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An example of life imitating art – or at least the ‘Andy Griffith Show’

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One of those old episodes comes to life in random act of kindness.

By Steve Doyle

Those black-and-white lessons we learned from our devotion to the scriptures of the Andy Griffith Show typically seem lost in the transcendent Technicolor of today.

The tenets taught to us by Andy, Barney and the gang too often seem maudlin and misplaced in the constant churn of our lives, when we seldom slow down to inhale the sweet fragrance of love and life and spin like another damp load cycling down in a washing machine.

And then, without any sort of commercial or even conception, one of those old episodes will escape its fictional foundation, injected by inspirational intervention into a scenario featuring real people and real events, and suddenly there is a true and tangible testament that those old lessons have everlasting power.

A quick rerun of one of the more memorable episodes:

On a Sunday afternoon, a businessman rushing to Raleigh is stranded when his Lincoln Continental breaks down on one of Mayberry’s distinctively dirt highways.

He’s impatient and frustrated by the pace of the town and the inability of its residents to meet his needs for a rapid repair and speedy departure.

Gomer and Goober do their best with his Lincoln, and Andy does his best with the lesson of the moment.

In the end of course, the businessman learns that his destination will remain in place, that life has more marvelous milestones than the next line on the daytimer, the next meeting room.

Mayberry’s mystique proves once again transformational, even if only in fictional concept.

Or maybe not.

Because that episode became fresh again the other day when a phone call proved it could be acted out in real life, right here in Shelby County, albeit under circumstances that were far more dangerous and seemingly more divine.

Yes, it was a Sunday. A man named Kevin Delaney was driving his family home to Chicago after a vacation in North Carolina. They had reservations at a hotel in Louisville just to break up the long wind across the state.

And then Delaney’s Chryslervan started what he called “rattling” and handling strangely. He pulled to the shoulder of I-64 and took a look, and what he found was chilling:

Four of the five lug nuts had worn off one of his rear wheels.

He had been transporting his precious cargo, his wife, three children ages 2-22 and a friend, with one wheel hanging on by one lug nut.

“We were that close to disaster,” Delaney said.

So what could he do? Louisville was miles away. Sunday afternoon. He got on his cellphone. Here’s Delaney’s dialogue in this script:

“I found out there was a Chrysler dealership in Shelbyville, and I called a towing service,” Delaney said.  and they couldn’t help us.

“But they gave me the name of Pure Reflection, and I called, and Rusty Barrett came out with a  flatbed truck.”
Here is when the stage direction for this episode would call for Delaney to pause, look down, clear his throat, display the emotion with which he was speaking. If you had heard his voice, you certainly could feel that trauma trembling across his vocal chords.

“He looked at the van for about 2 minutes, and he said, ‘You’re lucky,” Delaney said. “He said he saw this sort of thing four or five times a year.

“So he took the van to the dealership, and he said, ‘Here, take my truck. Keep it as long as you need it.’”

Again Delaney has to pause and let the gravity of what he is saying sink in. He’s stranger by the side of the road, and a Shelbyville Samaritan is telling him to take his truck and use it as long as he needed it, to call him when he’s finished with it.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do. Our hotel reservation was in Louisville, and we weren’t going to get a refund. And Rusty said, ‘Go use your reservation, cool off in the pool, and let me know.’

“We kept his truck for more than 24 hours.”

That would be enough goodness for a 30-minute story, but there’s a bit more.

Those in charge of repairs at Shelby Chrysler moved the repairs on Delaney’s van to the top of their work order that Monday morning, and the travelers were off and headed for Chicago before too long.

“I went to drop the truck off with Rusty, and he charged me sixty dollars,” Delaney said. “We got to use our hotel room, and we had his truck, and it was sixty dollars…sixty dollars!

“I was blown away by the people there.”

Here’s where Barrett gets a chance to say his piece.

“This is what it’s about,” he said. “We’ve been so blessed here in Shelby County….I learned years ago, you just got to quit having your hand out all the time. You have to give back. That’s just the way I look at it, I guess….I’m just blown away he would call about this.”

Even if you don’t know Rusty Barrett, you likely now are blushing with the rush of pride for our county and its heart. You probably aren’t surprised. You’re just glad others are noticing.

“I now have a firm belief in guardian angels,” Delaney said. “They kept the lug nut on the wheel, they gave us Rusty, and they got us into town where we could get it fixed.

“I just thought everyone should know this story.”

Oddly, if you watched Andy Griffith, you probably already did.