"Our home at Waltons Mountain was far off the beaten track, but we were connected with the rest of the world by a picturesque back-country road, muddy or frozen in winter, hot and dusty in the summer, rutted always, the road brought us many adventures. Sometimes a herd of deer would leap in front of the headlights, or the pine forest dappled with newly-blossomed dogwood or red bud would refresh the eye and lift the spirit, and I remember one occasion when I met a stranger on the road, a casual incident which led to fireworks in the family such as we had never seen before".
As John-Boy drives home he picks up a young man hiking. He’s Chad Marshall from Richmond, Virginia, a forestry student from VPI. Chad is doing a paper on forestry. John-Boy mentions that his great-grandfather settled Walton’s Mountain in the 1700s, and he is a second year journalism major at Boatwright. John-Boy suggests Chad talk with his father and grandfather about his lumbering questions. At home, Olivia and Grandma are delayed canning stewed tomatoes when they run out of mason jars. Grandma thinks more jars are in the attic, and Olivia goes to find them. She finds the old baby cradle and a trunk full of baby clothes. Grandma continues to cook tomatoes, wondering what is taking Olivia so long. At Ike’s store, Olivia is buying mason jars when Joleen Gunther comes in with her new baby after visiting her mother. Olivia holds the baby, unaware of Ike’s comments.
John-Boy and Chad find Mary Ellen and Erin walking along the road, and John-Boy introduces Chad to his sisters. Erin sits up front with John-Boy while Chad and Mary Ellen share the rumbleseat. They stop at Ike’s so John-Boy can check the mail. Chad and Mary Ellen talk about his walk from Richmond. Mary Ellen thinks he is “fresh” when he tells her that he likes her, and says she is more sophisticated. Erin smiles. Olivia seems confused when she returns from Ike’s store. Grandma thinks she is “wool-gathering”. Erin lies on her bed dreaming of Chad as Mary Ellen talks about Chad. Mary Ellen puts on powder and rouge, but Elizabeth thinks she’ll look funny slopping the pigs in her church clothes. John-Boy tells Chad about the old cabin up on the Mountain, and John asks John-Boy for help. Erin tosses an egg to Chad and he begins a game of tossing the egg back and forth. He ends up with the broken egg all over himself. Erin runs off, calling him “butterfingers”. They all laugh at the site.
At supper, Grandpa tells Chad to plunge in, and then says grace. Mary Ellen and Erin steal glances at Chad, and both appear interested in Chad, and jealous of each other. Elizabeth asks if Chad is married. John suggests that he camp close by. John looks at the full moon overhead and asks Olivia to take a walk with him. Realizing she was quiet at supper, John wonders if something is wrong. Olivia says she was thinking about the children at supper, and with John-Boy at Boatwright, Jason at the Conservatory, and Mary Ellen graduating high school this summer, she wants another baby. She says there is nothing more rewarding than sitting in a rocking chair late at night holding a baby. John wants them to first see Doc McIvers. They kiss in the dark of the night. At hree o’clock in the morning, John-Boy finds his mother in the attic looking at baby clothes. He asks, “Momma, are you….” Olivia says, “No, I’m not.” In the morning, Olivia is in bright spirits, singing while Grandpa drinks coffee and Grandma mixes materials in a bowl. Grandma wonders why Olivia has changed her mood all of a sudden, and then sees Olivia and John kissing. She wonders why they are keeping a secret from them. Grandpa says, “Your beauty is only matched by your curiosity.”
Chad enters the kitchen, wanting to help out in the mill. John says that Grandpa will show him around, since he and Olivia are leaving for town. Jim Bob comes down, with disheveled hair, saying that Mary Ellen has camped out inside the bathroom. Mary Ellen sees Erin looking at herself in the mirror, and says that she saw her making eyes at Chad last night. She tells her, “How could possibly know about love?” On the trip to town John says he’ll take her to lunch because he has two dollars burning a hole in his pocket.
Chad, John-Boy, and Grandpa work at the mill. Erin is on the roof sprinkling Chad with water. He’s not sure what is going on, with not a cloud in the sky. Mary Ellen removes the ladder, and the men see Erin on the roof. She moves to the other side, but slips and falls into the pig log. Finding her okay, Chad pours a bucket of water on her. At Doc McIvers’ office, John and Olivia learn that the doctor advises against Olivia having more children because her body has reached its limit.
John-Boy writes in his journal: “Much is going on here. Mary Ellen and Erin are in love with the same young man. Both girls are behaving irrationally which I suppose goes with being in love at such a tender age. But I hope this can be resolved without either of them being hurt. I’m also concerned about Momma and suppose she may be having another baby.” Grandpa interrupts, saying Chad is a fine worker if the girls would leave him alone. Mary Ellen explains what she did, calling her sister a little creep. John-Boy says the “green-eyed monster” has arrived, explaining that she is jealous. Mary Ellen says she isn’t jealous with a fifteen-year-old child.
Chad and John-Boy ask Grandpa about the history of the Blue Ridge. He says that Adam Walker was the first person to settle those parts. Erin and Mary Ellen aren’t talking to each other, and Grandma is in the middle as they wash dishing. John tries to comfort Olivia who is in the attic. Jason says that Doc McIvers has stopped by. He tells them that a little eight-month year old baby girl needs a foster home while the papers are finalized. Olivia wants to take care of the child, but John knows that his wife and his family will become attached to the child. Erin asks John-Boy advice on how to make up with Mary Ellen. John-Boy tells her that Chad will leave in a few days, and she’ll never see him again. Grandpa shows Chad a southern yellow pine, and a chestnut tree that had been killed with a beetle infestation around 1931. He tells the forestry student that they use hard woods such as hickory, oak, and yellow popular. The family is anxious while waiting for the child to arrive. He thinks Olivia is level-headed, except then it comes to babies. Elizabeth is trying to get the house ready for the baby, and Grandma has Ben and Jason help placing the clean laundry on the line, even though they think it is woman’s work. Grandma says, “Work is work!”
The truck drives up with John, Olivia, and the baby. Olivia announces that her name is Jennifer. John-Boy holds the baby, calling her ‘Jennie’. That night Olivia rocks the baby to sleep, and John finds that his wife has fallen asleep, too. In the morning, Chad says goodbye to the family, and especially to Mary Ellen. John-Boy brings John a letter from the county’s Welfare Department. Chad tells John-Boy that he’s fallen in love with Erin. He goes to Druscilla’s Pond to say goodbye to her. He tells her that he loves her, but that it’s a couple of years too early. Erin cries as he walks down the road.
Grandma and Olivia diaper the baby as Erin walks in. She goes upstairs and cries in front of Mary Ellen. Erin says that she loves Chad. The sisters hug each other, and agree they are sisters again. Grandpa comes into the kitchen complaining about the hot weather. He says, “It beats me how a few pounds of noise and appetite can upset a whole household and turn a bunch of sensible people into babbling idiots.” Jason asks John to go out to the mill, then comes back to tell Grandpa that they need a new belt for the saw.
That night the family gathers around the baby. Jim Bob doesn’t know what all the excitement is about. A knock is heard at the door and John finds that Blanche Pigeon is there, the social worker from the Welfare Department. She announces that the couple is ready to adopt the baby. Elizabeth cries out to her mother not for her to take the baby. Blanche tells them that the couple can’t have children on their own, and will love the baby very much. Olivia wants to meet the couple. Blanche introduces Ida and Jim Persie to the family. Olivia hands over the baby to Ida and begins to tell her about the baby. Suddenly, Olivia breaks down, unable to go on. John holds his wife, as the children say goodbye to Jennifer. Olivia watches at the window while they drive off. John picks up the baby clothes, and takes the cradle to the attic. Olivia says not to place it too far back in the attic.
"The cradle was never far back in the attic, it was used again and again as our own families grew, and I think she is never so happy as when one or all of her grandchildren come to visit in that house on Waltons Mountain".
Olivia: Goodnight John-Boy. Goodnight Mary Ellen.
Mary Ellen: Goodnight Mama. Goodnight Erin.
Erin: Do you think Chad will ever come back?
Mary Ellen: I don't know Erin, maybe.
Jim Bob: I hope he doesn't. When he was here, you and Erin were primping in the bathroom all the time.
John: Goodnight Jim Bob!
Jim Bob: A guy has to get in the bathroom sometime.
Mary Ellen & Erin: Goodnight Jim Bob!
Elizabeth: Goodnight everybody!
Michael O'Keefe returned to reprise his role as Chad Marshall during season 5, episode 15: "The Elopement".
Grandpa says at the end of his blessing: “... Amen. I wonder why they never say ‘A-women’?”
Chad is a student with a major in forestry.
His father works at a newspaper in Richmond, Virginia.
Chad attends VPI, which, in real life, is Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Its web site is: http://www.vt.edu.
Chad Marshall (Michael O'Keefe); Joleen Gunther (Elizabeth Gill); Dr. McIvers (Rance Howard); Jim Persie (Gary Dontzig); Ida Persie (Trish Soodik); Blanche Pigeon (Dee Anne).