As mentioned in the Trips to Mount Airy, Part III: Mayberry Days, 2015 post, the previous year my traveling compadre Rob and I had seen a tribute to James Best after he had passed away earlier that year. It was hosted by Jimmie’s widow, Dorothy Best, and David Browning, The Mayberry Deputy. David did this out of his love for Jimmie as they had become close friends. A few months later, I had an idea that I thought Dorothy might enjoy.
My parents were both born in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and I traveled there often as a child. Years ago, the city of Hazard, Kentucky, had formed an unofficial association with the series The Dukes of Hazzard and cast members, including James Best, had appeared at an annual festival called the Black Gold Festival. (Being eastern Kentucky, “black gold” is a reference to coal, not oil.) To honor the cast members who came to town, the mayor would declare them honorary citizens of Hazard, Kentucky and name them a Duke or Duchess of Hazard. I will discuss this in more detail in a later blog post, but the city eventually extended the title to others. In fact, I am a proud Duke of Hazard.
I contacted David in early February and asked if he knew whether Dorothy had ever been designated a Duchess as I already knew Jimmie had been named a Duke. He eventually determined she had not and so I was able to have her so named. I had the certificate framed and told David I would be at the show again in 2016. I asked how to get the certificate to him in advance so he could present it to her, but he insisted I do the presentation.
Rob, Steve, and I arrived right at the beginning of the show. At its conclusion, with Dorothy not knowing in advance what was going to happen, David had me come onto the stage and present her with the certificate which was both a treat and an honor for me to do.
Afterward, we took a trip to Pilot Mountain State Park then drove to a spot I had wanted to visit ever since I learned about it: Mayberry, Virginia, the inspiration for the name of the town featured in The Andy Griffith Show. Andy’s hometown of Mount Airy sits just south of the North Carolina-Virginia border and the small community of Mayberry is not far north of the border. We drove to the area from Mount Airy on the back roads which was a beautiful drive along winding country roads.
Our destination was the Mayberry Trading Post which had served the small community where Andy’s grandparents had lived and was where Andy’s grandfather sold wild chestnuts he had gathered.
The building has been there since 1892. It still houses a wonderful, old-time country store. The place is not only reminiscent of the Jot ‘Em Down Store from the old-time radio show Lum and Abner that was so influential on The Andy Griffith Show, a photo of Lum and Abner even hangs near the register. The woman who waited on us is Peggy Barkley and she is a delight. Peggy was surprised I recognized Lum and Abner. She was so friendly and was happy to answer any questions we had about the area. The store sits just off the magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway, so before we returned to Mount Airy, we headed north on the parkway.