You might recall that episode of Mayberry where Andy chastises young Opie over his lackadaisical efforts in school.
Aw, I’ll do fine, Opie tells his pa. And sure enough, Opie brings home his report card a few days later — all A’s. “I swanny!” declares the shocked but delighted sheriff (or words to that effect). He makes a huge fuss, bragging to the entire town about his boy genius, rewarding him with a new bicycle.
Then Miss Crump calls Opie up to her desk and tells him the bad news: she’d made a mistake in transcribing his report card. “I wish you had made all those A’s,” the future Mrs. Sheriff Taylor tells the crestfallen yoot. “You could, you know, if you would just work at it.”
How’s a boy to tell his kicking-up-his-heels pa that his report card was a disaster? Opie is embarrassed and frightened, so he doesn’t. Miss Crump finally has to tell Andy.
Aunt Bee to the rescue: she calms the flustered sheriff, telling him he’d put too much pressure on the yoot. Opie then spills the coffee himself, unaware that Andy already knows. Andy tells Opie that as long as he does his best, he can’t ask for anything more.
A few days later, Opie brings home a math paper with a B-plus, and a note from Miss Crump: “nice improvement.” Andy congratulates Opie for the good effort.
You know the rest of the story: Opie goes on to make it big in Hollywood, playing Richie Cunningham and directing “Apollo 13.”
As most or all of my 44 fans know, me and Wife have three yoots in the Brownwood school district — Johnson’s in the fourth grade at Coggin Elementary, his younger brother Johnson is in the second grade at Northwest and their younger sister Smith is a first-grader at that school.
Wife, being a teacher, naturally attaches great importance to education, schoolwork and good grades. I am not a teacher (nor do I play one on TV) but I am like-minded. And although academics isn’t as important as athletics, it’s a close second, don’t you know.
When the elder Johnson heads for Coggin on test day, I don’t put pressure on him. I just give him a little friendly advice, something like “Do your best. The family’s honor depends on you.”
He just kind of looks at me when I tell him that.
Now, I’d like to see our three yoots go all the way through school as straight-A students. But the way I figgers it, it’s a mighty fine line between encouraging — nay, demanding — our yoots to be the best they can be, working up to their full capabilities, and putting so much pressure on them that the thought of a getting a B terrifies them.
When I was a yoot, I knew a few other yoots who probably had ulcers because their stern, demanding parents expected an all-A perform-ance. Consequences awaited them if they were less than perfect. It seemed that the whole purpose of their lives was to not get in trouble for getting a B.
Now me, I brought home a B once, and my family celebrated for a year. But that’s a whole other story.
Academics and schoolwork were, indeed, stressed when I was a yoot, but there was a brief period where the light just wasn’t coming on for the cat-juggler-in-waiting. (OK, Walter, I heard that. That was hateful and hurtful.)
When was this period, you axe? It was called hah skewl. I’d actually been a reasonably good student until hah skewl — through my freshman year, even.
I had a wanderlust, don’t you know. I remember how, as I took the same classes over and over at Burkburnett Hah Skewl, I’d go with my class to the liberry to do research for some class project.
My only research was from atlases. I’d look at maps of the United States and fantasize about going places on my Kawasaki motorcycle.
And then, almost by accident one day, I wandered into a college classroom. In contrast to my dismal hah-skewl days, I was interested in just about everything I encountered except calculus (never did understand it).
And now here I am, the famous cat juggler of Brownwood.
Steve Nash writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.