Christmas Eve night. The mountains of North Carolina were giant silhouettes in the darkness. Sheriff Andy Taylor sat on the bench outside the courthouse, watching the stars.
It had been a hard year. Maybe the hardest of his career. The sheriff was downhearted, which didn’t happen often. But then, sheriffs have feelings too.
When it started to snow, Taylor shoved his hands deep into his coat pockets and slipped into a trance. Christmas morning was only a few hours away, and he wanted to feel cheerful, but he couldn’t seem to make it happen.
His deputy joined him on the bench. The scrawny, high-strung lawman had just finished doing his nightly rounds, shining a flashlight into storefront windows; checking doorknobs. All quiet in Mayberry.
“Whatcha doing, Ange?” said his deputy. “Why the long face?”
Taylor flashed a fake smile. “I’m just looking at stars.”
The deputy was obviously concerned, but Taylor hardly noticed. He was too busy thinking about all he’d seen during his years serving this sleepy hamlet. He’d seen it all. Or just about.
He’d once seen the town drunk ride a cow down mainstreet. He’d seen a local goat eat dynamite. He’d jailed bank robbers, swindlers, chicken thieves, speeders, escaped convicts, moonshiners, and Danny Thomas.
Life was moving too fast. The world had gone from AM radios to color TVs. He’d watched the tailfins on Chevys and Fords get taller each year. He’d seen skirts get shorter, hairstyles get shaggier, music get louder, and people get meaner. Airplanes gave way to rocketships. A man hit a golf ball on the moon. Divorce was becoming more fashionable than blue jeans.
But this year…
This year was a humdinger. It was worse than the rest. This was the year the world fell apart. People in town were more frightened and skittish than ever before. And sometimes it seemed like nothing in Mayberry was going right.
Taylor looked at the nightscape and tried to figure out which constellations he was looking at. But he was never very good with astronomy. A single star hung in the distance over the nearby backwater of Mount Pilot.
“You see that star?” said Taylor to his deputy.
“Yeah. I see it.”
“You reckon that’s how the Bethlehem star looked?”
“Bethlehem? Are you sure you’re okay? You worry me.”
The sheriff never took his eyes from the sky. “What do you think it was like, Barney? Bethlehem and everything?”
The deputy seemed to be thinking about this. The sheriff could hear the cogs in his friend’s head.
His deputy said, “Well, I think it woulda been darn crowded in that stable, for one thing. All them goat herders and wise guys.”
“Men. You mean wise men.”
“Correct. Males. No ladies were present.”
The sheriff paused. “No women? It was a childbirth.”
“Well, except for Mary. She stopped in for a little bit.”
Good old Barney.
The deputy went on, “I, for one, think it woulda been pretty dang exciting to see the Three Kings bearing their gifts, the gold, the silver, and the bronze.”
“You mean the frankincense and myrrh.”
“Do you even know what myrrh is, Barn?”
“Do I? What do you take me for? What I know is that it was quite an important night. There were angels in the sky, and cherubs proclaiming, ‘Peace on earth! Goodwill to men! Glory on the eggshells day-oh!”
“It’s French. Read the book, Ange.”
The sheriff and the deputy fell silent. They watched their tiny hometown do what it did best. Which was nothing at all. Wreaths adorned each window. Shopfronts featured twinkling lights. The snow was picking up tempo.
Sheriff Taylor asked his deputy, “You think we’ll get through this year, Barney? It’s been a difficult one.”
It was a serious question indeed. And it hung between them for a while. Even the sheriff could feel the weight within his own voice. There was doubt in it.
“Yes, I do,” said his deputy. “I know we’re gonna get through it. In fact, I’m certain.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“What makes me sure?” The deputy raised his voice. “Because, Andy. I just know it.”
“But how? How do you know?”
His deputy looked away like he was blowing a fuse. “You beat everything, you know that? Because I know, Ange. I just do. You wanna know how I know?”
“You really wanna know?”
“Well, then I’ll tell you. I know because this morning I drove to pick up Miss Emma Brand from her hospital checkup. And do you know what I saw when I walked into the hospital?”
Taylor shook his head.
“Babies, Ange. I passed the maternity ward and saw all kinds of babies. Lots. The nurse even let me hold a few. They spit up on me and everything.”
“Is that right?”
“It was beautiful. And last week, when I directed traffic for the school crossing, do you know what every boy and girl did when they passed me? They said ‘Merry Christmas, Barney,’ and gave me handmade Christmas cards.”
“Every last one. I got forty-three cards. It’s enough to make a grown man go all to pieces.”
The sheriff looked at his shoes. The somber silence made his deputy uncomfortable.
“Andy…” The deputy’s voice was breaking now. “You can’t be sad. Cheer up, pal. You’re the heart of this town. You’re my best friend. I need you. If we lose you, we’ve lost everything. C’est la vie, man! E pluribus unum! Status quo! Non sequitur! Et cetera, defacto!”
“It’s Latin, it means ‘tit for tat,’ and qué será será, and livin’ la vida loca.”
Taylor was laughing now. “What are you talking about?”
“It means we’re gonna get through this, Ange. One day we won’t even remember this horrible year, and it’ll be like old times.”
Then the skinny deputy threw his arms around his old pal in an embrace and slapped the sheriff’s back so hard it stung. Taylor could hear his deputy sniffling in his ear. The sheriff smiled, then squeezed his oldest friend in earnest.
And somehow Andy Taylor knew that no matter what happens in this raggedy world, a person can face anything if they have a friend.
Barbara Yeida Zuleski - December 24, 2021 7:22 am
All I ever needed to know, I leaned from Andy Taylor and his dear Aunt Bea. Merry Christmas.
Melissa Norman - December 24, 2021 8:29 am
What a delightful story to read that really reflects today’s struggle & concern for our “world” as we know and love it. Seems like every area of our lives are in turmoil. Religion, marriage, family values, education, inflation, politics, policing, health, individual choice on vax, pandemic, and influx of people at border, When we are quiet and focus on being quiet, we will notice that the is coming from outside ourselves. Peace comes from within with and is reflected in the sky with the stars. Babies continue to be born. People continue to get married. Children continue to wish upon a star. People continue to retire from careers. People start new jobs. People purchase new homes. On an individual basis, our world goes on and things do continue to be normal. Merry Christmas and make 2022 the best year yet for YOU!
Lisa K Riley - December 24, 2021 8:55 am
Sometimes those friends are memories like you just brought up, Sean. But we’ll get through. Merry Christmas!
Paul McCutchen - December 24, 2021 12:09 pm
I am trying to keep upbeat again this year but it’s difficult. I want to see the kids, grandkids and great grandkids and maybe next year everyone will get vaccinated and everyone can come into the house. The wife and I are in pretty good health but not like we were in our 20’s or 30’s so we are cautious. We have lost friends and family over the last two years and don’t want the younger ones to exit before us.
Sorry for the “downer” note but it is hard for me to be like Barney.
Bud McLaughlin - December 24, 2021 12:43 pm
This is beautiful, funny and inspiring. I can even visualize and hear Andy and Barney carrying on the conversation. Thank you, Sean, for bringing light and light-heartedness into the world. Merry Christmas and here’s to a wondrous new year!
Susan - December 24, 2021 1:11 pm
Thank you for this reflection from a Mayberry point of view. Like Bud, as I was reading it, I could hear Andy and Barney’s voices. Merry Christmas!!
Carolyn Stoner - December 24, 2021 1:15 pm
Such a great reminder that it’s the people in our lives that really matter and bring us together, not pricey gifts in fancy boxes tied with shiny ribbons. Glory to God in the Highest, Peace and Goodwill to Men (and women). Thanks for making my day brighter with positivity. Merry Christmas to you and Jamie.
David Harvey - December 24, 2021 1:18 pm
Thank you, Bob. We are blessed among people. 🙏.
Billy D. - December 24, 2021 1:26 pm
That was very therapetic! Merry Christmas and keep writing!!
Chasity Davis Ritter - December 24, 2021 1:30 pm
My friend Sean reminds me everyday of the good things in the world. So very thankful for him. Merry Christmas to you and Jamie and the four leggers. I know this is a hard Christmas for many reasons dear to your heart too. Just look up at the Bethlehem star tonight and know our folks are shining brightly beside it as well. 🙏🎄❤️
Sondra Lange - December 24, 2021 1:39 pm
Merry Christmas, Sean!! Thank you for another year of making us think, making us feel good, and making us care for each other. May you and Jamie find peace and comfort this year.
Tim Peace - December 24, 2021 1:40 pm
You’ve outdone yourself Sean.
I could just hear Ange and Barn’s voices in my head as I read their dialogue. I could see them on the bench…
Yes, it been a tough year…thanks for making each day better, despite your own circumstances. Thanks for helping us start each day with a smile…and occasionally a tear. You’re a good one Sean. Someday I’d love to meet you and your sweet bride. You are my kind of people.
Merry Christmas from E’town, KY!
Linda Lewis - December 24, 2021 1:41 pm
You outdid yourself with this column. Merry Christmas 🎄
Karen - December 24, 2021 2:04 pm
Sean, thank you for your encouraging words. Andy and Barnie and all of Mayberry were the best. May you and Jamie feel God’s peace and love this Christmas.
NancyB. - December 24, 2021 2:05 pm
Thank you for being my friend, Sean! Christmas Blessings to both and Jamie.
dapeek43 - December 24, 2021 2:21 pm
Merry Christmas! God bless everyone!💕
Suellen - December 24, 2021 2:29 pm
What better time of year to remind ourselves to keep our eyes focused on Jesus. While this world turns and evil seems to run rampant He’s the thing that never changes and He keeps His promises. Merry Christmas to you, Sean, and to Jamie, and all your readers. It Is Well With My Soul. https://www.godtube.com/popular-hymns/it-is-well-with-my-soul/
Sue Adams - December 24, 2021 2:34 pm
Thank you for this and Merry Christmas.
Ernie Kelly - December 24, 2021 2:41 pm
You are surrounded by friends. Because you ARE a friend to so many. Blessings.
Cathy M - December 24, 2021 2:53 pm
My husband and I watched a segment of Andy just the other nite. I wish life was that simple today. In this crazy world there are a few things that never change. Tommorrow we celebrate the birth of Jesus and all believers come together to thank him for his sacrifice. That will never change. Faith, family and friends. The three things that really matter in this life. I have been blessed with all three. And that’s all I want for Christmas. We all need to hug each other this Christmas because like Andy, it’s been a tough year. Sean, you have helped all of us get through the year and we are grateful. Merry Christmas to you and Jamie🙏🏻🎄😇
Denise DeVries - December 24, 2021 2:56 pm
Sean, this was a perfect Christmas story.. i don’t always let you know but your words are magical!!! For every column you write, an angel rings his/her bell and gets their wings. I’ve heard there’s some waiting for you. Merry Christmas to you two. God bless .
Shelton A. - December 24, 2021 3:09 pm
Family and friends. The celebration of the coming of the Lord as an infant…Andy would grow into being sheriff like Jesus grew up into his ministry. Merry Christmas to all, especially you, Sean, and Jamie (and Your hat eating dogs, Otis Campbell and Thelma Lou)! God bless and give us all peace on earth with good will to us all. Thanks for a great story and getting into character, Sean!
Anne Arthur - December 24, 2021 3:09 pm
Merry Christmas to you and Jamie. May the joy of Christmas fill your hearts.
beachdreamer1 - December 24, 2021 3:30 pm
Dear Barney. We should all be so positive. We’ve made it thru times we’ve never thought possible! Hope is the key word. We keep trusting and believing. Living each day as if it were our last. Being kind, considerate and caring to those God has put in our lives. Thanks again Sean for sharing Andy and Barney with us.
Merry Christmas. In the words of Tiny Tim, God bless us every one ! ❤️
Stacey Wallace - December 24, 2021 3:52 pm
Thanks, Sean. God will get us through this. He is holding our right hands and will never let go. We just need to hold on and never let go, too. Andy and Barney rock. Merry Christmas! Love to you, Jamie, and your dogs.
Steve Rafferty - December 24, 2021 4:33 pm
Thanks Sean I’m a big fan of Mayberry, Ange and Barney.I retreat to the sweet memories of Mayberry to cope with our reality as it causes much pain and concern about our future.Oh what a relief it is!!! Merry Christmas to Sean and your beautiful Wife.
Marcia MacLean - December 24, 2021 5:21 pm
Every time I hear or sing that song, I’ll think “eggshells”. You make me laugh, cry, and think about what’s important. Merry Christmas my friend!
Nancy M - December 24, 2021 5:48 pm
Merry Christmas, Sean and Jamie. Thank you for your columns, all of them. I enjoy each one and look forward to them.
bob - December 24, 2021 6:12 pm
Merry Christmas Sean. Thank you for the Mayberry Christmas and for reminding us all to have hope! I do have hope “and” faith that the world can and will return to something more recognizable once the 22 elections take place. The last “couple” of years have been hard to watch and live. On this beautiful eve of the day we set aside to mark the Birth of our Savior we ask God’s blessings on you and on America!
MAM - December 24, 2021 7:04 pm
May you have a blessed Christmas, Sean and Jamie! and thanks as always for your hopeful words!
Linda Moon - December 24, 2021 8:53 pm
If this is a real Mayberry TV episode, I want to watch it. If it’s not, you’ve given us a good story, Writer. Either way–story or TV show–it made me go to pieces. Thank you for passing it along…and may I call you ‘friend’?
Karen Snyder - December 25, 2021 2:04 am
It’s strange how reading here so often triggers a memory and sends me off to read or listen to something else, Sean. This time it was your parting thought: “… a person can face anything if they have a friend.” Two songs immediately came to mind, one a decidedly secular tune, one an old hymn, neither of them Christmas music. First I listened to Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” and then Alan Jackson’s rendition of “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.” For me, both were just right for this moment.
Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas and more love and hopefulness in the new year. ❤️🎄
Robyn - December 25, 2021 4:29 pm
I ❤️ You Sean…Merry Christmas to you & Jamie!
Bill Kellman - December 25, 2021 8:08 pm
Andy Griffith and Don Knots left us with sweet memories
Patricia Gibson - December 26, 2021 3:55 pm
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - January 21, 2022 4:33 pm