Opie’s new friend is a hobo. He and Andy met the stranger at the fishing hole. The free spirited gentleman, named David Browne, quickly earns their affection with his easy-going charm but when their backs are turned he steals their sandwiches out of the backseat of Andy’s police car. Back in town Barney brings David in on a vagrancy charge. He is appalled when Andy banters with his new friend and lets him off easy.
Opie is even more impressed with David than Andy is. The rambler teaches him how to steal gumballs, procrastinate, and play hooky. Barney repeatedly brings David in and each time Andy looks the other way while Opie’s proper upbringing erodes away.
Eventually, David crosses the line and Andy confronts him. David defends his choices and says he’s just living the way everyone else wishes they could. He says Opie should decide for himself if he wants to live in David’s world or Andy’s. Andy disagrees, arguing that a decision like that isn’t for children to make, instead it’s up to the adults in their lives to teach them structure and the value of patience over David’s hedonism. David agrees to leave town, but Andy laments that the damage is done. It will take him quite a while to undo the impression that David has left on Opie.
However, David has one more trick up his sleeve. Barney brings him into the courthouse for stealing Aunt Bee’s purse. Finally, Andy puts him in a cell. When Opie sees that David has committed such a crime he loses all respect for him. As Barney is driving Opie home Andy has one more chat with David. It turns out that Aunt Bee had recently thrown that particular Purse in the garbage. As the sound of a nearby train is heard Andy lets David out and sends him on his way.
- David is played by Buddy Epsen, who went on to star as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies, a show that was part of a trend of rural sitcoms that The Andy Griffith Show started.
- Barney’s resentment towards David just because he doesn’t have money or possessions is unsettling.
The Moral of the Story
This episode is about a choice; Opie’s choice between a life of indulgence and a life of productive order. It’s a choice of Opie’s way of life but not his to make. He’s too young to understand the consequences so Andy makes it for him.
On the subject of choice, I have decided to put this blog on an indefinite hiatus, one I am unlikely to return from. One of the main reasons for this decision is that NeoGriffithism was never intended for children. It was intended for adults who should at least have some understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong. However, the morality of The Andy Griffith Show tends to be pretty straightforward while political issues are either similarly simple or very complicated. That puts me in the difficult position of either stating an obvious moral truth to adults who shouldn’t have to be told or condensing a complicated issue into a glorified (by me) fortune cookie.
Of course it’s wrong to ban someone from entering the country because of their religion or nation of origin. Of course arresting or deporting someone just for immigrating illegally, at worst a victimless crime, is an extreme overreaction. On the other hand, I’m afraid Andy Taylor doesn’t have any speeches that would be of much help to Robert Mueller right now.
I have to admit that the problems aren’t just conceptual. I haven’t done a very good job of keeping up with the news. I overestimated my own ability to sustain the onslaught of total nonsense coming from a Donald-led government. I also misjudged my social-media marketing skills. I thought a little Twitter and Instagram would rocket me to thousands of views; not in the the name of profit, but in hopes that I could help people see the world in a different light. My attempts at moralizing are futile if no one is paying attention.
Still, my little experiment hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed. They say that if you can reach just one person it’s all worth it. I hope that some good has come out of this. I hope that the few who have seen this and will in the future will come to see things the Mayberry way. I hope they will realize that ethics and politics aren’t mutually exclusive. I hope they will see that morality is simple but people are complicated. Doing the right thing isn’t about rules, it’s about caring for people. I hope they will know that fear is dangerous and compassion is courageous. I hope they will ask: What would Andy Taylor do?