Knotts dead, but Fife legacy lives on

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The death of an American icon allows each of us the chance to pause for a moment and pay our respects.

Don Knotts died on Friday at the age of 81.

For the majority, Knotts was popularly known as the bumbling, stumbling Deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show, home to Sheriff Andy Taylor, son Opie, Aunt Bee, Goober, and Gomer; a cast of characters lovable enough to make a television show feel just like home.

I was born in the 70s and grew up loving the program through frequent re-runs. It seemed as if every show was a classic, although I must confess that once Knotts left and the program was colorized, the show became less funny. But how could it not be? Still, The Andy Griffith Show remained at the top of the Nielsen ratings for the rest of its run, tribute to how genuinely loved the show was by all of America, an America not divided between two camps of red states and blue states.

I would never try and list my own personal &#8220Top Ten” of The Andy Griffith Show. I love them all (the black and white episodes, mind you). But here are a few of my favorites, featuring Barney Fife.

&#8220The Pickle Story” - Aunt Bee is making pickles. Unfortunately, each batch is pretty bad. And this episode features the classic &#8220kerosene cucumber” line from Barney.

&#8220The Farmer Takes a Wife” - Big Jeff Pruitt (played by Alan Hale, of &#8220Gilligan's” fame), comes to town looking for a wife. He immediately sets his eyes on Barney's flame, Thelma Lou. Barney's at his best, but Pruitt delivers the line I'll always remember: When Thelma Lou serves him a dish of small, petite sandwiches, Pruitt remarks - &#8220Little lady, someone has gotten into your sandwiches and torn them all to pieces!”

&#8220Andy on Trial” - A truly heartwarming episode. Barney's big mouth gets Andy into trouble when a big city magazine publisher, upset over receiving a ticket while in Mayberry, attempts to have Andy removed from office for dereliction. Attacked by the publisher's lawyer on the stand, Barney fights back, revealing the warmth and depth of his and Andy's relationship.

&#8220Lawman Barney” - Two rough vegetable salesmen set up shop outside of Mayberry without a license to sale. Barney is forced to face them down after Andy teaches him that the badge represents more than just one man.

&#8220Convicts at Large” - Barney and Floyd the Barber are held hostage by a gaggle of female convicts and hilarity ensues.

&#8220Barney's First Car” - Deputy Fife, hot for a set of wheels, gets taken by a little old lady with a criminal streak.

&#8220The Sermon for Today” - A visiting minister urges Mayberry's residents to slow things down. After sitting for a while on the porch, Andy, Barney and the gang decide to put on an old time Sunday band concert. Funny part: Gomer fears spiders are lurking beneath an old bandstand. After repeatedly telling him there's no arachnids in the dark, Barney tells Gomer to &#8220get down there with them spiders” and start working.

&#8220Back to Nature” - Andy takes Opie and his friends on a camping trip. Barney and Gomer get lost in the woods before Andy helps lead them back.

There are more classics that could be included. If you want to end your day in laughter, check out re-runs of the &#8220The Andy Griffith Show” on TV Land.

And rest in peace, Don Knotts.

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at: