The Long Road Home

The Biggest Chuck-Hole of Them All; or

The Strange Case of Richard Jaeckel and Louis Gossett, Jr.

(a recap by Will Kaiser)

Title: The Long Road Home

Airdate: March 3, 1976

Written by John Hawkins

Directed by Michael Landon

SUMMARY IN A NUTSHELL: Will Charles and Mr. Edwards survive a cross-country trek carrying dangerous blastin’ oil? (Spoilers: Yes.)

Also, Louis Gossett, Jr., is in this one . . . and if you aren’t careful you may learn something before it’s done. Hey hey hey!

RECAP: I hoped we’d get to this one before the end of February – Black History Month – since stories about Black characters are spread pretty thinly over the course of this series. But here it is, April already, and I’m just getting to it now.

No matter. Every month should be Black History Month, in my opinion. I mean, because every month is.

Anyways, we open on a city scene. Mankato, Sleepy Eye, Springfield . . . any bets?

A wagon carrying what appears to be a load of big comfy pillows is driving through town, accompanied by herald trumpets so stirring, you half-expect the Mayor of the Munchkin City to make an appearance.

The driver passes a saloon called “the Gilded Lily,” which doesn’t help us confirm the setting.

The trumpet fanfare quickly morphs into a very syncopated arrangement of the title theme.

In the background, we see Charles and Mr. Edwards talking to an old-prospectory-looking guy whilst the Chonkies goggle in amazement at the city scene.

Just when we’re really starting to wonder who this important pillow deliverer is, he makes a sharp left, disappearing from the shot, and from our story.

Pillow-Delivery Guy, we hardly knew ye

This episode we see was written by Fat John – his third in a row, if you’re keeping track. Landon Himself directs for the first time in a while.

And in a typically flamboyant Landon shot, the camera slowly zooms in without a cut on Old Prospectory’s hands, which hold some grain. Looks like steel-cut oats to me. 

They’ve come to Wherever It Is to sell it. 

Now, if you’re like me, you have one question at this point, and it’s WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO EVERYBODY CHANGING OVER TO GROWING CORN? It was supposed to revolutionize everything! Wasn’t it? 

Previously on Little House

That whole venture must have failed, and the Grovesters either killed Alan Fudge and Julie Cobb or drove them away forever. 

Anyways, Old Prospectory shakes his head sadly and says he can only pay a fifth of what he gave them last year: seven cents a bushel versus 34 cents, or $1.93 versus $9.35 in today’s money. (If it’s wheat we’re talking about, the price of a bushel on April 1, 2022, is $10.06. $7.28 if we’re talking oats.)

Charles and Mr. Ed are shocked and angry, but OP says he can’t help it if all the farmers had a great year and produced more than the market wants. 

Old Prospectory

And in fact, the weather has been pretty favorable to farming the past few stories, with a mix of sun and rain.

Rain at night, farmer’s delight

Old Prospectory looks like he might be E.J. André’s son.

Or grandson, or twin brother, or something

The actor is Frank Ferguson, a director and acting teacher who was in a million things.

Here he is (at right) with Veronica Lake in This Gun for Hire

My favorite is Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte, a Louisiana Gothic mindfuck movie you need to watch tonight if you’ve never seen it. (It was Bette Davis’s birthday this week, too.)

A memorable moment from Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Well, Old Prospectory nicely refers the gentlemen to the local employment office.

The Talent Acquisition Specialist there turns out to be one of those “hilarious” middle-aged men who says things like this:

Well, let’s see – I need twelve drillers, two powdermen, twenty-five laborers, two swampers, and a cook. And I got ’em all.

WILL: Ha ha! Unemployed people love jokes like that! Ha ha ha!

Ha ha! HA HA HA HA HA!

(This comedian is played by Judson Pratt, yet another Whiz Kid With Eric Shea alum.)

Well, we know what drillers and powdermen do, thanks to this show. “Swampers” apparently were lumbermen who cleared paths to drag trees out of swampy areas.

The Talent Acquisition Specialist says he does have a couple of freighting jobs in “mountain country.” (Here we go again.)

(Location of Walnut Grove approximate – I’m not a fucking cartographer.)

The TAS says it’s a ten-day job that pays $100 (nearly $3,000 in today’s money). (That’s $100 each, I suppose?)

Charles and Mr. Ed are shocked at the high wage for such a short gig.

That’s when the guy tells them they’ll be hauling explosives. Charles gets excited, saying he’s worked with dynamite before. He apparently has forgotten that adventure ended in tragedy.

R.I.P., English Guy

But some billy-goat-faced old codger pipes up and says this cargo is “blastin’ oil,” which apparently is even more dangerous than dynamite.

Blasting (or, if you prefer, “blastin’”) oil was a combination of nitroglycerin and gunpowder that was used for mining in the olden days. Some people smarter than I am say it’s unlikely the stuff would be used this late in the Nineteenth Century, because its tendency to unexpectedly explode got it banned in many places

Goat-Face puts it this way: “You hit a chuck-hole with a wagonload of that stuff,” he says, “they’ll be raking you up from here to Springfield.”

“We better not, then,” says Mr. Ed. “Charles here is the biggest Chuck-hole I know!”

TAS says if they want the job, they can just catch the train in Springfield “Saturday morning” before it heads out west. 

“We’ll be on it!” Charles says enthusiastically. If it were me, I would ask where they’re supposed to get off the train at this point, but never mind.

So they sign up. We get a close-up of Charles’s signature, plus in a nice bit of continuity we get to see Mr. Edwards making his X.

DAGNY: Oh, Mr. Edwards. . . .

When Charles gets home, Caroline comes out and flails her way to him. (We all flailed along with her.)

She kisses him – perhaps overenthusiastically, Olive thought.

OLIVE: Oh my God, whoa whoa whoa!

Charles gives her a rough outline of the plan, but she’s quick to figure out there’s a catch.

But Charles lies and says the client is just a rich rail company that loves to waste money.

OLIVE: Man, he does not have lips.

Lipless Charles

Then he says he wants a hot meal before he goes.

OLIVE: Back in that kitchen, woman!

Meanwhile, out at the Old Sanderson Place, the kids have apparently been trying to build a cannon, or something.

Grace has been making sandwiches for Edwards’s trip. She said she’s made more than he needs. She’s obviously angling for the title of Founder’s Day Sandwich Queen this year.

Grace literally tells Mr. Ed to change his underwear at least once while he’s gone, a thing he scoffs at. 

Ah, the Nineteenth Century

The three kids sit at the table staring. 

OLIVE: John Junior’s kinda cute.

John reassures Mr. Ed the family is in good hands. (Presumably he means because Grace is in charge.)

Then Edwards says they should take Alicia in to Doc to be checked for tonsillitis. I’m not sure it’s because she has a sore throat; all he says is “the cold weather” is “coming on.” Maybe he means during blizzard season it’d be hard for Doc to get out to the Sanderson Place, unless he’s pulled by a team of Miss Beadle’s schoolchildren.

Coming soon on Little House

At any rate, it must still be the fall of 1882. (More on this below.)

Mr. Ed and Grace have an emotional goodbye.

OLIVE: Don’t they get a divorce?

WILL: Yeah. It’s complicated.

As Edwards walks away to some ambitiously Tchaikovsky-ish music, Alicia runs after to hug him.

At Casa dell’Ingalls, the girls are still sleeping, which I find hard to believe if the Sandersons are already up.

Charles and Caroline embrace tenderly.

DAGNY: You’re right, Olive. He doesn’t have lips.

OLIVE: She does, though. Mwah.

Karen Grassle makes her gulping-goldfish unhappy face as they’re hugging.

Cut to Springfield.

WILL: They’re using the train a lot this season.

OLIVE: Gotta get their money’s worth.

Off it goes.

OLIVE: Are they even on it?

WILL: What do you think, they’ll have to run and jump?

OLIVE: I wouldn’t put it past them. It’s Little House.

Whaddya know, they do have to run and jump.

OLIVE: See, I told you.

Michael Landon’s hair could perhaps use a touch-up in this one.

A weird-looking scarecrow of a conductor approaches and reviews their travel documents.

The actor, Guy Raymond, was on the famous tribble episode of Star Trek.

Scarecrow tells them as hired help, they can’t sit in “the President’s Car.” 

Oddly, Mr. Edwards asks, “Who’s the President?” Odd, since he himself met the President just a couple weeks ago.

Previously on Little House

As they walk through the train, we notice one of the passengers is the Ambiguously Ethnic Kids’ Ambiguously Ethnic Mom. (I’m pretty sure.)

Previously on Little House
Perhaps she’s a “swamper”?

Mr. Edwards says, “I haven’t done this much walkin’ since we walked to Springfield!”

WILL: They walked?

DAGNY: Sure. They couldn’t leave the horses behind in Springfield.

Still, this is a strange revelation, since it’s an eight-hour walk to Springfield from Walnut Grove and we’re told the train was leaving on a “Saturday morning.” Maybe they left home on Friday morning, I suppose? But then they’d have no reason to rush to go at dawn. Charles certainly would have waited until the girls were up, you’d think.

Oh well. Ultimately, Charles and Edwards are distressed to find they have to ride on an exposed freight car. 

They sit down.

OLIVE: Charles made Mr. Edwards walk around him on a moving train rather than just scootch down.

DAGNY: Michael Landon had to get his close-up.

We see there are a couple other guys on the car as well.

More time-and-place confusion ensues when Mr. Edwards says, “You know, when it gets dark, we’re gonna freeze solid.” So apparently despite leaving in the morning, they won’t arrive at their destination until after dark. 

This seems to suggest their destination could actually be the beginning of true “mountain country,” the Black Hills of South Dakota (then the Dakota Territory) – a distance of about 500 miles, and accessible by rail in 1882 via Deadwood (!).

I’ve often dreamed of a mashup of Little House and Deadwood, haven’t you?

Then we get a dumb filler scene where Charles and Mr. Ed try to get Scarecrow to let them sit inside the train. Scarecrow says no dice.

DAGNY: Doesn’t he know Charles is on the WALNUT GROVE SCHOOL BOARD?

We see Scarecrow reading an issue of the Mankato Clarion –  a fictional publication. The real Mankato newspaper of the time was the Free Press, which still exists today.

The weather turns rainy.

OLIVE [as MR. EDWARDS]: “This is the first bath I’ve had in months!”

Actually, Charles and Mr. Ed stay hiding under a tarp.

OLIVE: Are they making sweet sweet love in there?

The next day, presumably, they arrive in the middle of nowhere. We again see the Number Three identified as a St. Paul Minneapolis & Manitoba train, though it’s worth pointing out that in real life that line actually headed NORTH out of Minneapolis, never going anywhere near Mankato or Springfield, much less South Dakota.

Charles, Edwards and the two other guys are met by a grizzled wagon driver. 

If the driver looks familiar, that’s because the actor, Bill Quinn, played Dying-of-Typhus Carl in “Plague.”

Dying-of-Typhus Carl (at left), with Charles

The wagon driver is nice, but immediately stresses the dangers of the job. He says the explosives are to clear rock to replace a factory itself destroyed by a nitroglycerin explosion. That’s what I’d call throwing good blastin’ oil after bad, but it’s none of my business. 

He says the explosion happened in San Francisco, and it appears to have been a real incident. It happened at a Wells Fargo office, and destroyed several adjacent buildings. At least thirteen people were killed, but the exact count isn’t certain because many of the bodies were completely obliterated by the blast

However, I’ll note the incident took place in 1866 – some time before the events of these stories no matter how you figure it.

Wreckage from the San Francisco explosion

The train departs, to thunderous and intense train-departing music.

DAGNY: Wow, David Rose is going all-out. It’s more Bonanza-y than Little House-y.

They arrive at the storage facility, and Not-Dying-of-Typhus Carl says he’ll show them the oil.

WILL: The slide whistle!!! That always means danger.

The stuff is packed in big test tubes. It just looks like water (which is obviously is).

ROMAN: That looks pretty refreshing actually. Like a Voss bottle.

Not-Carl describes the oil as “made of nitric and sulfuric acids and sweet glycerin” and says it was “discovered in France in 1846.” (Actually Italy in 1847.)

He goes on to relay a number of additional facts about nitroglycerin from the Wikipedia entry, to which I refer you if you continue to be interested.

Or you could watch this little video showing how big an explosion a single drop makes:

Not-Carl tells them each wagon will be carrying five gallons of the stuff. He says one man will drive whilst the other walks ahead picking rocks from the road and the like.

He says the oil’s temperature has to be kept stable, and there’s really no way to tell what could trigger an explosion.

One of the other guys immediately says fuck this, he’s out.

ROMAN: Should we recognize him from anything?

WILL: I don’t think so. He kind of looks like Ciarán Hinds, but he isn’t. 

Not-Ciarán Hinds (at right)
Ciarán Hinds

Not-Ciarán says he can see why the other guys need to do it, since they have families to provide for, but he only has his own skin to worry about.

DAGNY: That’s totally backwards. I don’t believe Charles and Mr. Edwards would actually do this. They wouldn’t take the risk, BECAUSE they have families at home.

Not-Dying-Carl tells the guy that’s fine, he can go; no judgments on his part.

Our heroes and the other guy say they’re still in.

WILL: Do you recognize HIM from anything?

They didn’t, but he’s Richard Jaeckel, known far and wide for his appearances in Grizzly, The Love Boat . . . and a heartwarming 7+ Little House story known as “Sylvia.”

(The remains of) Richard Jaeckel, in Grizzly
Richard Jaeckel (at right), in “Sylvia”

Richard Jaeckel (at right), on Love Boat

Not-Dying Carl says since they need an even number, he’s got a pinch hitter waiting in the wings (if I may be permitted a mixed metaphor).

Then he leads them out back, and introduces them to a man named Henry Hill. Not-Carl says Hill has done these dangerous trips “a dozen times” and lived to tell the tale.

He’s the first Black person to appear on this show, and is played by an actor on the cusp of major stardom: “Lou Gossett,” soon to be known professionally as Louis Gossett, Jr.

The year after this episode aired, he would star in (and receive an Emmy for) Roots.

Louis Gossett, Jr. (at right), with Levar Burton in Roots

Then in 1983, he would become the first Black actor to receive a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, for An Officer and a Gentleman.

Louis Gossett, Jr. (at right), with Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman

My favorite movie of his is Enemy Mine, in which he plays (essentially) a transgender alien who develops a love relationship with a straight human soldier played by Dennis Quaid. Worth a look if that sounds up your alley.

Louis Gossett, Jr. (at left), with Dennis Quaid in Enemy Mine

Finally, he was in Jaws 3-D. Also with Dennis Quaid, oddly.

It’s A Hundred Floors of Frights, they’re not all gonna be winners

Well, the message of this story soon becomes crystal clear. Richard Jaeckel says, “Mister, I don’t team up with anyone the likes of him.”

Not-Dying Carl says fine, hit the road. Then he tells Charles and Mr. Edwards that their lives will be insured to the tune of $5,000 each ($138,000 today).

Jaeckel pipes up then and says on second thought, the money’s too big for him to turn down, and so he guesses he’ll have to “put up with it.”

Ugh

Not-Dying Carl turns to Louis Gossett, Jr., and asks if he’s willing to put up with Jaeckel. He says fine, but the two keep glaring at each other as Carl goes to get the paperwork.

That night, Charles is writing a letter by the light of a small fire in the barn.

DAGNY: Would they really just have a fire on a hay floor?

WILL: If Ma caught Mary doing that, she’d hit her on the head with a fryin’ pan.

Charles and Mr. Edwards have a nice little conversation where Mr. Ed says he’s been trying to learn to read and write but is discouraged by his progress.

Then he dictates a sweet little letter to Grace.

Louis Gossett, Jr., appears and says he can take the letters to be mailed. Mr. Edwards invites him to sit down and have some coffee with them, even giving him his own cup to drink out of. Gossett seems surprised by the hospitality.

OLIVE: What’s the big deal?

WILL: Well, it’s hard to explain, but sharing a cup would be seen as an anti-racist statement then. This episode wasn’t that long in the grand scheme of things after they repealed laws saying Black and white people couldn’t use the same drinking fountains. And a lot of towns kept them separate even after those laws were changed.

OLIVE: Huh.

WILL: It’s kind of like Richard Dawson kissing Black women on Family Feud. Today it’s like, oh, well, he kissed everybody. But back then, white and Black people publicly sharing saliva was a fuck-you to racism.

OLIVE: Huh, that’s really interesting. It’s gross that he kissed anybody at all on Family Feud, though.

WILL: I suppose.

Anyways, Louis Gossett, Jr., says he uses the money he makes from these dangerous freight jobs to send help to his family back home. He says Black people always get stuck with the jobs white people won’t take, but at least this one pays well.

He says he’s hopeful this will be his last such journey.

OLIVE: Oh my God, he’s going to die, isn’t he?

R.I.P, LGJ

Gossett says goodnight, then Charles makes an out-of-character joke to Mr. Ed about how they’ll probably be killed, and giggles like a maniac.

Gigglin’, lipless Charles

The next day, off they go, to heavy death-march music on the soundtrack.

DAGNY: Have we ever had music like this on the show before? It’s almost cinematic. It reminds me of Devs, actually.

Gossett and Jaeckel are with the front wagon, with Charles and Edwards following. I’m not sure why Not-Carl didn’t split Gossett and Jaeckel up since there appears to be trouble likely there.

The stunt driver looks nothing like Louis Gossett, Jr.

Also, one of the horses is Bunny.

For all the flap they made about this being “mountain country,” the hills here don’t look like anything we wouldn’t have seen around Walnut Grove; we’ve had far more mountainous stories than this one.

Previously on Little House

They go on slowly and nervously.

WILL: That’s a stark shot. This one is more like the pilot than most episodes.

DAGNY: Yeah, the pace is different too – slower, more deliberate. The whole tone is different.

Later in the day, they’re traveling through a pine forest when they find a giant tree has fallen across the road. They haven’t brought a saw, though you’d think they’d have anticipated such a possibility if the road goes through a pine forest.

WILL: Why don’t they just find some beavers and have them eat through it?

DAGNY: Yeah. Beavers’d love that.

ROMAN: Or just get Laura to do it.

WILL: Oh my God, I am NOT putting that down. I’m afraid Melissa Gilbert is mad at me as it is.

OLIVE: Why would she be mad?

WILL: Well, because I said she had the worst performance of the main cast in Season One.

OLIVE: What? Oh my God! Why would you say that?

WILL: It was an old post, the Season One Walnut Groovy Awards. I re-shared it on on Twitter on Oscar Night.

OLIVE: Oh my God, Dad.

WILL: There are only four people in the main cast, it had to be somebody! For the record, I also nominated her for BEST Performance.

ROMAN: Who WON Best Performance?

WILL: Mary.

OLIVE: Oh my God!

WILL: I know. I’ve detected a chill in the air ever since.

DAGNY: You’re dreaming.

ROMAN: Which episode did she get Worst Performance for?

WILL: “Circus Man.” The Red Buttons one.

ROMAN [shrugs]: Well . . .

WILL [as LAURA]: “Please please PLEASE give Jack your secret powders. . . !”

DAGNY: Don’t make it about you, she’s probably just busy. But maybe from now on, you should only give out Worst Performance to people who are dead.

WILL: Oh, so poor Michael Landon should get it every time? That doesn’t make sense. You can’t let feelings get in the way of your objectivity. It’s a conflict of interest! Tiny Tim once went on the radio and said his favorite paper towel brand was Bounty. The company tried to send him a lifetime supply as a thank-you, but he refused it. He said he didn’t want his future paper-towel reviews to be accused of bias . . . and he was right!

DAGNY/OLIVE/ROMAN: . . .

Tiny Tim, paragon of integrity

Anyways, Melissa Gilbert, if you’re out there somewhere, we love ya. Even if you’re mad at me.

Long story short, they have to pull each wagon up and over a steep hill to reconnect with the road. Jaeckel and Gossett work together, with Gossett making jokes about Jaeckel’s racist attitudes.

When the task is over, Louis Gossett, Jr., offers Richard Jaeckel a drink of water, which he refuses.

WILL: See! He won’t drink out of the same mouthpiece.

OLIVE: . . . Mouthpiece?

Again, Gossett teases Jaeckel that he might as well cut the racist shit since his life is in his hands (paraphrase).

They resume the journey, with David Rose resorting to horror stingers in the score (possibly to distract us from the fact that nothing is really happening in this story).

WILL: This is like Forensic Fileslevel scary music.

Commercial. 

Back in Walnut Grove, Grace and Caroline get the letters. Grace rather cruelly laughs at the notion of her husband writing a letter.

A cheap shot, Grace.

She has a mean streak, though. She also laughed when Jebediah Mumfort got his head stomped on during the baseball game, if you recall.

Previously on Little House

You know, one of the most interesting things about scenes set in the Post Office is there’s always the temptation to guess what month it is (because there’s a wall calendar).

Today, I think we can deduce it’s October the 18th of 1882, a Wednesday. This works well with the menfolk having departed the previous Friday and mailed their letters on Monday before setting out on their delivery. (The wheat, if that’s what it was, would have been harvested in September, but depending on the weather it’s possible they waited till early October to bring it to Mankato.) 

(I tried to calculate whether September the 18th would work, but there’s a lot of stuff that had happen between “A Matter of Faith” – set in summertime – and this story, and it was too tight a squeeze. The only way I could finagle it was if Grace forgot to flip the calendar over for several days, which I can’t imagine happening in a million years.)

The ladies are shocked to learn the true nature of their husbands’ “simple freightin’ job,” but of course immediately declare they’re sure they’ll be fine.

Cut to Ma tucking Laura and Mary in to bed. Huh, I really thought they wouldn’t be in this one at all.

Ma very obviously lies about Pa’s situation, even going so far as to clumsily omit 90 percent of the content of his letter whilst reading it aloud.

And speaking of percentages, this scene was 90 percent content-free itself.

Back on the road, Louis Gossett, Jr., is nervously taking the temperature of the oil. 

WILL: I thought they said it was cold?

OLIVE: That’s because they were outside on the train.

WILL: No, Mr. Edwards said, “Better take Alicia to see Doc Baker cuz it’s gettin’ cold and she’ll git tonsillitis.”

OLIVE: That’s a pretty good Mr. Edwards.

WILL: Oh, thanks.

Apparently Richard Jaeckel left the spigot open on the cooling system, and it lost most of its water. Louis Gossett, Jr., tries to avoid assigning blame, but Jaeckel snarls, “I don’t need no Black man to make excuses for me!”

OLIVE: This guy sucks. HE’S the biggest chuck-hole of them all.

WILL: Well, in this sort of simple drama, the mean characters are racist and the nice ones aren’t. Real life is more complicated. It can break your heart, actually.

OLIVE: Isn’t Charles a big racist in the books?

WILL: That depends how you define “big racist.” He was a white settler who accepted it was fine to take over Indigenous lands. The books are accused of celebrating that, and some characters use slurs against Indians. But in some passages I’ve read, Charles also sympathizes with the Indians, and challenges or is disgusted by characters who hate them. The Ingallses do see the Indigenous people as very alien, though.

From Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (illustration by Garth Williams)

There are more than two facets to the question of racism in the Little House books, obviously, but I think some interesting questions are asked in this essay from The Atlantic and in this one from Minnesota’s own Twin Cities PBS.

Anyways, Charles apologizes for Jaeckel’s conduct, which Louis Gossett, Jr., shrugs off.

Then as Charles walks back to his wagon, Jaeckel rants at him that he’s a Civil War vet and he holds Black people responsible for the war. “Lincoln died about four years too late!” he says.

ALEXANDER: Charles was a Civil War draft-dodger, though, right?

OLIVE: What? No way.

WILL: We’ll get to that in a couple episodes. But yes, it looks like he might have been.

Charles eventually snaps and gives Jaeckel a Landony speech where he (Charles) tells him (Jaeckel) racists like him (Jaeckel) are the problem with this country.

Later, Charles and Mr. Edwards find a note stuck to a post. Mr. Ed says he can read the word road.

Which is nice, isn’t it?

The note is from Louis Gossett, Jr., whose wagon apparently got ahead. It says they’ll have to skip a planned water-gathering rendezvous since the source has dried up. Since they were going to use the water to cool the blastin’ oil, this will make the next leg extra-dangerous.

(More tense music, but guess what, Charles doesn’t blow up.)

WILL: Does Charles always wear driving gloves?

OLIVE: Probably just for this special task.

ROMAN: I think he’s worn them before.

DAGNY: Maybe it actually is cold. Come to think of it, it would be easier if they did this in the winter and just slid the wagon over the ice.

A commercial break at this point makes the lack of water feel like a cliffhanger, but when we return they’ve found a pond. Mr. Edwards screams “WHOA-HO!” or its rough equivalent.

WILL: He hasn’t sung “Old Dan Tucker” yet.

DAGNY/OLIVE/ROMAN: We know.

Charles, Mr. Edwards and Louis Gossett, Jr., all relax poolside whilst Richard Jaeckel pouts by himself.

Gossett says they don’t have much further to go, and the hardest terrain is behind them now.

Suddenly a shot rings out from atop the hill, or ridge, or whatever! 

ALEXANDER: Highwaymen!

Coming soon on Little House, Johnny Cash!

It is a pair of highwaymen indeed, a father and son duo, apparently. They propose stealing the cargo in sort of Mark Twain-flavored highfalutin’ riffraff-speak.

The dad is John Mitchum, best known for being Robert Mitchum’s brother.

John Mitchum (at left), with Robert Mitchum

And the son, Robert Doyle, was in Alligator, another old fave of mine.

It’s the story of a giant alligator

Louis Gossett, Jr., tells the highwaymen what the cargo is they’re carrying, and before they can decide what to do about it, Mr. Edwards grabs a vial, starts fooling around with it, and scares them away.

His friends, who were also terrified, holler at him, but he says this particular vessel holds moonshine of his own concoction.

WILL: Alcoholism to the rescue once again!

They all laugh uproariously and pass the bottle around. (We don’t see Charles drink, though.)

Back at home, Caroline comes into the common room and yells Britishly, “Mary, Laura, Carrie, where are you?” (British Caroline’s first appearance in some time.)

She starts to yell at them for making a mess, only to realize they made her a cake for her birthday – which she herself forgot. (So remember this, Caroline’s birthday is in late October.)

Carrie has glop on her face, of course.

Well, the freight-men – freights-men? freighteersmen? – complete their job safely. It’s kind of anticlimactic, actually.

They board the Number Three for home, and Mr. Ed suggests splurging and actually riding in the passenger car this time, now that they have money.

But the same Scarecrow conductor is there, and says Black people aren’t allowed in the passenger cars.

So Louis Gossett, Jr., Charles and Mr. Ed go out and sit on the freight car again . . . and are joined shortly thereafter by Richard Jaeckel, who apparently has learned the error of his racist ways. 

Jaeckel makes a weird joke about how they made him sit outside too, because he’s Irish. (The character’s name is Murphy, which I may not have mentioned.)

DAGNY: Is Michael Landon going to say, “And I’m Jewish!”

Actually, it’s not so funny. Irish immigrants faced enormous discrimination and cruelty in Nineteenth-Century America. (With immigration, some things never change.)

Anyways, the four pals certainly think it’s funny. They all scream with laughter as the train takes off. Like, literally scream. Landon sounds like a fucking zebra.

The laughing goes on forever.

WILL: It should turn out they really drank nitroglycerin and they all explode. BOOM!

And that’s it, reader.

OLIVE: We don’t even get to see them get home?

Nope, we don’t! Bum-Bum-Ba-Dum!

THE VERDICT: This semi-remake of “100 Mile Walk” is well-wrought and serious, if on the dull side. Louis Gossett, Jr., is good, but you can’t say it’s much of an acting part, really. The treatment of racism is a little obvious, but the script manages to avoid being a lecture. A pity there are no explosions, though.

UP NEXT: For My Lady

Published by willkaiser

I live in the Upper Midwest. My name's not really Will Kaiser, but he and I have essentially the same personality.

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