You think Mayberry North Carolina isn’t real? That Sheriff Andy Taylor is just some actor living inside your TV? Well, maybe so. For you. But not me. I been livin in Mayberry my whole life.
That musically warm southern breeze dances through the woods, across Meyer’s Lake, those dusty roads home, those nods from your neighbors as you stroll into town.
There is a rock beneath this home town. As solid as Thomas Wolff’s soft stone smile of an angel. But on that rock is a gentle harmony only found here, in the south, in the sun, in Mayberry North Carolina.
Where else could I live? I grew up in a house right down the street from Opie Taylor. We played catch, skinned our knees exploring dark, scary caves outside of town where we had no business being at all.
Oh I suppose if you looked hard enough you’d see some skinny big headed crew cut kid somewhere far, like outside of Chicago, laying on his stomach, head propped up in his hands, watching the television.But the real story was in Mayberry.
Opie had no Mama. So I learned that every family was different. Every family had secrets. Secrets running through the green and glorious quiet woods.
My Daddy had a drug store. Sometimes Sheriff Andy would come in. And there was always Deputy Barney Fife. We kids, we knew the way Andy looked after Barney. So we learned how to look after folks too.
In the evenings, there’d be music. One time Ole Doc Watson himself came by, sat out on the front porch with Opie’s Pa, his Aunt Bee, and there was this kind of picking like a freight train bound for some kind of land of promise. Where there would be this honey voiced North Carolina girl. That's where I'd find her.
My plan? I’d leave, maybe go to get a job somewhere. Didn’t know where. Didn’t know why. Maybe go up to the University in Chapel Hill. I didn’t know. I just knew I’d leave, then I’d find her then we’d come back to Mayberry. And if you looked hard again I suppose you’d see that skinny kid with the crew cut big head, a little more grown up. Being some kind of grown up now. With jobs and friends that come and go. Walking city streets in gentle rains.
But just blink, and if it all got too tough for that street corner spirit, the popping of a gun shot, a starving child, a job that would never come again; it all got too tough, there was Mayberry. That’s where you’d find him. Mayberry never changed. Mayberry never went away.
Back in Mayberry, you’d remember those six times, and it seems like more but it was only six, when Ernest T Bass would come to town. Now there was a character. To be that wild, sweet, crazy, rock throwing love struck! Only in Mayberry would you find Ernest T. Bass. Maybe that was the plan? Be Ernest T. Bass!
All of it. All of Mayberry. The soft, sweet musical nights, the growing up, the being grown, even the being more than grown right now. Right now, when there is so, so much that is different in the world. So much struggle for the basics of food and a roof and maybe if you are lucky and blessed for a chance to give back, to do something more than just survive. To leave something behind. All of that was kept safe by Sheriff Andy.
Oh you can call him Andy Griffith if you want. Or, if you’re like me and you have lived in Mayberry for your whole life, you can call him Sheriff Taylor.
So, on the day that he passed to some other Mayberry, because of him,you can stop for a moment, feel that gentle southern soul breeze on your face in the last golden moments of twilight, take a deep slow breath. . . And remember how Sheriff Andy kept us safe.
Remember how he could grin, motion you up on the front porch with those sparkling eyes and say,“Set for a moment. Ya’ll are welcome here.”
Then you can take your seat, and remember all he left us.