John Boy

I hope some of you find a common thread in the story below.




John Boy



            I grew up just a little different than most people.

            Now, when I say that, I must also qualify that statement, because the people who know me best would say something completely different and, from their perspective, they would be right.

            I grew up on a farm in a farming community where everyone had two jobs; the job they went off to in the factories, the lumber companies, the banks, and the retail stores and the job they woke up to and went to bed with. This job was farm and family. In my world – a very good world to be a kid in – you could not separate the two. I cut my working teeth in hayfields and tobacco patches and in barns. I was making money working from on the farm from the time I was thirteen.

            As far as the other aspects of my life, they were quite normal. I went to school. I played sports. I fished and I hunted. We played backyard football, pitched horseshoes, and, in the winter, played card games until we couldn’t stand to play them any more. I did all these things and, everyone I grew up with, did these things as well. I dreamed of girls, sneaked around and chewed tobacco, smoked cigarettes and did things on a motorcycle that no one would have approved of. Just like everyone else did.

            So when I say I grew up different than everyone else, what I really mean to say is that I grew up different on the inside. For, on the inside, in the place no one could see, in the place that fueled the fire that drove the body, soul, and mind was the writer.

            In my small farming, hard working community, full of people I continue to love and admire, someone who likes to write is someone that they just don’t understand. It is something that they can not comprehend. These are people who make their living, literally, by the sweat of the brow. Hours upon hours of backbreaking, body depleting labor went into the continued assurance of their existence. They worked hard all day, watched television at night, attended church on Sunday and went to singings and revivals in the summer. It is a steady diet of work, religion, and tame entertainment. This was the life of my family and community.

            Amidst all this comes a kid who, from the time he was seven, wrote stories. Here’s a kid who has been touched by the writing gods, who can see a blank pad of paper and pen and feel his heart burn for a desk and a quiet moment where he can be alone with his thoughts. Here is a kid that had a gift that no one around him understood. I was like a sculpture being born to family of loggers or an artists being born to a family of housepainters. No one knew what to say to me or do with me.

I learned early on to just not say anything about what I did. There wasn’t any point to it. No one understood what was going through my mind. No one who is not a writer can understand what was going through my mind and, in a community of way less than five hundred people, it is not like there was a workshop or a seminar close by to discuss my ideas and feelings with. So, I just stayed silent. I read my books and wrote my stories and I kept it myself not out of fear but out of practicality. It didn’t matter whether I wanted to talk about it or not talk about it. Nobody would understand if I did talk about it. I was talking the Greek language in Italy.

Then, out of the blue, when I was preteen (between eight and twelve or so) there was John Boy. Like a Godsend, there was this young man, living in a small, rural, farming, hardworking southern community who not only wanted to be a writer but was embraced by his family as a writer. They not only went to church, prayed at the dinner table and busted their asses from dawn till dusk to make ends meet, but they also had time to encourage their writer son. I was drawn in immediately.

One episode had Santa bringing a Big Chief writing tablet to John Boy for Christmas (Santa heard you wanted to be a writer, John Walton said).

One episode had John Boy submitting a novel only to find that they didn’t accept handwritten work (he had to find and learn how to use a typewriter).

Another episode had him struggling to rewrite a novel after it had been burned up in a fire (It is easy the first time around, but it is hard to duplicate inspiration).

My favorite episode was one in which he had finally made it and his grandfather was looking a word John Boy had used to describe him. Grandpa Walton had to go through several words and interpretations to finally understand original word John Boy had used. When he finally got to the last word – and the meaning as he understood it – he spent the rest of the episode mad. (Reference my blog “It’s You”).

These things – and so many more on the show – were things that I was either feeling or would later feel as a writer that no one was talking about when I was a child. I can’t overstate this enough. No one can understand an artist but an artist. No one can understand a writer but a writer and here was this guy, through the magic of television, talking about things that no one else I knew was talking about, things that no one else got but me and others like me.

It has been a long time since The Waltons was on. I still watch from time to time in reruns. While it remained a very good show thanks to great writer and acting, for my taste, it never was the same after John Boy left the show. I don’t think it was for anyone. I think for most the loss of Richard Thomas and his ability as an actor left a void that couldn’t be filled.

For me, the fact that John Boy was no longer on the show was a bit more personal.


Who have you identified with either on television or the movies or in books?


Thanks for reading.







About timkeen40

When I was seven, I opened one of those little Golden Books (Lassie) and started copying the words down on paper and it set my soul on fire. I have been writing ever since. I don't know where this is going but I invite you along on the journey.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to John Boy

  1. What a wonderful tracing of your writing history – from then until now. I enjoyed reading it, and identified with much of it – I’ve written poetry for as long as I can remember – and have always wondered why some people think it’s such a big deal. Took me forever as a child to finally figure out that other people aren’t always painting what they see with word images. I instinctively look for rhymes – even very far-fetched ones, like Ogden Nash and Dr. Seuss – or metaphors in everyday life. My poems do not always rhyme, but they all are an effort to evoke a feeling or an image with words.

    A writer’s life is unique – and each writer’s life is unique among them. But there is a common thread – the love of words. My father taught me early on to love them; my love affair has continued and grown deeper as I have gotten older. What a wonderful thing is language – especially the written word, because it calls upon the reader to add his/her own voice to it! To attach their own hermeneutic perspective to whatever they read- and each perspective singular – and something the writer did not create. Thus we are continually spinning new tales and telling different stores to every single person who reads our work.

    Well, I ramble on. Thanks for visiting my site. I look forward to dropping by yours as often as possible! (BTW, I am working on my first book, a memoir of my itinerant life; and compiling a chapbook of my poetry for e-publication. Wish me luck!)

    – Paula

    • timkeen40 says:

      Absolutely the best of luck. Thanks so much for stopping by and the comment. I have a deep respect for any and all who are artists whether is be painters, sculptures, or whatever, but I am drawn to those who create with words, mainly because it is what I do.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  2. Downith says:

    Hi Tim – I remember The Waltons well, including some of the episodes you mentioned. Thanks for the memory – it sounds like it really resonated for you. And I agree about the impact of Richard Thomas leaving.

  3. Angelia Sims says:

    It is such a touching story to see someone reach out to you, even if it was via television. I was moved by your plight and saddened that you weren’t encouraged (although it doesn’t seem to have caused any harm, you are an excellent writer). I was lucky, my mom was a teacher growing up. She was very creative and inspired us. I never thought twice about writing or having a need to create and admire. I really appreciate what she did for us.

    • timkeen40 says:

      I appreciate the kind words especially of my writing. I was very lucky to have the family that I had. While they didn’t directly provide me with support, the closeness and the guidance provided me with the much material for the stories I write. The lessons I learned about life and living have made it into my stories time and time again (See A Lesson from Grandpa – previous blog).

      I am glad you had the support of your mother, too. The fact that she was creative, as you are, was a plus, I’m sure, in the development of your work.

      Thanks for commenting.


  4. West Lake says:

    you write lovely stories, keep it up.


  5. Jo Bryant says:

    How wonderful that someone’s writing (creating John Boy) was able to resonate with the writer in you.

  6. Tammy says:

    Tim, great post and I, too, remember John Boy getting that Big Chief tablet. I could always relate to him and was really inspired by his writing. I don’t remember the one about Grandpa looking up the word but that really brought a smile to my face this morning.

    • timkeen40 says:

      Thanks for stopping by. The big thing that John Boy did for me was talk about the writing. It was something no one else around me would or could do. But John Boy could. He was talking and I was listening. I look forward to seeing you again.


  7. noelle says:

    Hi Tim.
    Thanks for dropping by my site…
    I have changed it to friends only
    I added you but if it does not work
    please just click the add me button as i like visitors
    Such a great read.Yes writing is definatley a skill and love of words..
    My growths are gardening everyday ….. knowing and learning about plants
    You have a wonderful weekend
    Hugs Noelle

  8. jennygoth says:

    loved the waltons and john boy especially when they all said goodnight loved reading this tim id relate myself to mortisha off the adams family lol xxjen just wish i had that dress

  9. pattisj says:

    I enjoyed the Walton’s, too, though I didn’t think much about writing until 15 years ago when started keeping a journal. Thank you for visiting my blog.

  10. daisyfae says:

    Bukowski said the only reason to write was because you had to… seems that you don’t have a choice either…

    my early TV inspiration was probably Columbo, and i have used his “strategically inept” approach to teasing out answers from people on numerous occasions. and i think i have that trench coat!

  11. John Boy was my favourite.. and arrgh yes those famous last words.. of Good Night John Boy!

  12. The Hook says:

    My father-in-law watches “The Waltons” every single day and is responsible for introducing my daughter to it. Great post!

  13. suzicate says:

    I got a kick out of this one. Earl Hamner, the creator of the Waltons, was my neighbor growing up. Actually his mother was as he was much older and had moved away. He and I share a birthday with him being 38 years or so older. Anyway, Waltons Mountain is Schuyler, Virginia and that is my hometown.

    • timkeen40 says:

      I get a kick out of this one as well. This is why I love to blog. There is no way I would ever get to meet someone who was a neighbor of such a man without the power of the internet and the blog. Anyway, Schuyler, Virginia is now on my list of places that I must visit someday.

      Your blog is awesome on its on merits. This is just an added bonus. Thanks for reading.


  14. I too grew up watching the Waltons every Thursday evening. Earl Hamner’s homeplace is not far from where I live. I’ve been by the Dew Drop Inn in Scottsville. I’m glad John Boy was there to inspire you. I enjoyed your story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s