I heart John Boy

(Originally posted Friday, April 5th, 2013)

I have a confession to make: I love John Boy Walton.

I don’t love him the way I do, say, the Jarhead or hot caramel sauce on chocolate ice cream—but it’s a pretty close race.

One reason I love John Walton, Jr. is that, like me, he was a writer. In fact, right after Erma Bombeck and my high school English teacher Lois Julsrud, Bill Bryson, Jane Austen, and three or four authors whose names I recall from either my freshmen English syllabus or a deck of children’s playing cards, John Boy is perhaps the biggest reason I became a writer.

Now some may infer from this that the reason I’m writing and not engaged in some other more lucrative line of work is that I was too busy watching The Waltons in my younger days to develop any useful skills. But I assure you that my choice of career has less to do with how much time I spent watching TV as a child than how much time I wanted to spend in my pajamas as an adult. Either way, John Boy deserves some of the credit—or blame, depending on your perspective—for the fact that you are reading this column instead of working, exercising, or reading the newspaper. And for that—to quote Daniel Tosh—I thank you.

As I write this, it occurs to me that in addition to influencing my job goals, my admiration for John Boy may have had something to do with how I wound up married to the Jarhead. Especially given their many similarities, the theory has merit. For example, like John Boy, the Jarhead grew up in the country, has a slew of brothers and sisters, served in the military, and—as evidenced by the fact that we’re still together after nearly three decades—has the patience of Job. Granted, the Jarhead grew up on Pig Tail Ridge instead of Walton’s Mountain, and lacks John Boy’s blue eyes, blonde hair, spectacles, and suspenders; but while they differ in terms of geography and their outward appearance, they are practically twins when it comes to temperament and intelligence.

Despite its many Emmy nominations, The Waltons was not without its critics. Some, for example, felt that the show was unrealistic; that its characters were impossibly virtuous people, especially given their circumstances; and that poverty in real life is rarely so sweet or lacking in dysfunction. That all may be true, but what kept me from buying the whole premise of the show is the ease with which John Boy wrote in his journal. The fact that we never saw the man using an eraser, scribbling anything out, angrily ripping a page out of his tablet and crumpling it up, or setting his entire body of work on fire induces me to wonder: Was he really that good of a writer, or just that generous of a critic?

Maybe I’m the outlier here, but I couldn’t write anything publishable—or legible for that matter—in long hand if my life or the future of the human race depended on it. (Those of you who would argue as to my ability to write anything publishable in ANY hand are invited to reread my previous posts—especially those on bullying.) In fact, the previous sentence alone took me three edits to get right, and there will likely be fragments left over from all the cutting and pasting I’ve done when I finish when I finally finish it.