Don Knotts lived the story at the heart of ''Opie's Hobo Friend''

As a boy, Knotts befriended passers-through at his mother's boarding house.

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Every now and again, The Andy Griffith Show needed to get serious about how Sheriff Andy planned to raise Opie right.

Perhaps the most cutting moment involving Opie's future well-being came in the high-stakes episode "Opie’s Hobo Friend."

In the second season episode, Buddy Ebsen plays the hobo Dave Browne. Opie finds Dave's free spirit so enticing that Andy begins to worry about his potentially wayward son. The sheriff finally confronts the hobo for influencing the young boy's thinking too heavily.

"Who's to say that the boy would be happier your way or mine? Why not let him decide?" Dave asks.

"You can't let a young 'un decide for himself," Andy tells Dave. "He'll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it, then when he finds out there's a hook in it, it's too late."

Barney's role throughout the episode is to balance out the heaviness of the show's central drama with his characteristic overreactions. The deputy, of course, assumes the very worst of Dave Browne, letting his imagination run wild to fill in his backstory and even alleging he could be part of Al Capone's gang.

You should know next time you watch this episode, though, that Don Knotts had a tender experience not unlike Opie's with his own hobo friends growing up in Virginia.

The story goes that Knotts' mom ran a boarding house during the Depression, and it was fairly common for them to have hobos stay for a night or two when they were passing through town.

Not having a father figure around, young Don Knotts would befriend these random passers-through. In the book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show, written by Daniel de Visé, it's said that "an itinerant guitarist showed Don how to play the ukulele" and "a carnival barker revealed how he fleeced his customers."

You could see how like Buddy Ebsen mystifying Opie with magic tricks in "Opie's Hobo Friend," a young Don easily found these characters enchanting.

However, later on in his life, his famous TV character Barney Fife was not so amused by similar mindsets in Mayberry, and in "Opie's Hobo Friend," the jumpy deputy's the one to catch Opie skipping school as a result of advice from Dave like, "There's absolutely nothing a man can't do ... tomorrow."

In 1965, when Knotts decided to leave The Andy Griffith Show, Griffith lamented the loss of his co-star. Griffith said that Knotts made it easy to incorporate these dramatic episodes with Opie.

"Now when we do a heavy show with Opie, a drama, we use Don to break up that tone," Griffith told The Parsons Sun. "He flies about, and any messages go down easy."

After Don left, it became harder to work in serious heartfelt episodes like "Opie's Hobo Friend," because it wasn't so obvious how to keep the show light and balanced without Barney Fife.

The idea for "Opie's Hobo Friend" didn’t come directly from Don's life, though.

After the first season of The Andy Griffith Show wrapped, Sheldon Leonard assembled all the writers to toss around ideas for the second season. "Opie's Hobo Friend" was born from one of these brainstorming sessions.

"We'd just bounce ideas off each other," said Aaron Ruben in de Visé’s book. "How about one where Aunt Bee enters homemade pickles in the county fair? How about one where Opie meets a hobo who has a great influence on him?"

Someone tossed out the idea, and the next thing we knew, Buddy Ebsen walked into Mayberry, and "Opie's Hobo Friend" had gifted us with one of the TV's sweetest examples of what it means to have a father really looking out for the best interests of his son.

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repete 3 months ago
For people who only knew Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett, this was a revelation. What an actor! He almost had the part of the Tin Man in "The Wizard of Oz", too. https://youtu.be/D2amDHq2yOo
Edwena 4 months ago
I'm very proud that Don Knotts is from our wild & wonderful state, of WV. He was such a great talent, no matter what show or movie he was in. The Ghost & Mr. Chicken is one of my favorite 😊
repete Edwena 3 months ago
You might be surprised who helped with "The Ghost & Mr. Chicken"! https://youtu.be/cDgukBLXnFE?t=217
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ELEANOR 4 months ago
And just think, Don Knotts was not the only one to live that kind of life. Little Ronny Howard, in a sense, got to meet a lot of people, the actors on the set; just the same way Don Knotts had gotten to know a lot of people in the boarding house.
dgaudio 4 months ago
Don Knotts lived in Morgantown, West Virginia and not Virginia. He also graduated from West Virginia University. Not sure why people become geographically challenged when it comes to West Virginia vs Virginia. No one gets confuse between North and South Carolina
HulkFan02 4 months ago
I used to remember him from Apple Dumpling Gang with Bill Bixby
pookiepoo 5 months ago
I love everything about the Andy Griffiths show, it always has a moral ending to each of them.
WordsmithWorks 5 months ago
Funny how the terms "boarding house" and "hobo" changed into other words over the years.
KirwoodDerby 5 months ago
It was a little little uncomfortable seeing “Jed” playing such a shady character at first, but he comes through, big time, in the end. Great episode.
Hi Kirwood,
Buddy was great playing deeply crazed bad guys on Have Gun Will Travel and other shows.
On Maverick he played a real life Kansas inn keeper who with his family murdered dozens
of unwary single travelers. He was an excellent actor, which is why he was so disappointing
in Barnaby Jones where he sleepwalked thru the role, just to cash a check.
igsjr 5 months ago
Don Knotts lived in West Virginia, a state separate from Virginia.
WGH igsjr 5 months ago
Morgantown, WV. Home of the West Virginia University Mountaineers. Don Notts Boulevard is on campus.
harlow1313 WGH 5 months ago
It is knot.
dangler1907 igsjr 5 months ago
One of the nation's great failings - the inability to come up with individually unique state names. Two Virginias, two Dakotas, two Carolinas ... where was the imagination? Where will it end?? ;)
MadMadMadWorld harlow1313 5 months ago
It is not Notts, but it is a Knotty spelling.
ELEANOR dangler1907 5 months ago
West Virginia is so named BECAUSE it broke away from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1861 over issues surrounding the Civil War. Since it used to be part of Virginia and was the western part, hence West Virginia.
Wiseguy dangler1907 5 months ago
Dakota Fanning's sister should have been named Carolina.
Andybandit 5 months ago
Interesting story. I like the Hobo episode on TAGS
harlow1313 5 months ago
The word "hobo" has a more romantic connotation than "street person" or "homeless person."

Should I ever get the boot, please call me Hobo Harlow.
cabugi harlow1313 5 months ago
Make sure you get a long stick and tie a hankerchief bag on the end.
MichaelJoeseph cabugi 5 months ago
Knapsack sorta like Knotts
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