When I first met Betty Lynn a few years back, I didn't know who she was! Bob Buckley and I were surfing the crowd outside the Billy Graham Library dedication and he struck up a conversation with a most delightful redhead. Imagine my shock when halfway into the chat, I realized the jolly septuagenarian seated before me was none other than Thelma Lou. Thelma Lou! For those of you living off-planet, that's THE Thelma Lou - rock steady girlfriend of one Barney Fife - protector of Mayberry, keeper of bullet. Understand, The Andy Griffith Show is damn near religion down here. It's been showing on television non-stop since before I was born and while I was never the completist some of my friends were, I knew enough to be devout. So when I met the charmer that brought Thelma Lou to life, I did what any Southern boy would do: I told her how much I loved her. Betty laughed and said she knew. A friendship was born.
Which is why I bristled a bit when I heard she'd been robbed. Last Sunday Betty was leaving a Mount Airy shopping center when some jackhole snatched her wallet from her hands and ran off. Cops caught the fiend but Betty got less than half her money back. Clearly, this was a job for Lenslinger. Not quite a crime-fighter, I knew the most I could do was spread the accused man's mugshot across the land and score a visit with my favorite 80-something year old in the process. So, with the help of Bob Buckley and our mutual friend George Sappenfield, I uncovered the location of Mayberry's Sweetheart and headed that way. I found her holding court at The Andy Griffith Museum in Mount Airy. She was charming a room full of travel writers and I hung back until they were through asking questions she'd answered a million times. When they cleared out, I moved in. Betty didn't really want to publicize the incident - but because she'd never met a cameraman she didn't like - she consented. What followed was a most pleasant interlude as Barney's gal and I kibitzed like old school chums.
The TV piece below that resulted from my visit won't change much. Betty's fine and the tool that tried to make off with her lunch money is in sitting behind bars. But I enjoyed smearing his ugly mug across the land, and any reason to hang with the Miss Lynn is a good one. Here's hoping The Accused runs into some hulking Mayberry fan down in County Lock-up who will remind him how unwise it is to eff with Betty. Now go find your own 80 year old to hug.