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The Zen of Otis on Andy Griffith


Andy: Otis, what in the world are you doin'?
Otis: I just got back from old man Davis's place and he sold me this entire horse for twenty dollars.
Andy: Otis, I don't reckon you can notice, but you got a horse that gives milk.
Otis: I knew he was a good buy.

Been curiously fascinated with the Andy Griffith Show recently. About the world that it existed within. About the world that it mirrored.

From Wikipedia:

The Andy Griffith Show was set in and around the fictional town of Mayberry in the county of Mayberry, North Carolina. (Andy and Barney were employees of Mayberry County.) According to roadside signs seen in various episodes, the town population varied between 2,000 and 5,360 during the eight seasons of The Andy Griffith Show. Raleigh was a few hours' drive away but the nearest city was Mount Pilot, located to the east of Mayberry in Pilot County. Mt. Pilot had a population of 30,000 and was known for its fast pace. Another nearby city mentioned numerous times on the show is Siler City, in Chatham County. It is also the town where Frances Bavier, the actress who played Aunt Bee, retired and was buried. One episode had a fictional neighboring district called "Pierce County" near Mayberry County.

There is no real town of Mayberry, but despite Griffith's denial, it is widely believed that it was based upon his real hometown of Mount Airy in Surry County, North Carolina. (In one 1965 episode, "Aunt Bee's Invisible Beau," he can be seen perusing a copy of the Mount Airy News [1] in his living room.) More likely, Mayberry was the brainchild of not only the writers, directors, and producers of The Andy Griffith Show, but also of the several other actors besides Griffith who hailed originally from southern towns and cities (e.g. Don Knotts from Morgantown, West Virginia, Jim Nabors from Sylacauga, Alabama, and George Lindsey, from Jasper, Alabama).
Mayberry has become synonymous with the peaceful charm and wholesome goodness of small town America. In a negative sense, the term has also been used to connote the ignorance and lack of sophistication often associated with people from rural areas, and as an example of an idealized, fictional white south that never really existed.

Just watched episode 145, The Rehabilitation of Otis, which starts off with Otis riding into town on a cow that he drunkenly believes to be a horse. Later, Barney takes it upon himself to rehabilitate Otis using "psychological" methods he gleaned from a .25 cent magazine. In the end, Otis resists Barney's efforts and receives a warm welcome as he drunkenly rides back into Mayberry on the cow and directly into the courthouse.

It is a beautiful world where the town drunk is allowed to sleep peacefully in the county jail, wake up the next morning with no ramifications from the previous night (other than the comical hangover) and stumble off to get a shave from Floyd the barber. I have a particular fondness for the character of Otis (played to perfection by Hal Smith), especially when he's deep in his cups. Echoes of a Holy Fool, spinning wisdom under the guise of intoxication/ madness. Like the Fool in Lear, he has the best lines - at least, the funniest - and is immune from their repercussions.

Anyway, three times in this episode, Otis is found riding his cow that he believes a horse. The first time is the humorous entrance, then when he falls off the wagon and, finally, in a sort of triumphant return. I thought the parallels to the Zen Ox-Herding Series of Kakuan were amusing to contemplate and, not wanting to already stretch this already threadbare argument, present only a couple of instances here. (Oh I could go on.)





6. Riding the Bull Home

Mounting the bull, slowly I return homeward.
The voice of my flute intones through the evening.
Measuring with hand-beats the pulsating harmony,
I direct the endless rhythm.
Whoever hears this melody will join me.



10. In the World

Barefooted and naked of breast, I mingle with the people of the world.
My clothes are ragged and dust-laden, and I am ever blissful.
I use no magic to extend my life;
Now, before me, the dead trees become alive.



8/19/07