Another Day in the Country
Mayberry RFD in Abilene
© Another Day in the Country
I’ve already admitted I was looking for Mayberry RFD when I returned to Ramona. Seems very silly now to think that a television show about a town called Mayberry was my ideal view of small town life but I didn’t even figure out that was my expectation until many years later.
There wasn’t a sheriff just for Ramona like they had in Mayberry RFD, but we did have one that came through — even offered to help, Andy Griffith-style. We had quite a few teenagers in town and he volunteered to help us teach a photography class one summer.
“I’d like kids to get to know a law officer in some other way than when they find themselves in trouble,” he said.
The barbershop was long gone by the time we came back to Ramona but we still had characters in town that were a lot like Floyd — talkers who could spin a yarn and spread gossip, but they meant well.
We had aunts and uncles who still lived in town in 2000 and because they were loved, love was bestowed upon us. This was our hometown, full of enough folks whom we loved, so we didn’t notice the troublesome part of small town living. Too quickly, they were all gone — that older generation named Hank, Betty, Tony, Jake, Eric, Kink, and Naomi — Mayberry RFD disappeared until I found it again in Abilene.
It isn’t the whole town of Abilene — although they might qualify — it’s the people who come to exercise at Impact Sports and Fitness, run by the local hospital. They have become my community. These days, I go early to exercise, and meet friends for coffee. They’ve already been working out, Gordon reminds me, “and now we’re just taking a break,” before they go to their formal 10 o’clock class. I haven’t yet begun my hour-long routine.
Everyone has a story here. Gordon had a stroke a few years ago and his wife DeAnne knows continued exercise is vital. Their daughter gifts them the formal class, “Such a good idea,” DeAnne says. “Something we both need,” she lowers her voice and chuckles, “and I’d feel guilty if we didn’t take advantage of it, so we rarely miss.”
Doug often joins us at the table with his coffee cup. He’s full of historical information remembering people from the past. When I commented that I’d just put gas in my car for less than $2 a gallon, he said, “Remember the 1970s during that gas crisis and those long lines and you know one time, somebody came up with a gun in one hand a gas can in the other and cut right in front of us — those were the days.”
The manager’s husband, who happens to be the undersheriff, comes in to exercise and he stops and jokes around with the guys at the table, teasing them about slacking off. His son plays for the Chicago Bears and they ask him about the latest game.
Sandy breezes in. She teaches the class that’s coming up. You can tell when it is about to begin because she turns on the music. Often it’s an old gospel song to start with that has a good beat to help you move — oldies but goodies, just like the folk in the class.
There’s a guy who comes in seasonally from North Carolina with his hunting buddies to stay at a local motel for a few weeks every fall. Old friends look forward to their arrival because they bring apples. If you’re lucky, you are faithfully walking the treadmill on the day they show up with fried pies, or a box of Yellow Delicious to share.
Anita, one of the trainers, comes by the bike where I’m pedaling away. “Hi, Pat,” she chirps, calling each person by name as she walks past. Steve is here today. A year or more ago he went fishing in Colorado and contracted West Nile. He was partially paralyzed and he’s slowly working his way back to walking. Today he was actually on his feet, walking with the aid of a brace! Amazing to see how tall he is when I’m used to seeing him in a wheelchair. We all cheer!
It’s the guy from North Carolina next to me now on the treadmill and he’s talking to Doug, who’s lived in Abilene all his life about Mayberry RFD, of all things. I don’t know how the subject came up.
“You know Andy Griffith grew up in a little town near where I live,” the guy says, “and would you believe the gal that played Barney’s girlfriend on the show still lives there and she’s like 92 years old.”
“Really?’ says Doug, walking and talking and not missing a beat.
It was right about then, listening to those guys talk, Anita walking by smiling and saying “Hi” to me again, Sandy calling out the moves to her class, the country tune playing softly, that I realized, “This is it!”
This is my little community of people who smile and struggle and care for each other that I’ve been looking for all this time. I have Mayberry, every Tuesday and Thursday, on another day in the country.