How many of you remember back when you were little, those black and white TV’s, I kind of doubt they make them anymore? In the days of HD TV’s we tend to forget them, how the picture reminded us of those faded newspapers our folks have stuck back in their attic, when something in them made them say to them selves, “I need to keep this.” Even though they were described as black and white, they really weren’t, they were more deepening shades of gray. But at the time, it’s what we had. We were kids, we watched Charlie Hall and Carroll Godwin tell us the news and weather, they were real people, so in our minds, anything on the little box had to be real too. The concept of television never occurred to us, everything we saw was REAL. And so in our minds deep in the hills of North Carolina, there really was a town called Mayberry, and its Sheriff was a man called Andy Taylor.
And through the years, even though we have grown, and have our own kids, and maybe even grandkids, deep in our conscience, when we heard a whistle, for a few minutes in our busy lives, we would find our selves back in front of Mom’s TV. But Tuesday morning, I guess the reality of life finally caught up with us, Sheriff Andy, or should I say, Andy Griffith passed away.
I don’t know about most of you, but to a lot of us, it kind of felt like I had lost a member of the family. To the modern world we live in, that might sound a little silly, but they didn’t grow up like us. We were from a simpler time, or maybe it was because we were kids, and our folks were able to protect us from the outside world. We were not kids of the internet or cell phones, our days were spent outside, not in front of a computer screen. When we came in at night and did sit down in front of the TV, there were not shows like Inside Edition or any of the others that told the private lives of our heroes. So I guess in a way we were protected again.
When we sat down and Andy and Opie were walking down that dirt road, we could see our selves doing the same thing. They were doing things that real people did, or at least what we did anyway. We would see Andy throwing a ball with Opie, just like our Dads did. And then we would see Opie break a window, and we could relate to him having to tell his Father about it, all things we could relate too. And before long it really wasn’t a TV show, it was a family just like ours, and before long we felt as if we had a window, a magical window in to our best friend’s life.
But life always plays tricks on us. Before long we were growing up, and the realities of life come calling. These too were the years of Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, and before long we grew past the age of the simpler things. We learned life is not always as simple as a Father and son walking down a road with fishing canes across their shoulders. But in our minds we still cling to that, so we have tried to pass that on to our kids. How many of you have, when you heard the whistle, told your kids to come and watch this with me? I heard one time that since the original show went off, it has never been a day that somewhere in the world that the show has not been on. That’s 48 years!
Think back, do you remember what your favorite episode was? Mine probably had something to do with Ernest T. Bass. I made you smile, didn’t I? How about this, the first and only poem I have ever learned: There once was a Deputy named Fife, who carried a gun and a knife, the gun was dusty and the knife was rusty cause he never caught a crook in his life. Opie got in trouble for that one. A few years before Momma died I found that over at her house. For some reason I had wrote it on the card board back of a legal pad, and stuck it in the top of my closet, and all those many years later she still had it. But who can explain the things kids do, maybe that’s why Mommas love us so much.
But the world always keeps spinning, and with it times change. As we grew, so I guess did Andy Griffith. Years later, I, like a lot of us watched him on Matlock. It was a great show, but something was never right to me about it. I waited and waited, but Andy never showed up. Oh sure he was the country lawyer, but something was always missing. Maybe because Otis didn’t come strolling in and lock his self up, Gomer’s “Shazzam”, or Barney’s “Nip It”. But if you were to get right down to it, he was an actor playing a part, and while the face, while older, was the same, like life, things change. And it was us who were holding on to the past.
But Tuesday morning changed all that. For the first time, when I saw the news report, he wasn’t Andy Taylor, the Sheriff, but Andy Griffith the man, and he was gone. But how could that be? For you see Sheriff Andy is timeless, in all the years I watched it, and I still do on occasion, not a hair has changed.
But like the face that was flashed on the screen, I too am now gray and wrinkled, but in my mind’s eye, I’m still sitting in front of Momma’s TV …
… wondering if Opie would like to go fishing.
You can reach Robbin Bruce by e-mail at email@example.com.
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