We came bearing gifts. Nothing fancy, it was a T-shirt with Andy Taylor and Barney Fife on the front, with the words “Nip it in the bud!” in bold print.

I showed up to a nine-year-old’s birthday party. I was with my friend, Chubbs. I felt strange being there.

I knocked on the door.

A blonde boy answered only to find me and Chubbs standing on the porch, singing an energetic rendition of “Happy Birthday,” while doing the Tango.

Before we finished dancing, Chubbs said, “Quick! Dip me!”

The crowd went wild.

We came bearing gifts. Nothing fancy, it was a T-shirt with Andy Taylor and Barney Fife on the front, with the words “Nip it in the bud!” in bold print.

The shirt was an extra-large because that was the only size the novelty store had in stock. And it was either the Andy T-shirt, or a shirt which read: “F.B.I. Federal Bikini Inspector.”

A few months ago, Bailey’s mother emailed to tell me that her son likes me. She told me he listens to my podcast each week, and reads my stuff even though some of the words are too big.

I was touched.

Bailey removed the T-shirt from the gift bag and held it against his shoulders. The thing hung down to his feet.

“Look, Mom!” he shouted. “It’s a shirt with weird guys on it!”

“Sweetie, that’s Andy and Barney,” his mother explained.

“Barney?” The kid frowned. “But, where’s his purple dinosaur suit?”

His mother asked me not to share too much of their story, and I won’t. But I will tell you that Bailey’s parents divorced last year, and it was traumatic. The stress has made Bailey sick. He has developed medical problems because of the anxiety.

“He internalizes everything,” his mother told me. “It’s been a rough year.”

Anyway, the party was nice. I sat on Bailey’s back porch with his friends to watch a talented husband-and-wife magician duo from Birmingham. The magicians dazzled the crowd.

During their performance, they selected Chubbs as a special assistant from the audience.

The magician asked Chubbs, “Sir, do you have any objections to being sawn in HALF?”

“No,” said Chubbs. “Not unless you’re friends with my ex-wife.”

“Okay then,” the magician said. “PLEEAASSE crawl into the MAAAAGGGICC BOX!”

The kids oohed and aahed.

The man strapped Chubbs in with steel bracelets. They placed duct tape over his mouth and an execution-style bag over his head.

“MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL!” the magician shouted, then laughed crazily.

The magician’s wife pull-started a gasoline powered chainsaw and held it high. And I believe Chubbs ruined that nice man’s magic box.

After the cake cutting, the kids ate large amounts of refined sugar. Lots of screaming. Lots of running indoors.

Bailey was wearing his oversized Andy Griffith T-shirt. He pointed to Andy’s picture.

He asked me, “Mister South, who’s this guy?”

“My last name’s not South, it’s Dietrich,” I pointed out. “And that’s Andy, he’s my friend.”

“You mean, you knew them?”

“Knew’em? They practically raised me.”


Well, I’m glad you asked, Bailey. When I was in fourth grade, my life was a mess. I won’t go into details here because they don’t matter.

Let’s just say that my father was becoming more mentally ill by the minute. It was only a few years before the disease finally claimed him.

His outbursts and throes of depression were destroying our lives. And I’m sorry, Bailey, I know this is heavy stuff to hear, I know you’re only nine. But then, so was I.

During that same year, my mother took me to the doctor because I was throwing up a lot. I couldn’t keep meals down. The doctor said I had an ulcer. My stomach was bleeding, I was losing weight.

For treatment, the doc prescribed wax suppositories.

Suppositories, you will note, Bailey, are not taken by mouth. They are administered by your mother in the bathroom while you touch your toes and recite the 23rd Psalm.

Then I would lie on my side for several hours. My mother would turn on The Andy Griffith Show. And I would laugh, and get lost in the world of Mayberry, U.S.A.

I would fly far away from Earth. Andy became my family. Barney became my favorite uncle.

“Wow,” Bailey said. “That was a super long speech you just gave, I kinda dozed off.”

Then he ran away and joined his friends.

So Bailey will probably forget I ever came to his birthday party today. In fact, he will probably grow up and forget all about me.

But maybe someday he will read this. If he does, I hope he knows I love him. And I sincerely want to say something else:

Bailey, I hope you grow into that T-shirt one day.

Also, please thank your mom for loaning Chubbs a clean pair of pants.


  1. Johnny Parker - January 10, 2019 11:31 am

    YOU are a magician, Sean. You make me cry and laugh at the same time. How do you do that? The 23rd Psalm will never be the same. lol

  2. Edna B. - January 10, 2019 12:41 pm

    What a fun story to start my day. You’re a super nice guy, Sean. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  3. Stephanie Godke - January 10, 2019 2:16 pm

    I wait for your letters like a call from my favorite son?. thank you.

  4. Susan Self - January 10, 2019 2:22 pm

    This story brought back memories of Fury, Sky King, Roy & Dale and Tarzan. My Mama didn’t work outside of the home. But with a small farm there was the milk cow, chickens and gardens. Enough work that was done every day. My coal miner Daddy came home from the “hoot owl” shift to sleep till morning. Than up and out to work the farm until it was back to the mines. Sorry I wrote a book. It just fell out. Thank you Sean.

  5. Amelia Chatham - January 10, 2019 2:26 pm

    We moved from Georgia to Alabama in the 50’s. My brother was 7 and it was close to his B’day and he came in the day before and told my mother he wanted a party the next day at 2:00. School had not started and our street had no little boys his age so she did not know who he had invited to come. He had a bike and had
    met most of the people on our street. The next day 10 little ladies from the neighbor hood came to his party. The oldest was 90 and brought him a great big candy cane she had since she could not go out and shop for a toy. But these little ladies came to make a Happy Birthday for a little boy. Wish things were still like that today.

  6. Carol - January 10, 2019 3:14 pm

    Thank you for your Love and compassion for that little boy! We as adults don’t realize what we do to our children!
    May God have mercy on this child and may he grow up one day to be a Sean !!
    Love ya!

  7. Shelton A. - January 10, 2019 3:25 pm

    Great job for that boy…sorry he dozed off on you. God bless the boy and his mother. You did a good thing, Sean. I hope he grows into the t-shirt, too but I also hope his mom introduces him to Andy and Barney via the TV. Maybe they’ll help him like they did you.

  8. Liz Watkins - January 10, 2019 3:44 pm

    What a wonderful and kind thing you did for that little boy! And seriously, he will always remember that birthday and you!

  9. Janet Mary Lee - January 13, 2019 8:45 pm

    A sobering thought…what we do to and for our children. I am thankful for your wise mom and wife, and thankful for shows that taught us love and depth..just like you do!! (hug!!)


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