Writer: John McGreevey.
Director: Ralph Waite.
Music: Arthur Morton.
"As close-knit and self-sufficient as our family was, still, neighbors were very important in those days when we were growing up on Waltons Mountain. There were families like ourselves, struggling to keep the land we owned, and there were tenant farmers, at the mercy of the weather, crop prices and absentee landlords".
The children leave the house on their way to school. On the way Harold Beasley meets the kids along the road so he can walk Erin to school, in his own way. They come upon the Littlefield farm, where Beth Ann, along with her little sister Sara May, tells them that they are moving due to being evicted (because of taxes). At school the boys battle each other in pairs. Suddenly Harold falls to the ground. Erin gives him a present, but Charlie takes it from him. It’s a fancy hankie with her initials on it and a note “to my brave knight, from his lady fair”. The boys make fun of it, but even with Erin’s urging to come to her rescue Harold does nothing to retrieve the hankie. Finally Mary Ellen breaks up the fight and saves the presents.
At the supper table the family talk about the Littlefield’s losing their farm, saying that Graham Foster is taking over the farm. John-Boy finds that Foster wants to hire a rent collector (who receives five percent of the rents collected), and decides to apply (unbeknownst to his father and grandfather).
The children prepare to go berry picking either at Brandigan’s Hill or John-Boy’s Meadow, all but Erin who is moping over Harold Beasley. Mary Ellen convinces Erin to go with them, saying Harold should worry about you, rather than the other way around. Graham Foster looks over the Littlefield farm as John-Boy walk up to him. He asks to be considered for the job, finding out that the job entails collecting rent at the first of the month from eighteen tenants, checking properties, and finding tenants for available houses. Foster decides to hire John-Boy, considering he is John Walton’s son.
While the rest of the children pick berries Erin daydreams about Harold. Suddenly she sees a fawn, alone without its mother. Erin approaches the fawn, and decides to take it home. While Grandpa and John work at the mill John-Boy announces that he is Graham Foster’s new rent collector (because he needs money for an encyclopedia at Ike’s store). Grandpa and John tell John-Boy that the Foster’s have had a grudge against the Walton’s for years after they testified against them in a shady land deal. John tells his son to be careful.
Grandpa looks over the fawn. The kids say they saw the game warden looking for poachers. Erin names her new pet Lancelot (possibly as a replacement for her “fallen” prince). But Olivia insists that the fawn must be released back to the wild once it regains its strength. That night Erin sneaks off to the barn to sleep with Lance. In the morning as John works underneath the truck the kids are seen walking to school, with Erin leading the fawn. John tells her not to take the animal to school. The fawn gets into trouble during the day, knocking down the clothesline, so Grandma and Olivia have to re-wash the clothes.
After school John-Boy begins his rounds to collect the rents. At the Grofut house, Mrs. Grofut says that the roof still leaks after reporting it several times to Foster, adding that her husband is sick from the dampness. John-Boy promises to talk with Foster about the problem. Grandma tells Erin about the fawn getting loose in the garden and eating the peas before Grandpa caught him. Erin pleads with them not to get rid of her fawn, promising to tie him up. Grandpa and Mr. Hennessey, the game warden, arrive in the barn to tell Erin that is it illegal for a private person to keep a wild animal. Erin refuses to give up Lance.
John-Boy complains to his mother about the problems with Foster’s tenants. He wants to quit, but finally decides that the tenants need him to speak for them. Olivia takes a blanket to Erin so she stays warm in the barn overnight. She tells Erin that the fawn must leave tomorrow. Erin insists the fawn will die without her, but Olivia says that she needs the fawn more than the fawn needs her. In the morning the children find ways to help lift Erin’s spirits. John-Boy provides Graham Foster with his first hand-written report. He gives him one-hundred-ninety-dollars, but Foster is expecting the full two-hundred-eight-dollars. John-Boy says many tenants like Roswell and Grofut refused to pay him until problems are solved. Foster indicates he is disappointed in John-Boy, refusing to give him his wages because he did not fulfill his contract. John-Boy upturns the table, walking away disgusted.
Grandma finds Erin in the barn, and puts her to work, saying that feeling sorry for oneself is a waste of time. Elizabeth and Jim Bob arrive with a pet frog to make up for the fawn. Soon Hennessey arrives to take the fawn away. He says the fawn will be better in the wild, but Olivia says that Erin is just a little girl who just doesn’t quite believe it.
John talks with John-Boy who is upset with what happened with Foster. John-Boy admits being made a fool of, but hopes to apply when he learned to retrieve what is owed to him. Erin has a nightmare about Lance encountering danger in the woods. She runs to her parent’s bedroom, pleading that they search for him. John promises to search for the fawn the first thing in the morning. As Hennessey, John, and Erin search for the deer, two poachers shoot at Lance. The game warden arrests the two men, as Erin runs to the injured deer. Back at the barn, John says Lance will be fine in a couple of days. John-Boy asks to borrow the truck and Jason because he has developed an idea to outwit Foster. At the Grofut house John-Boy and Jason fix the roof, saying that he’ll be obligated to ask for the rent once they are finished. Mrs. Grofut agrees and says, “You aren’t as young as you look”.
Mr. Hennessey agrees to release Lance into the State Game Park so that he would be protected and so Erin could visit him. John-Boy confronts Foster, giving him one-dollar-eighty-three-cents after deducting six-dollars-sixty-seven cents for roofing nails and pitch for the Grofut house and nine-dollars-fifty-cents for his wages. Foster ponders John-Boy’s actions, telling John-Boy that he was wrong thinking he was a “wooly lamb”. John-Boy refuses to continue his employment, afraid he will “hang himself”. Back home John-Boy tells his father that he feels good at what he did to Foster. Grandpa tells Erin that the park will pamper the fawn, but that it will never know the pleasure of running free and grazing at the high pastures. Hennessey arrives, and Erin asks to be allowed to release the fawn in the wild, what she thinks will be best for the fawn. After many tears, Erin watches the fawn bound into the woods.
John-Boy writes in his journal: “I never regretted my brief fling as a man of business. When I am reminded from time to time of the lessons that Graham foster taught me, memory carry me back to that Depression time and the voices of my family.”
"My sister Erin gave Lance his freedom and he took it gratefully. We never did see him again although two years later we did glimpse a doe and a fawn. The little one looked so much like Lance we told ourselves that this must be his son. Erin decided to give boys another chance, and if Harold Beasley wasn't exactly a "knight in shining armor", he was devoted and persistent. I never regretted my brief fling as a man of business. When I'm reminded from time to time of the lessons Graham Foster taught me, memory carries me back to that Depression time, and the voices of my family".
Jim Bob: I wish today could just go on and on.
John-Boy: Sounds like you must have had a good time.
Jim Bob: I guess this was the best day of my whole life and now it's almost over.
John-Boy: Well, tomorrow may be just as good!
Jim Bob: That's right, or even better!
Olivia: Goodnight, Jim Bob. By the way where's that frog?
Jim Bob: Gee Mama I don't know it was here a minute ago..... goodnight.
Olivia: Oh, Lord, good night.
Graham Foster (Charles Tyner), Mr. Hennessey (Matt Clark), Mrs. Grofut (Marjorie Morley Eaton), Harold Beasley (Jimmy Davila), Mrs. Littlefield (Mary Better), Beth Ann (Donna Sanders), Charlie (Todd Miller), Roswell (James Gammon), Poacher #1 (James Jeter), Poacher #2 (Sam Javis).
(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)