That Barney just beat all
Sometimes when a beloved actor passes away, you curse the Fates. Sometimes you cry. When Don Knotts passed away recently, I didn't go for mollycoddling. I taught two-year-old Gideon to say, “Nip it in the bud!”
Viewers are so fortunate to have reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show,” because we'll never see such warmth and good-natured humor again. If the show were being created today, the admonition about “nip it in the bud” would instead be “let the next generation fix the problem.” Andy Taylor and Barney Fife wouldn't even be the law in Mayberry; some outfit from the United Arab Emirates would be the party busting Ernest T. Bass for throwing rocks.
I can still picture the black-and-white TV that we used for watching the Mayberry crew 40-plus years ago, but one of my fondest Knotts-related memories dates from about 1972. My sixth grade class was having a math contest between the boys and the girls. This was one day after “The Ghost And Mr. Chicken” had been broadcast. (This movie — which would probably be known as “The Ghost And Mr. Genetically Modified Chicken” if made today — featured Knotts as Luther Heggs, a jittery small-town newspaper typesetter who received encouragement from his neighbors to spend the night in a haunted house and become a big shot reporter.) As I strained under the pressure at the blackboard, one of the other boys cheered me on with a boisterous “Attaboy, Luther!”
I think I won that contest. I certainly did much better than on the occasions when I received cheers along the lines of “Ring around the collar!” or “Post-Nasal Drip!”
I sympathize with the family of Don Knotts, but I feel the spirit of that little bantam rooster Barney Fife will still be around — in Washington, D.C., if nowhere else. Really, I can imagine what “Big Barn” would be saying in the following situations: