Monday, October 1, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #60: “Howard’s Nephew” (11/02/70, prod. no. 0303)

Let me tell you how desperate I was to put off doing this week’s Mayberry Mondays.  (“How…desperate…were you?”)  I was so desperate that I actually spent two hours Saturday night watching Hair (1979) on TCM on Demand—a film that I saw about two years after it came out at a revival theater in Huntington, WV (during “the college years”) and really had no plans to revisit until…well, until the deadline for this began to stare me in the face.  Because nothing is more painful in life than a Mayberry R.F.D. episode that tries to be hip and relevant…which is what we have here with “Howard’s Nephew”—an outing that isn’t quite as awful at “Youth Takes Over” but would definitely have some cachet in the “worst episode” department.

The episode gets down to brass tacks by opening with a conversation between pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) and poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-town-council-head Sam Jones (Ken Berry) in Sam’s office:

SAM: You think your sister’s problems with the boy are anything very serious?
HOWARD: I don’t know… (He sits down in a chair) I…uh…she just merely indicated that he…seems to be having difficulty finding himself…oh. I’m sure if the lad’s train of immature thoughts temporarily derailed I won’t have any trouble getting the ol’ engine back on track again…

This sounds like an episode of Thomas and His Friends.

HOWARD: …after all, he is a Sprague…

That might explain why he’s continually being pantsed during school assemblies.

SAM (chuckling): Yeah…yeah, right…
HOWARD: Hmm…and being a Sprague myself, I think I can say with all modesty that…the lad’s fine background and good bloodlines, together with my stabilizing influence, well…we’ll be able to solve any little problem that may have come up…


You were wrong, Howard.  You can’t say that with any modesty.  Anyway, nephew Sprague is scheduled to arrive in Mayberry Township around five o’clock, so Howard takes his leave of Sam but invites him over to the house to meet him later.  There is then a dissolve to Howard waiting by the bus stop…and spotting Boysinger’s Bakery in the background sadly reminds us that our favorite counter girl, Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka), will not be in this week’s episode.


I always find it astonishing that whenever a bus pulls up in Mayberry there’s a goodly number of people filing off because the cynic in me would argue it makes more sense for the reverse (that there would be a throng pushing and shoving to get on the bus).  After several folks get off, Howard looks around in vain for his nephew…and he starts peering in the windows to see if he might have overlooked somebody when a stranger disembarks from the ‘Hound, guitar in hand.


The actor essaying the role of “Spud” (for that is indeed his handle) is Brad David, who—according to his bio at the always reliable IMDb—was sort of a go-to thesp for playing “hippies, druggies and psychos on TV shows during the late 60s and 70s.”  (I only wish Brad were playing a psycho in “Howard’s Nephew”—that would make it the best R.F.D. episode ever.)  Among his notable TV guest appearances were episodes of Dan August, Ironside, Marcus Welby, M.D. and the 2-hour pilot for The Streets of San Francisco; he also turns up in a pair of Room 222’s (as the same character)—“I Love You Charlie, I Love You Abbie” and its sequel, “The Last Full Moon.”  Both of these episodes featured a high-school couple who get married even though everyone tries to, Nat King Cole-style, tell them they’re too young.  The bio at the IMDb speculates that David may have been married in real-life to his co-star in those installments, Kathleen Lloyd…and also mentions that he was married to actress Nicole Jaffe at one time, Jaffe being best known as the voice of Scooby Doo’s “Velma Dinkley.”

Brad landed a regular gig as a young firefighter on a 1974 series called Firehouse, an Aaron Spelling production that ABC scheduled hoping to cash in on the popularity of Jack Webb’s successful Emergency! on NBC.  Firehouse has earned some notoriety in TV history with its last episode (there were 13 in all), which featured the main characters assigned the task of trying to rescue a man in traction from his house…which was about to slide off a hill.  (The show got canceled after that, so you have to provide your own conclusion.)  David’s “career faded when the hippie era passed and TV stopped writing flower child parts,” according to his IMDb bio…though he landed a few TV gigs as “Brad David Stockton” and “Brad David Berwick.”  (Berwyn?)

SPUD: Uncle Howard?  (Howard turns around in the direction of the voice, and his reaction is one of astonishment)  It’s me, Uncle Howard…Spud!
HOWARD: You…you’re Spud?

“But…but you’re a hippie!”

SPUD: Yeah…I’m Spud!  (Looking around) Hey…this is a groovy little town…

I think we just found a winner in the Mayberry tourism slogan contest.

SPUD: Where’s your pad?  Do we walk?
HOWARD: Uh…juh…uh, no…my car’s right over here…
SPUD: Ah—terrific!

Howard hilariously hustles Spud over to his car (he’s apparently bought a new one since “The Caper”), all the while furtively looking around and hoping no one sees him (“Hey, Howard!  Who’s the damn hippie?”).  With Spud riding shotgun and Howard getting ready to drive, Mistah Sprague suggests to his nephew that he scrunch down in his seat where he’ll be more comfortable—“It’ll be much easier on your back.”  (Hell, Howard—why didn’t you just put him in the trunk?)  Howard then peels out.


SPUD: Man…you sure got us here in a hurry, Uncle Howard…
HOWARD: Oh…huh…yeah…well…I just…I thought, you know, you’d be anxious to unpack and get out of your traveling clothes
SPUD: Traveling clothes?  These are my best threads!

“Howard knows a hippie…Howard knows a hippie…”

HOWARD: Well…I…I guess you’re anxious to get settled in your room… (He starts hustling Spud toward the stairs) It’s right up here at the head of the steps…uh, Spud… (Spud stops on the stairs) I-I-I don’t want to pry, but…well, your mother mentioned in some vague sort of way that you…had some kind of a problem

“I’ve got a list right here in my leather fringy jacket, Uncle Howard…first, the fact that my name is ‘Spud’…”

SPUD: Oh, that…yeah, I guess I did have one…but you don’t have to worry about that, Uncle Howard—I solved that one a couple of weeks ago…
HOWARD: Oh—you did?
SPUD: Mm-hmm…

“I came out to my parents—that’s why Mom sent me here, she figured you might enlighten me on the subject.”  No, I’m just kidding: Spud informs “Uncle Howard” that he’s dropped out of school.  Hot on the heels of this revelation, a doorbell rings…and who should be at the front door but Sam and fix-it savant Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman).  Village idiot Goober Pyle (George Lindsey), who would normally be accompanying them, is not in this episode—because the focus here is going to be on rehabilitating young Spud, and Goober the Manchild would just get in the way.  (And I have a feeling the reason Millie’s not in this episode is because Spud would end up hitting on her.)  There’s an amusing bit where Howard opens the door but has his arm outstretched as if he’s trying to block Sam and Emmett’s entry.

SAM: We just came by to say “hi” to your nephew…
EMMETT: Yeah…wanna give him the ol’ Mayberry welcome

“Howard, somebody downtown told me they saw you talkin’ to a hippie while you were waitin’ on your nephew…”

SAM: Yeah…
HOWARD: Well…heh heh heh…this is indeed a surprise…heh…
SAM: Surprise?  Well, you told me to stop by…
HOWARD: I did?
SAM: Yeah!
HOWARD: Oh, yeah!  So I did!  Yeah… (Chuckling) Fine, fine, fine…heh…
EMMETT: Well, he arrived all right, didn’t he?
HOWARD: Oh…oh, yeah…yeah…sure…
EMMETT (laughing): I’m real anxious to meet ‘em…after the way you’ve been braggin’ about him around town…
SAM: Yeah…
HOWARD: Yeah…well…he’s upstairs in his room now…he’s… (Clearing throat) …probably resting after that long bus ride
EMMETT: A sixteen-year-old kid and he still takes naps?

Hey…I’m three times his age and I still indulge in a nap every now and then.  (Besides, I’m sure you’ve caught forty winks in that chair you’ve always got your keister parked in outside the shop.)  “What is he, Howard—some kind of a square?” Emmett asks.  (He most assuredly is not…and the suspense is killing me.)

HOWARD: Oh, no…no no…no no…
SAM: Well…now…look, Howard…if the boy’s tired we’ll run along now and come back and meet him later…that’s…
HOWARD (interrupting and hustling them towards the front door): Hey!  Yeah!  Yeah, that might be better…there’s no telling how long he might doze off…
SAM: Yeah…
EMMETT: Well, we can come back in an hour…
HOWARD: Yeah…well…give him a little more time than that, Emmett…you know, a couple of days, maybe…huh?
EMMETT: A two-day nap?

Well, I won’t keep anyone on tenterhooks any longer—announcing “I thought I heard people talking,” Spud bounds downstairs to meet his uncle’s best friends…who will then not long after alert the Mayberry Township Tar-and-Feather Committee that a hippie has been spotted in the House of Sprague.

SPUD: Hi!
HOWARD (closing the front door and clearing his throat): Uh, Spud…I’d like you to meet some friends of mine…this is Mr. Jones… (Sam gives him a wave) …and Mr. Clark…
SAM (shaking hands with Spud): How are ya, Spud?
SPUD: How do you do… (In shaking hands with Emmett, he gives him an abbreviated dap handshake) Hello…
EMMETT (totally bewildered): Hi…
SAM: Well…welcome to Mayberry!
SPUD: Thanks!

“Allow us to escort you to the town limits!”

SPUD: I don’t know why I’m here…except, uh…my mom sort of figures I’m hung up, I guess…

“More like strung up…hippie boy…”

SPUD: Anyway, she gave me the bread for the bus ride and I fell in here with Uncle Howard… (He claps Howard on the back) But you know something?  I really dig the vibes here…
EMMETT (to Sam): What’d he say?

Sam whips out his Hippie-to-English phrase book: “Drop your panties, Sir William, I cannot wait till lunchtime.”

SAM: Oh…uh…Emm…Mr. Clark here didn’t…uh…understand the…uh…lingo…you know… (Laughing) Uh…Spud likes it here…
EMMETT: Oh…
SPUD: Yeah, I really do…you know, from the little I’ve seen of this town it’s a real gas…outta sight!

“Gas?  Oh…you’ll need to go to Goober’s to get that.  Or either have the blue plate special at the diner…”

EMMETT: Well…whatever you say…
SAM (smiling): Yeah…

Well, at this point, the once-riveting conversation is starting to acquire too many awkward pauses…so Sam makes the excuse that he and Emmett have to be a-moseying.  The two men tell Spud that despite not being able to understand a single word he’s saying it was nice to meet him, and as Howard hustles them out the front door Emmett sort of looks back in a comical fashion that was good for a chuckle.

HOWARD: Spud…uh…d-d-d-do you think you and I could have a little…uh…chat?
SPUD: Sure!


There is then a cut to a shot of Spud sitting on Howard’s couch…and I have to admire the little hippie…he manages to look fairly alert despite Howard’s tendency to pointlessly ramble.

HOWARD: So…you see, Spud…I’m really not trying to criticize you, but…well, from a mathematical standpoint…you take the hair plus the clothes plus the dropping out of school…well, the total simply doesn’t add up to Sprague!

“Well, you need to remember that if ‘Sprague’ is divided by the coefficient, then the equation is ultimately going to be the most boring in the history of mathematics, Unk…”

SPUD: Gosh, Uncle Howard…I…I don’t know if that’s so important…
HOWARD (sitting down beside him): You see, Spud…I’m merely trying to explore your basic attitudes, and…and your motivations…
SPUD: Well, my basic attitude about school is that it’s a drag…
HOWARD: A drag?
SPUD: Mm-hmm…I mean, what’s the main reason for school?

Oh!  I know this…to indoctrinate and mold impressionable young minds into accepting the dictates of the State without question!

SPUD: To prepare you to go out into the world and hold a job, right?
HOWARD: Right…
SPUD: And what’s a job?  A job, Uncle Howard, is a road to nowhere

“The road to nowhere.  You know the road.  It’s a Nowhere Road.   I was being tugged along with this carrot: ’Come here.  Come here.  Come here.’  But no one told me it was a f**king cul-de-sac!  We've been on the wrong road…”

HOWARD: Well, Spud…if I had had your attitude when I was younger, today I wouldn’t be starting my ninth year as clerk of this county…
SPUD: That’s just what I mean!  I’m kind of surprised you agree…of course, it’s a shame you gotta learn the hard way, right?
HOWARD: Oh, I didn’t learn the hard way, Spud—I like my job!  I don’t…I don’t regard it as a road to nowhere

The Andy Griffith Show, December 18, 1967, Episode #234: “Howard’s New Life.”  Howard decides to quit his job as county clerk and start a new life in the Caribbean.

HOWARD: Do…do you realize the last clerk of this county went on to become District Commissioner of Public Works?
SPUD: I’m sure that’s considered a very heavy job, Uncle Howard…

Yeah, some of that paper pushed has the weight of…what, card stock?

SPUD: …but…let’s face it…it’s still a part of what they call “the briefcase jungle”…

He’s got a point, Howard.  In “the briefcase jungle,” you’re Tarzan of the Apes…

HOWARD: The briefcase jungle?
SPUD: Mm-hmm…the nine-to-five snake pit…

…and in the “9-to-5 snake pit,” you’re Olivia de Havilland.

HOWARD (indignant): Well, my hours are eight to four-thirty
SPUD: Look, Uncle Howard…I’m not trying to zap the older generation or anything…but…I don’t want to end up in a cage with society closing in…

De Havilland also played a “lady in a cage” in the 1964 film of the same name.  Just thought I’d throw that in.

SPUD: You dig?
HOWARD: Spud, I hate to say this, but…well, to reply in your own idiom I must state categorically that I fail to dig…

Every episode…one laugh-out-loud moment.  Spud seems to think so, too, because he laughs and says: “Uncle Howard, you’re beautiful…”

“Oh, that’s ridiculous, Spud…I…merely try to dress well,” a flustered Howard responds.  He then tells his nephew: “Look….I’m…I’m going to be very frank with you, Spud—I-I-I’ve got to find some way to get your juices flowing in the right direction”—burning a picture on my retinas that I most assuredly did not need.  But Spud’s “got all the time in the world” to be motivated by Howard, and in the next scene we find Mistah Sprague paying his chums a visit at the fix-it shop.

HOWARD: Well, I talked to that boy last night till I was blue in the face…I couldn’t budge him an inch…I don’t know what I’m gonna tell Sis…
EMMETT: Tell her you couldn’t do anything with him and you’re shipping him back…

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Emmett has pretty much modeled how he tackles real-life problems on his fix-it shop accomplishments.

HOWARD: You know, underneath that façade of his there must be some of the Sprague qualities—they couldn’t have all disappeared in one generation…
SAM (after taking a deep breath): Well…Howard…uh…what’s Spud’s alternative?
HOWARD: What?
SAM: What’s his alternative?  I mean…if he doesn’t plan to go to school or go to work…how’s he planning to spend his time?  Did you ask him that?
HOWARD: No…I didn’t think of it…be interesting to know, though…
SAM: Yeah!
EMMETT: After all…if he ain’t gonna do nothin’…he must have a plan

Oh, Emmett…if only there were an alternative Mayberry universe in which people came to you for advice instead of Sam.  That would be a show I’d watch.

HOWARD: Right!  I’ll bring that up in our next little chat!  I’ll see ya!
(He turns to go, but is stopped by Sam)
SAM: Okay, Howard…oh—and Howard…don’t give up hope, huh?

“Keep hope alive!”  No, Howard takes his leave with one of the funniest lines I’ve ever come out of the character’s mouth: “Oh, Sam—you know me well enough to know we Spragues are made of sterner stuff!  Heh heh heh…”

Howard leaves, and Sam looks back at Emmett, who has this hilarious “how-much-crack-has-he-smoked-today?” look on his face.  And with that—a General Foods break.

Back from commercial, we find Spud walking down Mayberry’s thoroughfare taking in the sights of that groovy little town—and strangely enough, the townsfolk do not seem to notice.  He spots Emmett, seated in his chair outside the fix-it shop, and…well, I’m going to telegraph what happens here only to say that if you wanted to motivate a kid who’s strayed from the life path, letting him to talk to Emmett would not be the smartest course of action to chart…for reasons that should be pretty freaking obvious.

SPUD: Just looking over the town…
EMMETT: Oh?  Well… (He points to the chair beside him) Be my guest…
SPUD: Thanks...
(He sits down, and Emmett notices Spud is eating something)
EMMETT: Ain’t it a little early for lunch?
SPUD: Well, this is breakfast…
EMMETT: Pizza for breakfast?  What’s wrong with oatmeal?

With blueberries, as Dawn from Noir and Chick Flicks endorses in that PSA I keep seeing on the Internet.  Okay, I did make this up—well, not the oatmeal-with-blueberries preference of Dawn…she did recommend I switch to this.  (I have not been able to eat ‘za for breakfast ever since that nasty bout of food poisoning back in May.)

EMMETT: You know, son…you got your Uncle Howard real worried
SPUD: I know…and I’m sorry about it, too…but he just doesn’t pick up on it…
EMMETT: I don’t pick up, either…you know…maybe you just ain’t found somethin’ yet that’s interestin’ to ya…like…um… (He taps the alarm clock he’s working on) Like this here…mechanical engineering…it’s a big field…

I’ll bet this is where Spud realizes the error of his wastrel ways and rushes to embrace the concept of fix-it repair.

SPUD: Do you know what an alarm clock is, Mr. Clark?
EMMETT: Well, certainly!  It’s a round thing, it’s got springs inside…
SPUD (interrupting him): An alarm clock represents time
EMMETT: What?
SPUD: Time’s not important…it was invented by man to keep track of his life…you know, if there was no such thing as time then man wouldn’t have to worry about accomplishing something…

Well, you definitely have got Emmett pegged.  Not to mention 95% of Mayberry’s work force.

SPUD: He’d be completely free to do his thing…
EMMETT: You sure about that?
SPUD: Yeah—I think it’s obvious…time is one of the great curses of mankind…

And with that wisdom, Spud takes off.  Emmett doesn’t communicate this, but the talk he’s had with Spud has opened his eyes; he’s on the same treadmill as George Jetson, and what he should do is just close up shop and go home and make love to his good lady wife Martha (Mary Lansing).  No, I’m only kidding again—Emmett just continues to sit and tinker with the clock.  The scene shifts to the county clerk office, where loyal drone Howard stamps papers with the fervor of a man whose dream is to become District Commissioner of Public Works.

SPUD: Just wandering around town and thought I’d drop in…

He’s only been in town for a day and already he’s adopted the habits of a lifelong Mayberryian!

HOWARD: Well…welcome to the nine-to-five snake pit
SPUD: Uncle Howard, I didn’t mean it that way… (He takes a chair)
HOWARD: Oh, that’s all right…what I’m doing now probably confirms your worst beliefs…
SPUD: Well…
HOWARD: …I’m stamping property tax forms…

And…loving it!

HOWARD (as he continues stamping): …and even…I have to agree wholeheartedly that it can be considered…pretty dull work…even a child could do it…
SPUD: Yes, sir…
HOWARD (putting down his stamp and walking over to where Spud sits, taking a seat): Spud, I-I’m glad you dropped in…there’s…uh…there’s something very important I wanted to ask you…
SPUD: Shoot!
HOWARD: Well, I’m now aware of…how you feel about school and work…well, what I want to know is, Spud—what’s your alternative?  How do you propose to spend the rest of your life?
SPUD: Uncle Howard, you…well, you’d probably get uptight if I told you…
HOWARD: No…no I won’t, I promise…
SPUD: The Earth scene

Man…you remember that time we saw The Earth Scene in concert back in ’71?  I was so baked I ate that Frisbee by mistake.

HOWARD: The Earth scene?
SPUD: You know, split the big city trip…make it with Mother Nature…just follow the teachings of Thoreau…
HOWARD: Henry David Thoreau?

No, Howard…Myron Thoreau.  Author of Walden—A Heck of a Place to Put a Whole Foods Store.

SPUD: Yeah…I’ve been reading his things lately, and you know he had the right idea…you gotta kick civilization…you gotta go…go off in the woods and live off the land…and no worries

How would you get cable?  Or the Internet, for that matter?

SPUD (seeing Howard’s disappointment): Well…you asked me…
HOWARD: Spud, there are probably Spragues turning over in their graves all over this county!

This is why you always need to make sure that a Sprague has actually died before burying them.  So the scene shifts to the council office, where Howard drops the bombshell of his nephew’s hobo ambitions on the sympathetic Sam and the not-at-all sympathetic Emmett.

HOWARD: Well, I found out what his alternative is…
SAM: Oh, yeah?  What’d he say?
HOWARD: He wants to follow the lead of Henry David Thoreau!
EMMETT: Who’s he?
HOWARD: He was a nineteenth century philosopher, Emmett, who decided he wanted to withdraw from civilization…so what he did, he set himself up in a shack in the woods and lived off the land…
EMMETT: Ah…a nut, huh?

I’m assuming I don’t have to tell you that it’s not quite as simple as either Howard or Emmett describes it…but for the purposes of moving things along…

SAM: You mean that’s what Spud wants to do?
HOWARD: Yeah!  Turn native!  Live in a shack!  And forget everything!

The Andy Griffith Show, December 18, 1967, Episode #234: “Howard’s New Life.”  Howard decides to quit his job as county clerk and start a new life in the Caribbean.

SAM: Huh…
HOWARD (sighing): Huh, boy…what you wonder is—how much he’d like it if he ever really tried it?

Yes, you saw this coming a million miles away, good people.  But I just want to say that practicing Thoreau’s teachings in a town like Mayberry—which is already as deadly dull as can be, even with electricity and one or two good restaurants—isn’t going to be quite the same as it was in Henry David’s time.  (Not many people know this, but there was actually a nice little 7-11 down the road from Walden, where Thoreau could pick up his magazines and a microwaved burrito from time to time.)

SAM: Look…I-I-I’ve got this old shack out at my place—you know, out in that wooded section?  What do you think about the idea of letting Spud go out there and just try putting his theory into practice?
HOWARD: You mean stay out there?
SAM: Yeah!  Why not?  Might not turn out to be all as rosy as he figured then…
HOWARD: Well—what if he likes it?
SAM: Well, that’s the chance you have to take…

“And if that’s the case, it shouldn’t take too long to round up a mob to chase him until he stumbles into that marshy section and is sucked under by quicksand…”

EMMETT: Howard…I think Sam’s got the right ideer…let the kid go out and find for himself whether this Dave Thoreau has got anything or not…
SAM: Yeah!

Howard tells his friends that he’ll “put it to him and see what he says”…and for a man who never fails to be impressed with his own vocabulary, he has a tendency to make poor choices in phrasing from time to time.  The scene then shifts to Sam, Howard and nephew Spud taking a stroll in the heavily wooded section of Jones Estates.  Howard, clucking in mother hen mode: “Spud…I want you to be sure to keep your chest covered at night…”


There is another shift, and the three of them arrive at Sam’s Honeymoon Hovel.

SAM: Well, here we are!
SPUD: Wow!  This is great!
SAM: Now…why don’t you go take a look inside…it’s pretty bare, but I guess it’s what you want…
SPUD: Great!
(Spud goes over and opens the door to have a peek, but Uncle Howard is having doubts)
HOWARD: Well, I don’t know, Sam…I just hope this is the right thing to do…
SAM: Time will tell, Howard…

“Time’s not important…it was invented by man to keep track of his life…you know, if there was no such thing as time then man wouldn’t have to worry about accomplishing something…” – Spud the nephew


SPUD (exiting the shed): Perfect!  It’s just perfect!
SAM: Good…good…look, Spud—right over there there’s a little creek where you can wash up…
HOWARD: Spud…about your food
SPUD: Uncle Howard…don’t worry…there’s plenty to eat around here…it’s a farm, right?

Could you guys help me off the ground?  Seriously, I thought I’d hurt myself laughing when he said that.  “Thoreau didn’t start with this much,” Spud explains to his uncle… also not realizing that Thoreau wasn’t staying on the property of Sam Jones, Pretend Farmer.

SAM (to Howard): Sounds like he knows what he’s doing…
HOWARD: Well, I just don’t know what you’re going to do with yourself all day…outside of wash and eat…
SPUD: Uncle Howard, I told you not to worry…I plan to do a lot of meditating…I might meditate five…six hours a day…

Yeah, you do that and you’ll go blind, young man.  But he’s also going to write poetry, and study birds—“Sounds like his days are going to pretty full,” observes Sam.

Howard hands Spud a sleeping bag that he (Howard) has been carrying, admonishing him to keep his sleeping bag “zipped up.”  Sam hands him a lantern, and makes certain that the boy knows his way back to the farm in case he gets a visit from a bear or something.  The scene then shifts to the fix-it shop, where Emmett is going to hold forth on kids…what’s the matter with kids these days…kids…who can understand anything they say, etc.

EMMETT: Everything goin’ all right out there?
HOWARD: Well…I didn’t hear anything so far this morning so I guess he got through the night all right…
EMMETT: You know, I’ve been tryin’ to figure out…what makes a kid think this way?  Do you suppose it’s livin’ in a big city like Baltimore?

It’s drugs, Emmett.  It’s all the free, wonderful pharmaceuticals these kids are able to lay their hands on, because the streets are literally paved with them—didn’t you ever watch The Wire?  (And by the way, it’s pronounced “Ballimer.”)

HOWARD: I don’t know…
EMMETT: You know, maybe all the hustle and bustle got to him…people running all over the place…everybody havin’…bein’ late for some place…runnin’ after trolleys and everything…
HOWARD: No, I don’t think it’s that so much, Emmett, as…well, he’s just at the impressionable age…you know…I mean he reads something, or he hears something…I remember when I was a kid I saw Nelson Eddy in a picture and I wanted to run away and join the Northwest Mounted Police!

“When I’m calling yoooooooo…”  Howard turns philosophical:  “Ah, I guess it’s just a…a phase that all kids go through…”  (I guess we all have moments like that…though I had ambition to be Jeanette MacDonald.)  Howard announces that he’s has to be skedaddling on out of there, and as he exits the fix-it shop Emmett calls after him: “So long, Nelson!”

The scene shifts to Spud out in the wild, as he sits on the ground near the Jones shack and devours an ear of corn.  I mentioned earlier that one of the dangers of being out in the middle of nowhere is that you could be threatened by a vicious animal.  Or in the case of Spud, you could get a visit from the son of Sam, Mike the Idiot Boy (Buddy Foster).

MIKE: Hi!  I’m Mike Jones!

“I like cheese!”

SPUD: Hiya, Mike!  Heard about you…

“And I’d prefer you not come any closer…”

MIKE: Yeah, my paw told me about you, too!

“You’re pretty clean for a hippie!”

MIKE: Did you really quit school?
SPUD: Mm-hmm…
MIKE (in hero worship mode): Wow!
SPUD (nibbling on his corn): Just having a little breakfast…
MIKE: Raw corn?
SPUD: Sure!  I woke up a little while ago…and washed my face in the brook…then I walked over to the cornfield and picked this stuff right off the vine…
MIKE: You mean the stalk…
SPUD: Yeah…you want some?
MIKE: Not me!  That’s not eatin’ corn…that’s pig corn!  And even the pigs won’t eat it until it’s ripe

Spud…nothing is more humiliating than being told by an idiot child you’ve committed a major food faux pas.  He turns green slightly, and then puts the corn down.

MIKE: Did you sleep good?
SPUD: Great…just great…you know, no worries or anything…
MIKE: Did you have worries before?
SPUD: Oh, sure…when you get to be sixteen you have a lot of worries…about life…and…things…it’s rough…
MIKE: Well…you…you sure you’re not gonna be lonesome out here?
SPUD: Me?  Nah…I got a million things to do…I don’t know where I’m going to find the time…

“You know it takes me two hours every morning to get out onto the moors, collect my berries, chastise myself, and two hours back in the evening…”

MIKE: Well…I guess you wanna be alone…see ya!

“Hang in there,” the little mook also tells him, and he gives his new hippie friend “five.”  So how does young Spud spend the copious amount of time afforded his new lifestyle?


He chews on a straw.


He plays footsie with some farm implements.


He tries whistling with a blade of grass.


He tosses rocks into an old milk jug.  As was predicted, life in Mayberry—when you’re just living in a shack…without a still, even—would try even Thoreau’s patience (“I think I’ll go commit civil disobedience in Siler City…”), and the scene then shifts to Sam and Idiot Boy cutting some firewood with a two-man crosscut saw.  Spud, being the hipster kid from inner city Ballimer, immediately surmises the situation and offers to lend a hand.


SPUD: I can help you stack it if you want me to…
SAM: Oh, no…no thanks, Spud…no…I know you got a lot of…meditating to do and all…

“Pa…you said if I did that, I’d get hair on my palms!”

SPUD: Well…uh…I’m pretty well caught up in my meditating for this morning…you sure I can’t help you, huh?
SAM: No…no thanks, Spud…

Sam starts to notice that Mike is getting a little tuckered out, and so he tells him to take a little breather.  Mike sits down on a tree stump that has an axe in it (there’s a situation asking for trouble) and Sam resumes sawing on his own…until he looks up and sees Spud helping out, ready to become a productive member of society again.  All it took was an afternoon on the Jones Farm to bring Spud to his senses, as he was troubled by visions of himself trapped on such a place with an idiot son for company.  And we’re back in the council office:

HOWARD: I really can’t thank you enough, Sam…that was a great idea, letting him get a taste of that back to nature living…


“And I thought my existence was soul-sucking.  You’re really an unexciting man, Sam Jones.”

SAM: Yeah…sure didn’t take him very long to get bored with it, did it?
HOWARD: No…

“And now you know why I spend most of my time in the council office or at Emmett’s.  Farming’s a bummer, man.”

HOWARD: We had a long talk when he came back…

Howard, any talk with you is bound to be long.

HOWARD: …I think he’s gradually going to get the whole thing out of his system…it’s my guess when he gets home he’s gonna…start thinking about going back to school again…
SAM: Oh, hey…that’d be great

“I wish Mike felt the same way.”  Well, having accomplished his mission and lectured us for the better part of twenty-two minutes, Howard gets ready to go back to stamping papers but he’s stopped by Emmett as he heads out the door…who wants a status on Spud.  Howard tells him his nephew is okay, and adds: “I even like to think we have another Howard Sprague in the family.”

“Is that good?”  Emmett asks Sam after Howard has left the office.  Be afraid, fix-it man.  Be very, very afraid.

Well, the coda this week hinges on Emmett’s fix-it expertise—Howard, Sam and Emmett are there to see Spud off on that bus leaving town, and before the little hippie gets on it turns out Emmett has a little going away gift for him…concealed in a brown paper bag.  (I’ll bet it’s nudie magazines.)

SPUD: Mr. Clark…you didn’t have to do that…
EMMETT: Yeah…it’s something I think you may be able to use now…


Spud opens the bag and starts laughing—Emmett has given him the alarm clock he was working on earlier.  In demonstrating how it works, Emmett activates the alarm…and then can’t get it to shut off.  (He even beats it against the bus a couple of times, much to my amusement.)  “Look…I’ll go over it again—I’ll mail it to you,” Emmett tells Spud.  (That’s when we all start laughing.)

Alice Cooper (“Your cruel device/Your blood, like ice”), permanent replacement housekeeper for Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Frances Bavier), is a no-show in this week’s episode, so Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Alice-o-Meter™ stays put at two appearances for the venerable sitcom’s final season.  In fact, Alice gets a little competition next week from none other than Goober himself—who returns in high style in an uproarious episode entitled “Goober, the Housekeeper.”  (I’m not being sarcastic, by the way—there are a few big laughs in this one.)  Goob doesn’t assume chief cook and bottle washer duties, though—it’s an outing in which we’re revisited by an old friend, we’ll meet the mother of a well-known sitcom actress, and we’ll get reacquainted with one of seven stranded castaways…all on next week’s Mayberry Mondays.  (You won’t want to miss it!)

6 comments:

Stacia said...

If you'll permit me to blather a bit, there is a bit of a contradiction in this episode beyond the several you already brought up. Last we knew, Mayberry was up on all manner of fashion trends. And as small and isolated as they may be, if Millie can get stylish clothes that are new for the season then certainly the few young men left in town can, too.

Let's say for the sake of stupidity I mean argument that no male in town has ever wanted to dress in the current fashions. Even then, Spud isn't in anything odd. It's only jeans and a flower power shirt (I think, it might be more of a Commie Pinko Paisley) and leather fringed jacket.

Now, I hate to bring this up, but Neil Diamond was sort of the go-to guy for inoffensive hippie-esque pop at the time, and he was seen on album covers and in all manner of print media wearing basically what Spud is wearing in this episode. Except hipper, because he never had his pants pulled up to his chest like Spud does.

So, basically what I'm saying here is that Mayberry is so square that even Neil Diamond scares them.


The Andy Griffith Show, December 18, 1967, Episode #234: “Howard’s New Life.” Howard decides to quit his job as county clerk and start a new life in the Caribbean.

OH SNAP.

Anonymous said...

Nice job, Ivan. I, for one, never get tired of TV hippie episodes from that era. Reading your account was pure grooviness at its far out finest.
I’m always intrigued by how shows from this period are always so relentlessly anti-hippie in their thematic content. I didn’t know there was a hippie episode of MRFD until reading your post, but if someone had told last week that one existed, I would have bet a pair of bell-bottom jeans that the plot wouldn’t involve Timothy Leary stopping by Goober’s station for gas, and getting Goober to turn on, tune in and drop out on a permanent basis. No, it would have to be a plot just like the one you so cleverly recounted in which a hippie, or in this case a hippie-want-to-be, is enlightened by the conclusion of the story to the Mayberry way.
After finishing your post, I couldn’t help but ponder if this episode wouldn’t have benefited from a stronger dosage of hippie paranoia in the form of it being a Jack Webb production. Jack Webb basically rebooted Dragnet to save America from hippies, so why not give him a shot at one episode of Mayberry to help broaden his broadcast pulpit even more?
A Webb inspired hippie episode might involve Howard’s nephew coming to town with his woefully misguided hippie attitudes and several tabs of bad acid. The episode could proceed similar to the one you described, only at the point where Sam’s son, Mike, shows up at the shack, Spud could give him a tab of bad acid. And then, in the midst of his bad trip, Mike could climb the Mayberry water tower and hurl himself to his death. Wouldn’t that be a tragic and dramatic payoff?
At this point, Webb could make a cameo appearance as Joe Friday - and what the heck, why not throw Don Knotts into the mix as well? Barney Fife, and Joe Friday could bust Spud, but not before Joe Friday launches into a 7 minute bitter diatribe on the evilness of the counter culture.
At any rate, I enjoy your blog, and whatever series you decide to tackle next after Mayberry has been cancelled–be it Doris Day or The Paul Lynde Show – I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading it.

Chris Vosburg said...

SPUD: Oh, that…yeah, I guess I did have one…but you don’t have to worry about that, Uncle Howard—I solved that one a couple of weeks ago…
HOWARD: Oh—you did?
SPUD: Mm-hmm…


"Yeah, met a guy on the bus with a whole baggie fulla orange barrel!"

Lord, TV Hippies, offspring all of Marjoe Gortner and other curly haired, guitar-bearing, groove-speaking parvenu.

It'd be years before Hollywood finally connected, but till then, this is what we had to put up with, to our embarrassment.

Also Emmett fixing an alarm clock on a park bench--

No. No, no, no, no, no, as I picture springs, screws, nuts and other parts skittering away on the sidewalk toward the nearest sewer grate. Horrifying to contemplate!

Thanks Ivan, looking forward, as always, to the next psychotic episode.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Anonymous wrote:

A Webb inspired hippie episode might involve Howard’s nephew coming to town with his woefully misguided hippie attitudes and several tabs of bad acid. The episode could proceed similar to the one you described, only at the point where Sam’s son, Mike, shows up at the shack, Spud could give him a tab of bad acid. And then, in the midst of his bad trip, Mike could climb the Mayberry water tower and hurl himself to his death. Wouldn’t that be a tragic and dramatic payoff?

It would. It would indeed. It would also inspire the best R.F.D. write-up ever, because I would get to call Sam's son "Mike the Idiot (Blue) Boy."

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

My BBFF Stacia:

So, basically what I'm saying here is that Mayberry is so square that even Neil Diamond scares them.

Emmett: "'And no one heard at all, not even the chair.' What the heck is that supposed to mean?"

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

And finally from Mr. Vosburg's precinct:

"Yeah, met a guy on the bus with a whole baggie fulla orange barrel!"

I must have laughed for about ten minutes at this, and only stopped when my father ventured back to my room to ask what was so damn funny.