If We Live in Mayberry, Who’s Aunt Bee?

Last week I drove the necessary 1.4 miles to my local Dollar General. At first read, you might think I’m too lazy to make the trek of 8.6 miles to the Brookshire’s in nearby Mansfield. But it’s not about the distance and time I’m saving, it’s about community. 


When I go to Brookshire’s, I shop in relative anonymity. Rarely do I see anyone I know. Sometimes that’s a blessing, because do I really want anyone to know I buy seven kinds of cheeses and spend $6.99 on Dave’s Killer Bread? 


But the charm of a small town is community. During all my shopping sprees in Mansfield, I hardly see a fellow Grand Canian. Grand Canite? Uh, someone I know from Grand Cane. Oh sure, I’ve made some friends—the man who talks to himself down the street outside the post office, the woman dressed like it’s thirty-five degrees outside no matter the temperature, the employee who helped me find that seventh kind of cheese…but they’re just casual acquaintances. They’re not my three digit small town tribe. 


Our Dollar General is an extension of my community. Look, there’s my pastor’s wife, buying potato chips. Oh, there’s our village clerk purchasing dish towels. Hey, it’s my neighbor from down the road picking up cute springtime decorations for her patio. Even the mayor stops in for some last-minute shopping, or to bring her grandkids by for a treat. 


Back to my story about my trip to Dollar General. The nice woman scanned my items and we chatted. I’d never met her, or so I thought. 


“I know you! Why, you gave my husband and me the prize for Grand Cane’s outdoor Christmas lighting contest! I recognize your voice.” She beamed in my direction, the glow of winning still bright in her mind. “You scared my son when he opened our front door, I was glad he didn’t slam it shut on you.”


That was a new remark for me—I can honestly say no one has ever commented that I’m so scary they wanted to shut the door in my face. There is a first time for everything.


She rebounded by gushing about her adopted home town. They’d just moved to our community and already felt at home. But she did have a few questions.

“Grand Cane is just like Mayberry, we just love it! But if that’s the case, where is Aunt Bee? And what about Gomer and Barney and Floyd the Barber?” Her face registered concern as she pondered her questions.


I mentioned a few possibilities for Aunt Bee, respectable Southern women who cook like nobody’s business. I suggested she speak with Sheriff Jayson Richardson to learn the identity of our very own Barney Fife. We chatted a little longer and I waved goodbye.


As I got into my Jeep, one character popped into my head: Ernest T. Bass. According to Wikipedia, Ernest T. is a “loud, wild, and rowdy hillbilly with a scruffy, unkempt appearance, a maniacal laugh, and a penchant for troublemaking. He nearly always behaves in an immature childish manner and is often rude and belligerent.” Why hadn’t my new friend questioned the Grand Cane identity of this colorful Mayberry resident?


Then it hit me…is it me? Am I the Ernest T. of Grand Cane? A familiar saying floated up from my memories, “Every family has one weird relative. If you don’t know who it is, then it’s probably you.”


So I’m on a mission, to find the Ernest T. Bass of my small town. Because if I can’t find one, well…I just don’t want to finish that thought.


Jann Goar Franklin graduated Russellville High School in 1989. You can reach her at jann@jannfranklin.com