‘Little House on the Prairie’: Karen Grassle Revealed Working with Johnny Cash Was a Top ‘Moment’

by Suzanne Halliburton

The Little House on the Prairie cast were thrilled with two of their guest stars, Johnny Cash and his wife, June.

This was back in 1976, when country music’s first couple were the big craw for season three of Little House on the Prairie.

Karen Grassle, who played Caroline Ingalls, one of the stars on Little House on the Prairie, loved having Johnny and June on the show. She called it her top show business moment.

In an interview last year with Closer Weekly, Grassle said: “When we worked with Johnny Cash and his wife, June, on Little House on the Prairie. I had been listening to his music since I was a kid!”

Johnny and June Carter Cash played against type on Little House on the Prairie. They were grifters. Johnny Cash was an ex-con. June Carter Cash was his devoted wife. Johnny Cash, as Caleb Hodgekiss, rescued Walnut Grove preacher, Reverend Alden, from a runaway wagon.

Cash had this line from the episode: “Well, I never put my stock in the pearly gates. It always sounded like a bunch of froo froo to me.”

Still, Cash, as Hodgekiss, put on Alden’s preacher’s collar. And then he pretended to be a member of the clergy while tending to the townsfolk on Little House on the Prairie. Alden had been collecting money for the church. Cash decided to continue the fundraising. But that was part of the grift. He planned on keeping the money.

Other Little House on the Prairie Cast Members Loved Having Johnny and June on the Show

Grassle wasn’t the only fan in the cast.

Melissa Sue Anderson wrote about her experiences with Johnny and June in her book, The Way I See It: a Look Back At My Life On Little House.

Anderson played Mary Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. She portrayed the oldest daughter of Caroline and Charles.

She wrote: “Singers are almost always excellent actors. This was definitely the case with June and Johnny (we called him ‘John’). I remember being so surprised at how good June was portraying Mattie Hodgekiss, the ‘stand-by-her-man’ grifter, with a heart of gold, alongside John’s con man, Caleb.”

Mary Ingalls fell for the Little House con, too. Her character went with them to solicit money from the neighbors. She told her dad, Charles: “Pa, can I go to town with Mr. Hodgekiss? I can kinda introduce him to everybody and let him know who’s stingy and who’s generous.”

Anderson wrote in her book: “[June] did a terrific job, as did John. I was beyond excited to work with him, as I was featured in this episode and had almost every scene with him. … I loved this episode. I’ve always loved stories about grifters and con men, and being able to be a part of one was especially fun.”

Johnny and June Gave Gifts to Cast Members

Anderson said Johnny and June Carter Cash gave each of the cast members a copy of the book Man In Black. Anderson received a bottle of perfume, her very first. She said it was called Worth.

Johnny and June Carter Cash had lots of experience with TV, but mainly as the hosts of their own variety show. The two hosted The Johnny Cash Show on ABC each week from 1969-71. The Statler Brothers opened each episode. The Carter Family also was part of the show’s regular lineup.

By the end of the episode of Little House, Johnny and June Carter Cash were grifters no more. They saw the error of their ways and sought redemption. Surely, we can get a halleuiah.

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE — “The Collection” Episode 1 — Aired 09/27/1976 — Pictured: Johnny Cash as Caleb Hodgekiss, June Carter Cash as Mattie Hodgekiss (Photo by NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)