Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Tears in Mayberry : a requiem for Andy Griffith
Now, I grew up in a time and place that was the twilight of that timeless place, and the smell of cut grass and summer days hot as a fire cracker. It was a jarring transition, but as a boy I remember what it's like to have neighbors bring over extra bushels of vegetables from the garden when they'd grown more bounty than they could eat, and watched Mama make home-cooked meals for sick people (to be Southern is to love people with food). If Shannon, Georgia, U.S.A. was more complicated, following the pathos of Viet Nam and the counter-culture and the onrush of the modern world, it at least smelled and sounded like Mayberry, and had plenty of modest, decent people to go around---just as gracious to your face and maybe a bit too hard on one another in gossip. It was a place where sanitized, corn-pone humor still had a place in a genteel exchange, and while we may not have had the comic timing of the Andy Griffith Show ensemble, the kinds of laughs you could have with anyone were not so different. You just might illustrate a point by comparing something to "that time on Andy Griffith." I enjoyed Andy in "Matlock," too---one of the shining lights of older, lead actors on television. It was one of those last television programs I watched with the whole family, just as I realized maybe I watched TOO much t.v. and needed to live a little more life! Even a person as young as I was may have caught the Mount Airy, North Carolina native in "Rustler's Rhapsody," the drama "A Face in the Crowd" (from 1957) and "No Time For Sargeants." He was a lifelong Democrat and a Grammy-winning Gospel singer. He died this morning at 7 a.m. in his home in North Carolina. http://soundcloud.com/c-lue-disharoon/ceci I got a bit choked up recently when I decided to cover a song called "Country Comfort," missing my own grandmothers and the way of life that still whispered to me of its days in my boyhood. There is something very valuable there, related to getting back to the land and not living so extravagantly, playing with toys made straight from nature, and the kind of virtues related to working with your hands beside the seasons, which I wish to distill and pass along. I could recite more Andy Griffith show plots for you than I really should, with names like Thelma Lou and Otis and Goober and Gomer and the Darling Family, but maybe we can reminisce over such things, as we used to say, on down the road. But for all the kind characters I enjoyed in those reruns that brought my whole family together around supper time, there was no greater giant than Sheriff Taylor, the gentlest patriarch and friend to all. I celebrate the work of this fine actor, and join you in a wistful tear, for while never will we see his like again, there's something in Mayberry that deserves to live forever. So, "in the sweet bye-and-bye," then, Mr. Griffith.