Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Howard Morris, who died on Saturday, in "The Education of Ernest T. Bass".

The following is from The Andy Griffith Show Book by Ken Beck and Jim Clark:

Ernest T. Bass is Mayberry's wild man from the mountains. In general he is a loveable nuisance, not just for the Darlings but for Andy and Barney and just about anybody who has a glass window. That's because Ernest T. is a chronic windowbreaker. Sometimes he throws rocks; sometimes he throws bricks; but he's breaking windows all the time. After his first confrontation with Bass, Andy said, "If you were to ask me, this Ernest T. Bass is a strange and weird character."

"Just plain ornery is what he is," responded Briscoe Darling.

"He's a nut!" Barney concluded.

Ernest T. wears a worn-out hunting cap, a long-sleeved cotton undershirt, trousers, and a black vest. Bass is not really a mean person, but he did try to kill a mockingbird once. Andy tries to teach Ernest T. the ways of society, but it all comes to naught at a party where Andy passes Ernest T. off as his cousin Oliver Gossage from Raleigh. At least Mr. Bass learned how to say, "How do you do, Mrs. Wiley?"

While attempting to court Charlene Darling Wash, Ernest T. brags that he is the best rock-thrower in the county and that he's saving up for a gold tooth. He plans to knock out the three teeth in front and put the gold one in the center and "leave space on each side so it'll stand out better that way, 'specially when I'm dancing." Eventually, he does get a gold tooth, but it's just gold leaf that he has done by the sign company (it costs him $1).

Ernest T. gets his chance to sweettalk and woo Charlene with his charming ways, but he never does win her heart. Later, he comes down to Mayberry to join the Army. Andy and Barney try to warn the recruiter. "He's curious," says Barney. "He's a troublemaker," says Andy. The 112-pound Bass impresses the sergeant with his feats of strength: "I can do twenty chinups with one hand. I can dip into a barrel of water and fetch out a watermelon with my jaws, and I can chuck a full-growed sick jackass over my shoulders and tote him five miles to the doctor."

Ernest T. never does make it into the Army, but at least he does get a uniform-Barney's. Ernest T. needed it to impress the girls back home. He confesses to Andy: "As clever and as goodlooking as I am, I just can't get a girl. I got looks, brains, personality; I kiss good. The only thing standing 'twixt me and sweet romance is a uniform." For a while, Ernest T. courted Hogette Winslow, the daughter of Hog Winslow, but he hit her on the head with a rock. She needed seven stitches. (She wound up marrying the taxidermist who sewed her up.) Ernest T. eventually finds sweet romance with Ramona Ancrum, his "Sweet Romeena." He also refers to her as "My darling Romeena."

If romance had never come to Ernest T., he planned to "hermitize" himself. In fact, he once lived in a cave for six months with a possum and a raccoon. That's when he learned to wash his food before eating it. Ernest T. has a cow now.

Another time, Ernest T. Bass came to town to earn his diploma. Helen Crump, his "mother figure," gave the diploma to him in a short but sweet ceremony, saying, "This is to certify that Ernest T. Bass has achieved a special award for learning." Yet another time, he came to town to find gainful employment. He needed $12 to buy a tent and a lantern for his honeymoon with Ramona. Andy gave Ernest T. a job as a temporary deputy and had him working the school crossing. Andy had to fire him for throwing rocks at the cars that wouldn't stop.

This kind of commotion riles Barney, who says, "Ernest T. Bass is a firstrate, grade-A, number-one nut." The deputy tells Andy, "Just give me five minutes behind the barn with him."

"He'd kill you," is Andy's reply.

Ernest T. often speaks in rhymes. Among his favorites are: "I don't chew my cabbage twice"; "You ain't heard the last of Ernest T. Bass"; "I ain't talking, I ain't talking, the more you ask, the more I'm balking"; "Wrong or right, I'm here to fight and if you're wondering who I be, it's me, it's me, it's Ernest T."

After his problems are solved by Andy, Ernest always heads back up to the hills.

Andy: "There goes a happy man."

Barney: "There goes a happy nut."


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