Sunday, May 13, 2012

Service With A Smile: Goober Says 'Bye'

(From today's Times and News-Star)
“Three hours is a long time to go without eating.”Goober Pyle

Having never studied motor engine repair, I have a respect for car mechanics that’s both deep and wide.

I’m thinking now of Mr. Cox, who kept my Triumph Spitfire running through the early 1980’s with nothing more than a well-placed clothes pin on a fuel line. I have a shirt from his Shell station hanging not five feet from me right now. Good times.

Ransom, with the greatest auto repair name in history, grew up in Shreveport’s Cedar Grove, learned the ins and outs under a shade tree, and now has businesses in two towns. My rides are beneficiaries of his prowess under the hood.

Hayes Barfield holds a special place in the little-boy chamber of my heart. He lubed and oiled and replaced and repaired most every engine in Dillon County, S.C., in the 1960s. It is here where I learned girls could fix stuff too, and that every girl mechanic preferred working in either blue jean cutoffs or a swimming suit; nobody held vice grips quite like Miss October.

And Hayes was one of five guys who let me go to the South Carolina-Clemson football game with them in 1967, even though I was just a boy. You don’t forget stuff like that.

But the mechanic by whom all other mechanics are measured was born and raised in Mayberry, N.C. I think the gentlemen I’ve mentioned would agree that Goober Pyle was the whole package.

George Lindsey, who portrayed Goober on “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Mayberry, R.F.D.” and was a regular on “Hee-Haw,” passed away last week at 83. It’s a lucky break for fans of Goober that, because of film, Goober and his felt hat and high-water britches, complete with oil rag in the back pocket, will always be around.

Enough time has passed that a couple of generations do not know, automatically, who Goob is. Hurts me. Reminds me of a time when a newspaper entertainment reporter heard me talking about Paul McCartney and the Beatles and said, “You mean Paul McCartney was in a band BEFORE he was in Wings?”

I’m getting old.

Goob was not “the Beatles of comedy” or of character actors, but he was top shelf, and all the younger generation would benefit from checking both him (and the Beatles) out. (It was this past week in 1970 that the Beatles released their final album, by the way. Don’t seem right…)

My cousin Other (pronounced “OH-thur”) reminded me just this week that it was an unseen Goober, not introduced as a character yet on “Andy Griffith,” who was going to fix the eight cylinder car broken in Mayberry on a Sunday, when no one worked. And it was Gomer Pyle, Goober’s cousin, who told Mr. Tucker that Goober once put a V-8 car engine on his rowboat and that now “that thing’ll do 80,” Gomer said. “That’s fast on water.”

So Goob was funny before he was even on the show. He liked Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan) on the “Tarzan” movies: “She sure can swim.” Had a crush on Flora Mallerby, a waitress at the diner. Was a champion pancake eater (won the county fair contest and everything). Read seven comic books a week, minimum. And could imitate Cary Grant and Edward G. Robinson and Chester of “Gunsmoke.”

And he still makes us laugh. Your best mechanics, they make things run better, including people.