This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Archive for the ‘Andy Griffith’ Category

The Old Paths: I Miss Mayberry

**This was originally published on Thursday, July 12, 2012, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column is updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog. I had blogged about this subject in July 2012, using some of the material from this column. However, much had been changed during the transition from the column to the blog, so I am now blogging the original newspaper column to preserve it for history’s sake.**

Andy in HeavenSummer always puts me in a nostalgic mood. (Yes, I know—I’m ALWAYS in a nostalgic mood but even moreso in summer.) I think it’s the fact that summer takes me back to the old paths of my childhood when days were longer, lazier and brighter somehow.

My childhood was the era of “The Andy Griffith Show,” long summer breaks from school, working hard but laughing a lot in the tobacco field, making homemade ice cream down in Grandpa Bray’s yard, listening to Uncle Sam pick the guitar while my daddy and his brothers sang “Uncle Pen” or “Let Me Be Your Salty Dog.”

It was Sunday afternoons under the shady old oaks while relatives sat in lawn chairs and talked about the weather, their ‘baccer, what all they had put up for the winter. It was swimming in the creek to stay cool on hot July days. It was  playing in the woods with the cousins ‘til Mama called us in.

Me swimming with cousins.jpg

I’m the littlest girl, wading in the creek….long, long ago…..

Those days are long gone. Summer vacation ends earlier in August now, I haven’t touched a tobacco leaf in a lot of years, Pa Bray is dead and the extended family only gets together down at his old farm a couple of times a year. Nobody has time to sit in the yard on Sundays—too many ballgames or practices. Indoor air conditioning has long replaced creeks as the cooling method of choice, and there are too many crazy people in the world today to let your kids hang out in the woods all day.

There is really only one constant still left from my childhood days—The Andy Griffith Show. I can turn on the TV every day at 5:30 p.m. and see faces from my childhood—Ange, Barn, Thelma Lou, Aunt Bee, Opie. That show aired years before I was even born and probably has been on the air somewhere every year since.andy, barney, gomer.png

When I watch it, modern life ceases for me. I retreat to a black-and-white world where Barney advises me to “Nip it in the bud!”, Andy strums the guitar on the front porch, Opie shares his heart with “Paw” and Aunt Bee keeps them all well-fed.

But it isn’t all sunshine and flowers. Barney sometimes sneaks off to call Juanita down at the diner while poor Thelma Lou sits at home. Opie tells occasional lies and has to confess to Andy. Aunt Bee’s pickles taste like kerosene and sometimes she can’t seem to beat Clara Edwards at anything. Ernest T. Bass is ever chunking rocks through windows while Otis just keeps getting drunk.

Even the paradise of the fictional Mayberry has its occasional thorns—just like real life.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched old clips of Andy Griffith on YouTube and even posted a short one on my Facebook page. It was the familiar scene—Andy with his guitar on the porch with Barney by his side. Andy was singing “The Church in the Wildwood” with Barney adding the harmony.

The episode was called “Man in a Hurry.” The contrast was marked—Andy and Barney peacefully singing, Barney stretching lazily and saying, “Well, I think I’ll go home, take me a nap then head on over to Thelma Lou’s to watch some TV” (emphasis on the “T”), while the man in a hurry paced back and forth.

That same theme is often on my mind: how can we modern folks with cell phones, social networking, email, video games and more TV channels than you can shake a stick at slow down our lives to savor the simple things we recall from childhood?

…..Like catching lightning bugs and putting them in pop bottles instead of playing the Xbox. Sitting on the porch while the moon rises instead of watching “Criminal Minds.” Playing the piano for the family to gather ’round to sing instead of viewing the latest music videos on YouTube.

Truth be told, I’m too busy to do any of that.

I miss mayberry words.jpg

But “The Andy Griffith Show” reminds me that life was probably better when we had the time, or rather TOOK the time, to do these things. Andy was a busy sheriff on call 24/7, but he managed to take Opie down to the fishing hole. (Whether or not they whistled while they walked is undetermined!) Sometimes he and Helen Crump spread a blanket on the grass and enjoyed a picnic.

There was a sense of community that few of us still experience. Neighbors visited. Men gathered down at Floyd’s to talk. Goober and Gomer were never too busy down at the garage to lend a helping hand.

“Wake up, Leslie! It’s a fictional town on a TV show!” you may say.

Is it? I seem to remember living a similar life when I was a kid. We had a community club where the neighbors had Rook tournaments and potluck dinners. Mama invited ladies over to quilt. The Bray cousins and I would wander through pastures, climb cherry trees, swim in Belews Creek before the lake existed.

So maybe that’s why we still watch a show created in 1960—a show with no real relevance now in many ways, a show that belongs to the days of yesteryear…..because it reminds us of so much that was good and that we wish could be again. And because the true values of the human heart haven’t changed much at all since 1960—love for family and friends, a need to be part of something meaningful, a yearning for simplicity.

i miss mayberry chorus

Imagine my shock when I had been pondering these Mayberry-esque issues of life and then heard that Andy Griffith had passed away. It seemed unreal. How could Sheriff Taylor be gone? Shouldn’t Ange have lived to at least 120?

Before I knew it, I was unexpectedly bawling like a baby. I had had no idea Andy Griffith’s death could possibly make me cry.

But you know why I think it did? Not just because I loved Andy. But also because it seemed to be the end of an era. There had not been a minute of my life that Andy wasn’t figuratively sheriff of Mayberry.

Losing Barney, Aunt Bee and most recently Goober was sad, but losing Andy—the figurehead of the show—is much tougher. It somehow makes the Mayberry world he created retreat even farther into the shrouds of the past. It makes me feel more detached from childhood.

It’s been a long time since I really was a child, but “The Andy Griffith Show” makes me feel that young again. I’ll keep watching it as long as it’s in syndication. And I’ll remember…..and I’ll treasure it…..and I’ll keep wishing I could make my life that simple again.

I miss Mayberry.

andy and opie walking

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The Old Paths: Mayberry is my state of mind

I’ve been a little more sentimental lately. (I wasn’t even sure that was possible since my children avow I would have a lock on the “Sentimental Sap” award every year.)

But it’s true.

I’ve been more conscious of the passage of time, the loss of simplicity in American life, the need to go back to the restful old paths (my most common theme). Last week on June 28, I even posted a short clip from The Andy Griffith Show onto my Times of Refreshing Facebook page with a status that read: “This little snippet from the Andy Griffith show fits my mood today. We are too much in a hurry! Watch how this harried man becomes calm as he hears Andy and Barney sing an old hymn. Come on and watch it and agree with me that we need to slow down and find the old paths of life.”

I even posted the clip on my personal Facebook wall, with the status of “I became calmer just watching this. See how walking the old paths brings rest to our souls (Jeremiah 6:16)?”

The clip was from an episode entitled “Man in a Hurry.” This man who cannot enjoy life for always being in a hurry begins to find a measure of peace as he hears Andy strum the guitar on the front porch, singing “Church in the Wildwood,” accompanied by Barney’s tenor harmony. The contrast is marked as the man paces back and forth while the restful singing goes forth.

As I was choosing the YouTube clip, I also watched one in which Andy plays the guitar and sings “There Is a Time.” That one made me so sad regarding the passage of time that I quickly exited it.

Well, today, I posted that one on my wall. Because today, Andy Griffith died.

I heard the news about mid-morning as I logged into Facebook and saw a status that read, “R.I.P. Sheriff Taylor.” I gasped and cried out to the hubster, “Oh no! Andy Griffith is dead!” I suddenly began to cry, and the hubster came rushing over to the couch to put his arms around me and comfort me.

I was shocked–not only that Andy had passed away, but also that I was so shaken. If you had told me last week that I would be sobbing over Andy Griffith’s death, I would’ve looked at you strangely. Become sad? Maybe. Actually shed tears? No way.

But when it actually happened, my grief was very real. I went back and watched the clip I posted last week and cried some more. I posted the “There Is a Time” clip, watched it again and cried even harder. A couple of hours later, I posted the song “I Miss Mayberry” by Rascal Flatts with a video tribute to The Andy Griffith Show. And I boohooed a little more.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but a few hours after that, I posted a short clip of the episode in which Andy persuades Opie to let his caged birds go free. When the following dialogue took place–Opie: “Cage sure looks awful empty, don’t it, Paw?” Andy: “Yes, Son, it sure does. But don’t the trees seem nice and full?”–I broke down yet again.

Now maybe it’s hormones today, but then again, maybe it AIN’T.

I’ve seen a similar reaction all over America as news of Andy’s death spread like wildfire. One local TV news channel devoted all day to remembering Andy Griffith. Specials on his life abounded. I saw grown men cry as they were interviewed for news specials.

Why did Andy’s death affect us this way? He was 86, he had lived a good life, he seemed ready to go by Christian standards. Why are we unable to let the good Sheriff Taylor go gently into that good night?

Because I believe his death signified the ending of an era–an era that represented to us a simpler time of our existence, that reminded us of our childhood, that is rapidly fading into the mists of yesteryear. As long as Sheriff Taylor was alive, Mayberry seemed to still exist somewhere. There was the hope that we could somehow regain even an iota of that peaceful lifestyle.

The Mayberry state of mind crosses gender, race, culture. The Andy Griffith Show was all about white people, yet I saw countless black people interviewed today–all of them lamenting Andy’s passing. Women today primarily work outside the home and wear jeans like the men–unlike most of the Mayberry women who stayed home, wore dresses and lived to cook for their families–yet these modern women shed tears today at the loss of Mayberry’s native son.

It would be almost unAmerican to say you were unaffected by Andy’s death. Don’t we all recognize the opening theme just as soon as the first bar is whistled? Who hasn’t tried whistling that themselves? Don’t we all laugh when Barney says, “Nip it. Nip it in the bud!”? At one time or another, haven’t we all tried to mimic Goober’s Cary Grant impression of “Judy, Judy, Judy”?

It hits us in the collective gut of nostalgia to hear Andy is no more on earth. Who’s gonna make sure Barney keeps that bullet in his shirt pocket? Who’s gonna lock up Otis for public drunkenness and bring him some of Aunt Bee’s good cornbread in the jail cell? Who’s gonna catch Ernest T. Bass when he’s chunking rocks through storefront windows? And for that matter, who’s gonna sit around and pick and grin with the Darlings?

The days of my childhood are long gone. No more Sunday afternoons under Grandpa Bray’s shady old oaks while neighbors and relatives drop in to sit in web-design lawn chairs and discuss if the blue mold’s taking the ‘baccer, how many quarts of green beans they’ve put up for the winter, how hot this July weather has been. No more swimming in the creek with the cousins after we’ve wandered through Grandpa’s pastures and picked blackberries. No more catching lightning bugs and putting them in pop bottles on summer evenings while Uncle Sam played “Uncle Pen” or “Let Me Be Your Salty Dog” as my daddy and the other uncles sang along.

But there is one thing that remains from my childhood days. The Andy Griffith Show. It was on the air before I was born, and it has never once gone off the air since the last episode was filmed in 1968. I can click on my TV every day at 5:30 p.m. and catch it on a local channel even now. It is one of the last existing ties to my childhood. I have never known a day of life without Sheriff Taylor.

Until today.

Yes, I know The Andy Griffith Show will probably run until I’m long gone. But losing Andy somehow makes the show seem even farther back in time, even more removed from modern life.

We strain a little harder to reach back to a time when Aunt Bee was pleased as punch to keep her Taylor boys well-fed, when Opie always had his “Paw” to confide in, when Andy strummed his guitar on the front porch while Barney stretched and said, “Well, I think I’ll go down to the corner and get me a bottle of pop.” Pause. “Yep, I figure I’ll mosey on down to the corner and get me a pop.” Another pause and stretch, “That’s the plan. Head on down to the corner and get me a bottle of pop.”

Lest life seem overly perfect, Mayberry had its thorny issues. Aunt Bee faced pickling problems and was ever challenged by her bosom buddy Clara Edwards. Opie sometimes told fibs and had to confess to “Paw.” Barney often sneaked off to call Juanita down at the diner and serenade her while poor Thelma Lou was at home alone. Ernest T. Bass turned up with his violent ways at all the wrong times. And Otis just kept a-drinkin’.

But still, Mayberry life seems ideal to us today in our rush-rush-hurry-hurry work-a-day world. There was a sense of community that we are lacking. Neighbors took time to sit on the porch and visit. Floyd’s Barber Shop was a hangout for the men. The Pyle boys–Gomer and Goober–were ever-present when a helping hand was needed.

Andy’s job of sheriff kept him on call around the clock. But he somehow found time to spread a quilt on the green grass to picnic with his best gal, Helen Crump. He took Opie down to the fishing hole and maybe whistled while he went. He made time to play his music with the Darlings, complete with a gen-u-INE jug instrument.

You skeptics are thinking, “Get a grip, Leslie. Mayberry is a fictional town on television, for goodness sake!”

Yes. Yes, it is. But Mayberry is more than a made-up town. It’s a state of mind, I’ve heard people say. And it’s most certainly MY state of mind.

Because I remember those times. I was part of the Forest Chapel Community Club where we had potluck dinners with the neighbors, and where grandmas, uncles, aunts, cousins played against each other in Rook tournaments. We had three TV channels, no cell phones, no computers, no video games. My social networking involved bouncing the basketball loudly in the yard in hopes that my neighbors across the road would hear me and come out to play “HORSE.”

THAT’S why we cry over Andy’s passing. Because many of us still long for the Mayberry state of mind where life flows peacefully and seems to move in slow motion compared to the jet-fast pace of modernity. A place where Ange is patiently advising the Barneys among us, licking his lips saying “Mmm, Mmm!” over Aunt Bee’s pork chops, calmly counseling a penitent Opie, singing and playing for us at the end of a hectic day.

The faster we move through life, the more we yearn for the old paths of life. Andy was representative of that rustic, slow-paced way of living. And now he’s gone.

Nope, we’re not just mourning the passing of Andy. We’re mourning the passage of an era that will never come again.

Thank God that way of life, as well as Andy, will live on through reruns of his show. We’ll continue to tune in and reminisce and laugh and wish it could be that simple again.

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