Episode 23: The Townie


(8 March 1973)

Writer: Richard Fielder.

Director: Jack Shea.

Music: Jerry Goldsmith


The Townie


"I will never forget the first time I took a girl to a motion picture show. Her name was Sarah and she lived on the other side of Walton’s Mountain in a little backwoods hollow, and what happened was more astonishing to me than anything I could have imagined if I had tried to write a story about such an innocent pleasure".


John drives John-Boy to the Simmons’ house so he can take Sarah Jane on his first date to a motion picture show. Widow Simmons tells her daughter to return by 5 pm so she can finish her Saturday chores. During the movie, John-Boy clumsily places his arm around Sarah Jane’s shoulder. She pulls his arm closer and places her head on his shoulder. At the end of the movie Sarah Jane runs into a boy she met at the Intercounty Debating Contest. Theodore Albert Claypool Jr. is obviously a spoiled son of a wealthy father. While Sarah Jane speaks with Ted, John-Boy asks his father to pull the truck up to the theatre. During the ride home Sarah Jane and John-Boy argue, and as she is dropped off tells John-Boy that Ted would appreciate her more than he would. Mrs. Simmons wants to know what happened, and John-Boy admits to her that he would like to know, too.


Jim Bob finds a duck egg and shows it to Grandpa. Zeb thinks the mother mallard duck was scared off by hunters, and suggests that Jim Bob hatch the egg by keeping it warm under his armpit. They keep the plan a secret, but at the supper table Grandma thinks the pair are up to some mischief. At school the next day Sarah talks with John-Boy after avoiding each other all day. She admits feeling guilty after going on a Sunday date with Ted. John-Boy tells her she shouldn’t put all of her eggs in one basket, but the strategy backfires as she becomes mad for comparing her with a hen. John-Boy wonders what Sarah Jane’s mother thinks about her date. Sarah Jane admits she told her mother that she went to John-Boy’s house when, instead, was on her date. John-Boy doesn’t appreciate being caught in the middle.


John-Boy tells his father the situation involving him, Sarah Jane, and Ted while John works on the radio. He admits to his father that he is confused and not sure how to handle the situation. As the family sits down for dessert, Jim Bob abruptly leaves, telling Grandpa that it is time. Grandpa and Jim Bob hurry to the barn with the rest of the children behind. After the baby duck is hatched, Grandpa names him Jim Bob Junior. Soon Ted and Sarah drive up in a fancy LaSalle Coupe. The children forget about the duck and crowd around the shiny automobile. The adults look on from the porch, with Grandma stating that she doesn’t think an expensive car should be a toy for a spoiled child.


Ted talks highly about the exciting criminal John Dillinger, but John-Boy angrily responds that the man is taking the easy (and wrong) way. As Ted backs up the car he runs over Elizabeth’s boat in a mud puddle, flattening his tire. Ted attempts to fix it, while John fusses over the duck. John-Boy confronts Sarah Jane about lying to her mother, while she criticizes her mother for being so strict. Sarah Jane thinks that Ted is her way out, but John-Boy hopes she doesn’t take a wrong route. John-Boy notices Ted can’t fix the tire, finally doing it himself. As John-Boy tells Jim Bob that his duck has a lot of growing to do, he glances at Sarah Jane. With the car fixed Ted prepares to drive off, but Mrs. Simmons rides up in her buggy calling his car a “Satin Snare” and grabs her daughter out of his clutches.


At school Miss Hunter speaks about Patrick Henry when Sarah Jane walks in late, telling them that she was sick. John-Boy waits for Sarah Jane to exit the schoolhouse. She goes by herself to Ike’s store to pick up a letter from Ted. Jim Bob enters the boys’ bedroom to find that Jason and Ben want to raise ducks for food. Jim Bob becomes anxious at using his duck for that purpose. In his bedroom John-Boy has problems writing a story about how a girl feels when kissed. Grandma tells him that after first kissed she thought she might get pregnant. John-Boy doesn’t understand how she could have been so innocent when she first kissed Grandpa. Esther says, “It wasn’t your Grandfather!” and makes John-Boy promise not to tell his grandfather.


John-Boy finds Mary Ellen ironing and her Daddy off coon hunting with Charlie Sneed. Going to the mill to finish an order for Ike, John-Boy sees Sarah Jane. They reminisce about their time together, especially a Christmas where John drove them in a sleigh for a drive on Skyline Drive. John-Boy watches her walk off and climb into Ted’s car. John-boy confronts Mary Ellen who finally admits Sarah Jane and Ted are leaving to get married in Elkton, Maryland. John-Boy drives off to find them.


Ted and Sarah Jane observe a roadblock and detour around it. John-Boy arrives soon afterwards to find Sheriff Bridges waiting to detain Ted after his father asked the police chief of Charlottesville to intercede after his son stole money, a gun, and the car. As the family waits for John-Boy, Mrs. Simmons barges into the house demanding to know what John-Boy did with her daughter. Olivia explains that her son has gone to search for Sarah Jane after she went off with Ted. Then T.A. Claypool Sr. arrives demanding to talk with Widow Simmons. The two exchange unpleasantries until Olivia intercedes; telling Claypool that he gave his son a new car but probably never took the time to ride with him and telling Simmons how overly strict she is toward her daughter.


John-Boy comes upon Ted’s car crashed at a gully’s bottom. The pair is not seriously injured, but in need of medical help. When John-Boy tries to take Sarah Jane to the doctor, Ted pulls a gun and attempts to take the truck and Sarah Jane. John enters the house, first explaining to Jim Bob that his duck will be safe, and then leaves with Claypool to find Ted and Sarah Jane. While John-Boy fills the gasoline tank John and Claypool arrive. The father is furious with his son, stating he has been too easy on him. The son acknowledges his errors.


Jim Bob and Grandpa release Jim Bob Junior into the pond, and as the duck swims around Jim Bob says, “I love you, Jim Bob Junior.” John-Boy and Sarah Jane look at the scene, with Sarah Jane finally realizing her mistakes. John-Boy kisses her on the cheek.


"I was not to be the husband that Sarah wished for, but we remained the best of old friends into our adult years, and when I think of her now, I remember those pebbles we tossed into the pond that day, and how the widening circles touched and intertwined reaching out together toward the far shore. Like a family who's love touched another human being and helped carry her to the far shore of womanhood".


Jim Bob: Grandpa, do you think Jim Bob Junior's married yet?
Grandpa: Wouldn't be at all surprised.



Sarah Jane was runner-up in the Intercounty Debating Contest.

John-Boy finds out that his father was married at age twenty-two years

The children want to listen to Eddie Cantor on the radio.

Bobby Joe is Jason’s friend.

Sarah Jane can be considered John-Boy’s second girlfriend, with Marcia Woolery being the first.

Sarah and her mother appear again in The Odyssey (season 2 episode 2).


Also appearing:

Miss Hunter (Mariclare Costello), Sheriff Bridges (John Crawford), Sarah Jane Simmons (Sissy Spacek), Widow Maybelle Simmons (Allyn Ann McLerie), Theodore ‘Ted’ Albert Claypool Jr. (Nicholas Hammond), T.A. Claypool Sr. (John Myhers), Mr. Purdy (Bill McLean), Amanda (Kelly Yaherman), Homer (Mike McGaughey).


(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)