LC's Take: My Barney

Posted Wednesday, June 1, 2011 in Features

LC's Take: My Barney

by LC Van Savage

I admit I've always made fun of Trekkies, those folks so hooked on the Star Trek TV series that they have enormous fan clubs all over the world and meet for "conventions," wearing absurdly dorky pointed rubber ears and ski PJs, and where they speak in Trekkie tongues. Which, by the way, they can all understand.  Creepy.  One Trekkie language is called “Klingon” I think, and there’s even a Klingon Institute.  What are we coming to?     

Now to me, all that's extremely weird, so I chuckle derisively and feel superior when I read about those strange, obsessed people.

Until uh oh, in a rush of embarrassment one evening I realized I too am hopelessly hooked on an old TV show, only my addiction is at least normal.  And they speak American, well, sort of. I love this old show so dearly and have watched it so often I am able, in every rerun, to speak the dialogue word for word in unison with all the actors, I guess my own kind of Klingon.  You’ve already guessed which show it is of which I speak, right? Yes, you’re right; it's that great TV classic, that magnificent, artistic work of peerless drama, The Andy Griffith Show.

 I am just simply nuts about those corny old productions and I really do think that because of watching it so obsessively, I was compelled to nag my husband “Mongo” to move us all to Maine, and at nagging, I’m a champ. Just ask him.  I’ll go head to head with anyone claiming that title, and I’ll win. We moved to Maine.

 Are the small, easy towns of Maine like Mayberry? Yes, only the winters are harsher and the accent up here is a little different.  For example, Mainers say KADJ-roy for corduroy.  In Mayberry, North Carolina, they say it slower; “CAWWWD-jroy, honey.” I doubt they even wear corduroy in North Carolina anyway.

 And since I’m confessing here, I'll admit to having a secret obsession for the star of that show for years. Today, I tell the world!

 No, it's not Sheriff Andy Taylor.  Or Otis Campbell, the town drunk.  No not Emmett, the fixit  guy. Goober, Gomer or Ernest T.? Get serious.  Not Howard Sprague or Mayor Stoner, or Floyd Lawson the barber, or Briscoe Darling. And of course Opie was just much too young for my ardor.

 It's Barney Fife.  Dear little funny sweet undernourished high-voiced know-it-all cranky self-important bantam-cock Barney. The *true* star of The Andy Griffith show. Was he adorable or what?

There he was, every week in his crisp uniform with his whistle and his one-allowed bullet stored in his shirt pocket, his own personal Rocky's Theme playing in the background as he swaggered off in pursuit of the bad guys in Mayberry of which, disappointingly, there were way too few to suit my brave hero.

Or, we’d see him going off to the dance with the love of his life, the endlessly patient and perpetually un-proposed-to Thelma (Thelmer) Lou, wearing his favorite old salt-and-pepper suit, (perfect for doing the dip,) and wide brimmed polished straw hat.

Every chance he got, kindly, wise ol' Andy was good to ol' Barn, letting the little guy take the kudos when Anj was the one who'd really earned them.  And patient? Andy was endlessly patient with and protective of Barney when he screwed up, which he did perpetually, although nobody ever dreamed of using cuss words like "screwed up" back in Mayberry.

I never did like Helen Crump, the school marm (and coincidentally Opie's teacher) Andy eventually married. She was kind of a sourpuss. Stiff. Cold. I'd rather he'dmarried the much more appealing Ellie, the town pharmacist, but Ellie sort of vanished after a couple of seasons.

Aunt Bee Taylor was Everymother and I loved her dearly. Plump, always home, always preparing scrumptious fat-laced dinners for Andy and Opie (and Barney, Gomer and Goober too when they could make it and they always could,) canning pickles for entrance into the County Fair contest (she never won because they tasted like kerosene until Anj and Barn switched jars so Aunt Bee could win,) growing roses for the contest at the county fair, running the Mayberry Civic League, and Garden Club, scolding Opie for stealing apples, being such dear friends with Clara Edwards the church organist (old friends from their grammar school days when Bee was the "best dribbler" on the girls' basketball team) singing in and attending church -- Aunt Bee was definitely not a woman of the twenty-first century. I'll bet she smelled like cookie dough and furniture polish, lavender and vanilla. I miss her.

And oh, that cheeky little mean Opie rejected that grand and noble woman at first when Andy brought her home to take the place of Opie's (never really discussed) deceased (or vanished) mother. (Maybe Mom ran away from boring old Mayberry to Mt. Pilot to live the high life. Who knows?)  Well, Aunt Bee stayed and they even wrote in a couple of boyfriends for her along the way. She decided to not marry one or two after they’d proposed, so that she could continue caring for Andy and Opie, her true calling. What a marvelous, sacrificing woman she was. (One swain was a fiendish dude, out to do mayhem in the Taylor household, and it was Ol'Barn who exposed him and sent him packing. Well, Barney got the credit, but Andy did the dirty work. As usual.)

Was it that silly impossible TV show which greatly influenced me to convince--OK, to force my family to drop everything in their lives and move to a small(ish) town in Maine? You bet it was and I'm not in the least ashamed to admit it.  Did I find Mayberry North?  In a lot of ways I did.  Yes. Good values. Good people. Good everything.  Good move.

 I could go on for a dozen more pages giving more details about that revered TV show, but I digress from my beloved Barney. (He was Andy's cousin, you know.)  This man, the master of the Important Sniff, didn't have to fly around lost in space forever wearing ski pajamas to be my hero. He just had to be Barney Fife, a man who was content to dedicate his life to being Deputy Sheriff forever, and who I forgive for spending a little quality hanky-panky time down at the diner with Juanita when Thelmer Lou's back was turned. And why not? After all, he was only human. Ol’ Barn had needs just like anyone else. OK, he was no Captain Kirk, but Barney Fife, when he had night duty down at the jail and sang Otis to sleep while wearing his striped jammies, oh boy, he had a certain something, I can tell you that! He did indeed.

I love you, Barney Fife.

Email LC at lcvansavage@newmainetimes.org

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