in a truck. (Ben doesnít see the Murdock sign on the driverís side.) Ben says he is looking for a job, having mill experience. The man mentions he works in a sawmill and they need a man with mill experience. But, Ben is already asleep. Ike drives his motorcycle past the Murdock mill with an order of groceries. He sees Ben working at the mill, and wonders why he is working there. The girls talk about how romantic is it for Ben to go off because of Courtney. Elizabeth doesnít understand why a girl would want a boy she likes to go away. John arrives to find that supper is not ready. Just then Olivia and Grandma arrive to say that they have been searching for Ben all day. Just then Jason brings in Ike to tell them that Ben is working for Murdock. John says it is Benís business where he works, but the boys donít understand why Ben would work for Murdock, unless he isnít aware about the competition.
Both companies work hard at filling the order. Cobbs tells the workers that they arenít producing enough lumber and says that they will get an additional dollar if they get a load by tomorrow morning. Olivia pounds bread, but has Ben on her mind. Olivia yells to John-Boy, asking him to go get Ben. She says if he wonít go, then she will go. John-Boy realizes how embarrassing it would be if his mother showed up to work. Suddenly, the machinery fails. John and Grandpa have an argument. Grandpa walks off, saying he has a plan that will let them beat Murdock. Grandpa and Jim Bob go off. He tells Jim Bob that he knows all the curves and bends of the river, and all the trees in the region. He sometimes thinks he knows the forest better than he knows the family. They talk about the Murdockís strengths and weaknesses, and theirs, too. At the end of the day, several Murdock employees tell Ben that Cobb really wants to beat the Waltons out of that warehouse contract. Ben is stunned by the news. He goes over to Cobb and tells him that he canít work for him anymore. Just then John-Boy drives up. Cobbs gives him his pay, saying he would never have hired him if he had known he was a Walton.
Grandpa ties up Old Blue in front of Ikeís store. He walks in and asks Ike if he remembers that logging chain they used to remove Minnie Brubakerís mule out of the swamp. He wants to use the chain to tie it around lumber and float it down the river to the washout site. Ike tells Ike that the fellows playing pool are from the Murdock company. Zeb hopes they didnít hear what he just said (at least, that is what he says). John-Boy and Ben drive up to the house. Ben tells John that he is sorry that he acted like a jackass over a girl. He also said that he did not realize that the Murdockís were taking business away from him. He didnít want to come home a failure. John says that he had to do it, and he did it. He is proud of his son. They hug.
Ben goes inside of the house to face his mother. She acts calmly for a while, but then says how mad she is about not hearing from him. She then smiles and offers him a piece of pie and some milk. They are back to work when Grandpa says he has a plan. He goes off with John-Boy to develop his plan. Ike stops by to say that the Murdockís just passed his store with a full load of lumber on their truck. Grandpa says they donít need to rush down the mountain with their load. The Murdock truck stops where John-Boy is standing and he tries to stop them from unloading his lumber into the water. They unload anyway, ignoring his pleas. John and Grandpa drive down the mountain. Zeb explains that John will find out in ďthree shakes of a lambís tailĒ what he did. John-Boy looks on as the Murdock men begin to float their load down the river. John-Boy smiles as one of the workers says, ďTell your Grandpa, thanks for the tip.Ē Suddenly the Murdock load is stuck on something under the water. John and Grandpa watch them. Grandpa yells out, ďThere are only forty-four more of those sandbars left to go!Ē
"Like the tortoise in Aesop's Fables, like Brer Rabbit in the Tales of Uncle Remus, my grandfather had outwitted the opposition with his cunning. We arrived at the site a full half-day ahead of our floating competition, and were awarded the warehouse contract. It kept us going for most of that winter".
Ellen: Goodnight Ben.
Ben: Goodnight Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen: You ladies man!
Olivia: Let's go to sleep now everybody.
Elizabeth: Goodnight Jason.
Jason: Goodnight Elizabeth.
John: Liv, there's something I'm going to do when this Depression is over.
John: Put up proper walls in this house so everybody can't hear what's being said in every other room.
Elizabeth: Why are you going to do that, Daddy?
John: Goodnight, Elizabeth....
Murdock Wood Products Company is located at the old Daukins place.
According to the introduction by Earl Hamner, it is autumn.
The C & O Railroad is likely the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. Information can be found at the website of Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society: http://www.cohs.org/history/history.htm.
Portsmouth, Virginia is a city in southeastern Virginia, and is a major seaport on the Elizabeth River and the natural waterway called Hampton Roads.
Paul Harper, who played Grier, is David Harperís (Jim Bob) father.
Ike Godsey (Joe Conley); Horace Brimley (Wilford Brimley); Courtney (Karen Purcil); Bill Cobbs (Bill Lucking); Frank Willis (Hal Riddle) Ferris (Cal Haynes); Parsons (Tom Howard); Workman (Don Freeman); Grier (Paul Harper); Store Manager (James E. Brodhead).