Here's my "All Over the Map" from the 07.25.2012 issue of Arkansas Weekly.
To all of those fans of Ang, Barn, Goober and the gang, I sincerely apologize in advance. The last thing I need is a fatwa from Andy Griffith fans.
The recent passing of Andy Taylor, the celebrated former sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina, has prompted fond memories of the folksy lawman from those of a certain generation.
In fact, as many of us recall Andy and his fellow gentle-souled residents (obviously excluding cranky old Ben Weaver), our curiosity naturally turns to those other Mayberrians and what became of them over the years.
Although Mayberry has always seemed an idyllic small town, it must also be said that the citizens of the quaint community were not immune to the pains and travails life sometimes offers.
|The late Ben Weaver. Rumored to be the only man in America to have suffered from PMS.|
Let’s begin with the aforementioned Ben Weaver, the eternally bitter owner of the big department store in Mayberry as well as a greedy landlord. In 1969, Weaver was indicted by state authorities on charges of landlord neglect. The massive fines resulted in the closing of Weaver’s department store and forced the businessman into personal bankruptcy. In 1970, Ben Weaver walked into Floyd’s Barber Shop in downtown Mayberry, pulled a .357 Magnum out of his black jacket pocket, stuck the barrel in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.
|Andy, Howard (center), and Floyd (seated)|
Floyd Lawson, the longtime barber in downtown Mayberry, witnessed the incident and was traumatized for many years. However, after much therapy and several electroshock sessions, Floyd recovered. Around this same time, Floyd began taking causal weekend antiquing trips to Mt. Pilot with his friend, the longtime bachelor and former county clerk, Howard Sprague. In 1976, the two moved to Naples, Florida where Howard started a successful accounting firm while Floyd opened a salon that catered to upper class middle-aged and elderly women. Together, Floyd and Howard purchased an oceanfront condominium and lived a happy life until Floyd passed away from a massive stroke in 1990. Howard died of a heart attack just three years later.
|Aunt Bee, shortly before almost choking to death on a chicken leg|
Andy’s aunt, Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor, passed away in a Raleigh nursing home in 1972. Bea had been ill for years after she suffered from a near-fatal choking incident involving a fried chicken leg.
Goober Pyle grew his garage and filling station into a thriving business for many years. In 1969, he married Charlene Darling, the daughter of mountain musician, Briscoe Darling. The marriage was fruitful for decades, resulting in four children and six grandchildren. The Pyle children, obviously blessed from the Darling musical DNA, formed a pop country group and now perform at a theatre in Branson, Missouri.
|Charlene Darling aka Charlene Pyle|
Sadly, Goober and Charlene divorced in 2001 after Goober found emails between Charlene and the longtime object of her affections, Andy. No evidence ever materialized regarding anything untoward between Charlene and Andy. Nevertheless, the content of the emails was enough to prompt Goober to file. Although cordial to each other in public in later years, the friendship between Andy and Goober was never the same. Goober sold his garage and filling station to a group out of Charlotte in 2004. It was demolished, and a new Kum & Go convenience store was built in its place exactly one year later. Goober now dates a radio sales executive out of Raleigh that he met on eHarmony.
|The mysterious Gomer Pyle|
Goober’s cousin, Gomer, has experienced a long and storied history with the military industrial complex after a successful stint in the United States Marines Corp. In 1971, he began a deadly career as a mercenary, fighting in skirmishes throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America – usually on whatever side that was backed by the Central Intelligence Agency. In 1975, Gomer went underground, presumably in Costa Rica or Belize, after masterminding a high profile hit in Algiers. He later emerged fighting with Contra rebels in Nicaragua circa 1985. In some intelligence circles, Gomer is credited with hatching the controversial scheme to sell arms to Iran in order to fund the Contras. Although Col. Oliver North was targeted as a main player in the Iran-Contra affair, experts believe Gomer had enough influence, respect, power and fear in the world of American espionage to finger North as the fall guy for the enterprise. Gomer later opened a successful (and secretive) training complex for national and international security professionals in remote North Carolina. Men and women who have trained at Gomer’s facility have been utilized in both the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts, as well as in many other hotspots throughout the world. Gomer is twice-divorced and rumored to currently be dating conservative pundit, Ann Coulter.
|Andy and Barney in happier times|
Barney Fife, Andy’s former deputy and best friend, returned to Mayberry in 1987 after retiring from the Raleigh Police Department. Long married to Thelma Lou, Barney opened a donut shop in the former location of Floyd’s Barber Shop, though business was light due to the stigma of Ben Weaver’s suicide in the building years earlier. Barney closed the shop two years later. Living off his pension as well as Thelma Lou’s generous retirement package, the two often flew to Atlantic City for casino gambling. Barney soon became addicted to the game of craps and burned through their savings within four years. After Thelma Lou left Barney in disgust, he moved to Atlantic City to be closer to feeding his addiction. Late one night in 1995, the body of Barney Fife was found floating face down in a Comfort Inn swimming pool near the Atlantic City Airport. It was rumored he had incurred debts of at least $35,000 to various figures in the New Jersey mafia -- including one, Anthony Soprano.
Andy’s cherished and only son, Opie Taylor, left Mayberry to attend Duke University on a full scholarship. He graduated medical school in 1984 and returned to Mayberry to open a successful family medical practice.
|Opie Taylor. Could he be the mastermind behind the Slingshot Murders of North Carolina?|
Andy, and his wife of over 25 years, the former Helen Crump, eagerly welcomed Opie back home. However, Opie held a dark secret because of a traumatizing incident from his youth. When he was 9-years-old, Opie killed a bird with his slingshot. For punishment, Andy made Opie sleep with his bedroom window open so the boy could hear the anguished cries of the baby birds left behind by their mother’s death. This permanently scarred Opie. For decades, Opie was the outward personification of the small town, All-American boy, all grown up and successful. But, some authorities believe Opie Taylor is also one of the most notorious serial killers to haunt the North Carolina countryside. There are at least 56 unsolved murders that involve a woman being killed by a large pebble from a heavy duty slingshot. And at every crime scene involving these killings, a dead bird is found. In 2002, the North Carolina State Police began a serious investigation of Opie Taylor for what became known as the Slingshot Murders, but efforts at prosecution have long been hampered by Opie’s Atlanta, Georgia attorney, Ben Matlock.
|Ernest T. Bass|
Finally, there is one other Mayberry resident who has had some good fortune smile upon his face in his later years. In 1994, longtime Mayberrian, Ernest T. Bass, won $130 million in the North Carolina Lottery. Ernest T. promptly moved to Panama City, Florida and bought the local franchises of the Hooters restaurant chain. Ernest T. quickly expanded his Hooters empire and is now the number one Hooters franchisee in the Southeast. He is an accomplished pilot of his own private jet and has a large interest in a successful NASCAR racing team. He is also an award-winning clogger. Ernest T. Bass is currently dating Delta Burke from Designing Women and is the father of at least 32 children from different mothers.