Episode 18: The Gift


(24 January 1974) 42/2/18

Teleplay: Carol Evan McKeand.

Story: Ray Goldrup and Jack Hanrahan.

Director: Ralph Senensky.

Music: Arthur Morton


The Gift


"Living on Walton’s Mountain we were always in touch with the motion of life. Growth and change, loss and gain, were natural and were expected. We saw the green leaves turn to gold and then fall to the ground, crumpled and grey. But all of us knew that when spring came again life would renew itself. But one summer we were faced with an unexpected kind of change that made us all wonder if the future was really a thing to look forward to".


John-Boy and Jason throw in their fishing lines, while Seth Turner reads about making a recorder. He wants to play in his Daddy’s band, already knowing how to play the guitar. All three continue to catch fish for supper. That night, Seth and his mother Wilma join the Waltons for supper. Afterwards, Jason warms up the radio for the Grand Old Opry in which Seth’s father will be performing for the first time. Soon everybody listens to Red Turner and His Country Boys sing: “I love mountain music, good old mountain music, played by a real hillbilly band.”


After the song, Red announces to the radio listening audience that he will return home to Walton’s Mountain after two more weeks playing state fairs. Seth dances and yells that he is going to audition for the band. Wilma urges him to calm down, after still recovering from a chill. Seth wants to build a recorder so he can teach Jason how to play it. Grandpa says a recorder used to be called a “flippleflute” and tells them that a flippleflute should be built with seasoned apple wood. Zeb knows of a good Macintosh apple tree way up in the high meadow. John-Boy, Jason, and Seth agree to meet at Ike’s store at five the next morning to bring wood back for the recorder. John drives Wilma and Seth home.


At 4:30 am, John-Boy’s alarm clock goes off, but John-Boy doesn’t appreciate its promptness. On the walk up the Mountain, Seth says that he should be able to build the recorder in about ten days. Seeing the apple tree, they all race toward it. Seth is out-of-breathe, getting to the tree last. As he saws a limb off the tree, he faints and drops to the ground. Jason runs for his father, while John-Boy comforts his unconscious friend. Later, Dr. Vance recommends that Mrs. Turner see a specialist, Dr. McIvers. While in his office, she, Olivia, and John-Boy wait. Dr. McIvers soon takes Wilma into his office and tells her that Seth has leukemia. He asks Olivia to come in to comfort her, while he tells John-Boy that Seth has a blood disease with only a year or so to live.


John-Boy drives Wilma and Seth back to their home, but as soon as they stop, Seth runs into the forest. He leans against a tree and screams at the top of his lungs. Later, as John-Boy and Wilma wait, Seth walks up to the porch. He ask John-Boy that get the wood in order to build the recorder, and wants to start Jason’s lesson right away. As Wilma walks her son inside, Olivia takes a deep look at her son. Back home, Elizabeth and Jim Bob study while Grandma irons. Grandma asks John-Boy and Olivia what took them so long as they enter the house. Grandpa and Jason soon enter the room.


After John wonders what happened, John-Boy begins to tell the story. Olivia interrupts him, telling the two children to go to bed. John-Boy finishes the story: Seth is dying. However, Jason doesn’t accept the result, insisting the doctor is wrong. He runs into his room, forcing Mary Ellen, Ben, and Erin out. John enters the room, but finds Jason feverously strumming his guitar.


The children play Blind Man’s Bluff in the front yard as John-Boy and Seth work on the recorder. John-Boy tells Seth he can’t understand how he can be so calm. Seth reminds him when he ran into the woods and screamed until he was all yelled out. Afterwards he heard the whippoorwills, the train crossing the trestle at Rockfish, and all the sounds that he “can’t imagine not hearing”. These sounds are why he wants to finish the recorder, so the sound of the recorder won’t die. Jason runs inside, scared and guilty because Seth is dying, not him. Jim Bob grabs Seth and John-Boy to play the game.


Inside, Wilma asks Olivia, “How do you give up a child?” Olivia doesn’t have an answer. She states that she has prayed and talked with Rev. Fordwick, but still is not sure if she can deal with her son’s condition. She is also afraid to tell Red who is returning home tomorrow or the following day. She walks to the front window to find Seth blindfolded and playing with the other children. She runs outside to stop them, yelling at John-Boy for allowing Seth to overstrain himself. Seth stops his mother, saying he doesn’t want life pass him by and to feel like he is already laid out in the parlor. Jason watches from his bedroom window. As the Turner’s walk home, John-Boy picks up the recorder.


Later, John and John-Boy walk and talk about dying. John says that as one gets older you realize that “everything has a beginning, a time to be, and an end”. But, John-Boy doesn’t think he could go on with his life if he knew that all of his dreams would not come true. John believes that Seth is trying to find pleasure from the rest of his life and has realized that one must life for the present, and not just plan for the future. John-Boy rides Old Blue to the Turner house to give Seth his recorder and satchel. Wilma won’t allow him to see her son.


After she closes the door, John-Boy hears Red driving up the road strumming his guitar as he and his fellow musicians return home. Red sees John-Boy, telling him to stay, while Seth runs out to greet his father. Red gives his son a brand-new white cowboy hat, and an outfit like he wears. He also says he has a new dress for Wilma, who appears at the doorstep, and hugs her husband. The family disappears inside the house, as John-Boy waits besides his mule.


Red returns to his house after seeing Dr. Vance. Wilma meets him at the front door, wondering where he went. Red says that he wants Seth and Wilma to join him so Seth can play his music like he wants to do for his remaining time. He also wants them to make good memories together. Inside, Seth finishes the recorder, wrapping it in blue cloth and tying it with a light rope.


Later, John-Boy rides Old Blue back to the Turner’s. Seth tells him that they are leaving, and wants him to give the recorder to Jason. John-Boy awkwardly says, “I’ll be seeing you.” Back at the house, John-Boy tells Grandpa that he’s worried about Jason. Zeb tells John-Boy to give Jason the instrument, and he’ll talk with Jason afterwards. Upstairs, John-Boy tells Jason that Seth wants him to have the recorder. Jason doesn’t acknowledge the recorder, continuing to play his guitar


John-Boy leaves and Grandpa enters. Zeb tells Jason that is was nice of Seth to give him something to remember him after he’s gone. Grandpa says that it would be better if he died, because Jason would have plenty of memories to remember him, and because he’s lived a long, full life. Jason states that it is not fair for Seth to die. Grandpa reminds him that it is a mystery of life, who gets chosen to die and why. Grandpa says that eventually everybody will die, and dying has nothing to do with fairness. Zeb leaves so Jason can think about what he said. Jason picks up the recorder and plays a few notes. He is overcome with emotions, and cries while holding the recorder that Seth has carved the words, “Jason Walton”. Later, Seth shows Jason how to play the recorder, playing the song Beautiful Dreamer, as John-Boy looks on.


"As time went on there were other occasions that necessitated our grieving, and I often think that this early brush with total loss made us better able to face those which were to come after".


Jason plays Beautiful Dreamer on his recorder.

John: You're getting to sound real good, Jason.

Jason: Thank you, Daddy. Goodnight, Daddy, goodnight, Mama.

Olivia: Goodnight, Jason.

Erin: It sounds like Walton’s Mountain would sound if it could sing. Goodnight, Jason.

Jason: Goodnight, Erin. Goodnight, Grandpa.

Grandpa: Goodnight, Jason. You're a good boy.



Grandpa talks about a “flippleflute”, another name for a recorder, one that is best made from apple wood, specifically from a Macintosh apple tree.

Grandpa is seventy-two years old.

Seth Turner is seventeen years old.

The lyrics to the song Beautiful Dreamer, by Stephen Collins Foster, can be seen at web site: http://www.civilwarmusical.com/music/beautifu.htm.

Rance Howard, who plays Dr. McIvers, is Ron Howard’s real father. Ron Howard played 'Richie Cunningham' for many years in 'Happy Days', and then went on to become a very successful film director.

Red Turner appears again in The Comeback (season 5, episode 3), but this time played by Merle Haggard.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Dr. McIvers (Rance Howard), Seth Turner (Ron Howard), Red Turner (Ken Swofford), Wilma Turner (Pat Quinn).


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