Strapped for money to make bank payments on his printing press, John Boy sells his tract of Waltons Mountain to land developers – a beautiful meadow, which he parts with for 40 dollars. The developer uses this “toe in the water” to survey other holdings, and uses the John Boy sale to rouse up other interests – including Ike Godsey’s, who sells his land too. When it is revealed that the land will be used for hydraulic mining, John-Boy is horrified, as is Grandpa, who scorns his grandson for his lack of judgment… and appreciation of the land. John Boy uses the Sunday sermon as an opportunity to tell the townsfolk about the mining plans, and the harm it will cause. Although he is unable to buy back the meadow, he dissuades everyone from making the mistake that he did.
Mary Ellen has her own crisis. After Martha Rose falls from a ladder, Curt is called in to treat her, and finds she had broken ribs and now shows difficulty breathing. When she starts convulsing, the doctor starts an emergency tracheotomy, but Mary Ellen faints, and later feels she had let her husband down and has no right to be in the nursing profession. Only after she delivers Mrs. Fordwick’s baby, by herself, does she find redemption.
Timelier than ever, this one explores a frequent theme of the series: the beauty of the land vs. the ever “progressing” world of 1930s America, when anything that did not contribute to jobs and the economy was secondary. Sound familiar? The show always saluted nature (it was the 70s, after all), so much so that if the series were made today, the powers that be would force a more even hand it dealing with ecology vs. commerce. Too bad.
First regular episode to feature Mary Ellen as a married woman, as well as the introduction of the Fordwick’s new baby, Mary Margaret. Martha Rose returns, no longer as Mary Ellen’s adversary, but as a married woman herself, ready to let bygones be bygones (if only she were better with ladders).
Ralph Waite appears only briefly at the beginning of the episode.