The Cannon!

Equal Time (well, not quite) for Andy Taylor's other Deputy Sheriff on The Andy Griffith Show

The Cannon
original airdate: November 22, 1965


While Andy, Goober, and Floyd are shooting the breeze in the barbershop, Warren rushes in with "big news" (a scene reminiscent of the second TAGS episode The Manhunt where Barney tells Andy about the "big, big-big" news about the state police arriving in Mayberry to chase down a fugitive; however, unlike Barney, Warren does not run it into the ground). This time the "big" news is that the governor is going to pay Mayberry a visit during its Founders' Day celebration. As a further treat, the state mobile museum will also be on hand for the event. Warren and Goober are not familiar with the museum so Andy explains that it contains many priceless valuables including Martha Washington's lavaliere, which sounds very impressive to Floyd. Andy proposes that they hold a meeting of the Mayberry Founders' Day committee to escalate the festivities. Warren agrees that "organization is very important." On the way out, Warren's suggestion of the slogan "Mayberry Founders' Day: May Mayberry Never Founder" does not go over well with Andy.

Big news
"Andy, this is BIG!"
Mayberry Founders' Day...
"May Mayberry Never Founder."

At the meeting, Aunt Bee announces she is going all out on the lunch reception with shrimp cocktails and chicken ala king. The head of the parade route offers the semi-controversial idea of having Miss Potato Queen riding in a convertible wearing a bathing suit [what is the town coming to?]. The leader of the four-piece marching band promises Andy they will improve from last Labor Day. Warren and Goober are put in charge of guarding the trailor museum. No worries, as Warren proclaims, "the Marines have landed" [as a former sergeant in the Marine Corps, Jack Burns must have gotten a kick out of this line].

Later, as Andy and Warren check out the chosen site for the mobile museum, Warren admires the town cannon and is struck by an exciting idea: to fire the cannon at the climax of the celebration. Andy rejects the notion point blank even after Warren assures Andy that he studied ballistics at the Sheriff's Academy. Warren observes that Andy has "the tendency to be very stubborn." Still, Andy sticks to his guns (so to speak) and Warren is left disappointed. Once the museum arrives, however, Warren leaves his post to examine the cannon and finds it already loaded with a cannonball. During his cannon inspection, Warren misses a couple staking out the museum. Andy spots them and turns them away. Finding Warren and Goober by the cannon, Andy reiterates that they are to leave it alone and guard the museum.

A meeting of the minds
"Organization is
very important."
"You have the tendency
to be very stubborn."

Later, during Warren's watch, Andy stops by the mobile museum to give his deputy an update on the day's proceedings. Always willing to go that extra mile, Warren tells Andy he has "prepared a few informative remarks to make, you know, for when the people are filing in." He gives Andy a sample of his curatorial skills: "Folks, as you enter this museum, you'll notice the sacred mementos from our glorious past; mementos which will enable you to relive the founding of this great nation." Andy, unimpressed by his deputy's enthusiasm and originality, drives off. Undeterred, Warren continues to practice: "Notice, as you enter on your right, a priceless lavaliere, first worn by the First Lady of the First President... [smiles to himself] That's not too bad."

Folks, as you enter this museum...
Warren practicing his historical remarks.
That's not too bad
"That's not too bad."

It is at this point that Warren is confronted by the same man who was snooping around the museum earlier. This time the stranger dons a fake uniform and claims to be Officer George Archer with the state police. Warren looks puzzled. Archer, with an exasperated tone, replies that the folks in Raleigh have a habit of not sending in the orders that the state police is supposed to take over the guarding of the museum. Warren had authorization papers when the keys were handed over to him; this guy has nothing, not even a badge. The man explains that the museum people do not want the attraction to appear like a police operation. Warren falls for the scheme; he gives the keys to the crook, turns to walk away, hesitates for a moment, and then leaves. [Note: This scene shows some expert acting by Jack Burns. At one point, Warren tells a joke that Archer, played by Robert Karnes, does not get. Warren thinks his joke is gang-busters and cannot contain his laughter. Actually, Warren's laughter comes out in muffled bursts and the crook, who would rather Warren just buzz off, finally joins in. The interaction between the actors is done so well here that it deserves special mention].

Puzzled by "Officer" Archer's request.
Warren and Goob
"The Marines have landed."

While the parade is completed [now, if these guys improved from Labor Day, they must have jumped from the category of "blows" up to "sucks" or, as Bart Simpson would say, they managed to both suck and blow at the same time; where was the band that played "California Here We Come" in Off to Hollywood?] and the speeches are being made, Warren and Goober continue to scope out the cannon. All of Mayberry is now distracted so Archer and his female partner in crime begin to remove pieces from the museum into their getaway car. Old guns being a hobby of his, Warren wants to examine the firing mechanism and lights a match to get a better look. During the governor's speech, an explosion is heard. Andy rushes to the scene and is alarmed when he sees that Warren "shot a station wagon." While berating his deputy, Goober notices items from the museum inside the vehicle. A beaming Warren arrests the couple and, upon returning to the grandstand, Andy explains to the governor that the explosion was a one-gun salute in his honor. The governor seems pleased.

Later, at the station, Warren shows off his ability "to retain" information he learned at the Sheriff's Academy by explaining that the black gun powder inside the cannon caused it to be able to fire after many decades of inactivitiy. Just as in Off to Hollywood, when Goober was derogating Warren's credentials as deputy sheriff, Warren was ready for Andy's next question as to why he gave the museum keys to the unauthorized stranger posing as a state policeman. Warren explains to Andy that he never trusted the bogus officer and was keeping a "weather eye" on him the entire time. Andy doesn't believe him.

"I caught a couple of crooks!"

Warren ready to "shed a whole new
light" on the little handing over the
keys of a valuable museum
without an authorization thingy.

Yes, you read it right. Warren Ferguson is often criticized by TAGS fans for using his "huh-huh-huh" gimmick too much, so the people at The Revenge of Warren Ferguson (actually, just the one person) have counted EVERY SINGLE "huh?" Warren said during each of his 11 episodes on TAGS to finally set the record straight. Every "huh?" is counted whether it follows a question with the rapid-fire "huh-huh," "huh-huh-huh", or the rare "huh-huh-huh-huh", or whether it is used as part of an observation or conversation (i.e. the sentence "You must think we're real idiots, huh?") Only if it is part of the word "uh-huh" was a "huh" not counted. Did Warren say too many "huhs"? Check the counter and decide for yourself.

6 Huh?s

Note: And not a single "huh-huh-huh" was fired.


Defending Warren
(an attempt to, anyway)

Oops, my bad
Not one of Warren's finest moments.

This episode poses a challenge to the Warren Ferguson sycophant as it is obvious the deputy, albeit with good intentions, made a "big" mistake in handing over the museum keys to the unauthorized stranger, but here goes...
Communication lines were not as readily available in the 1960s as they are now. Mayberry's archaic phone system was probably closer to the 1930s [did Sarah ever get a break?] and their phones may have dated back to the 1910s. In our age of cell phones, it is so much easier [maybe too easy] to get in touch with people for the most trivial of things let alone for purposes of obtaining information or, as would be needed in this case, authorization. Perhaps, in the 1960s, less formality was needed and those in the same field [i.e. law enforcement] had a more relaxed, handshaking approach to their job. The story that the pencil pushers in Raleigh kept forgetting to send in orders for the changing of the guard seemed very credible as, just like today, in bureaucracy, the left hand doesn't always know what the right hand is doing (I was going to use the phrase "can't find their butts with both hands," but that seemed a bit crude).

Despite the plausibility of the story, a lot of red flags popped up in Warren's mind during the infamous exchange. First, he observed that Archer did not have a badge. Secondly, it was Archer who volunteered the idea that, without the proper paperwork, he would not blame Warren for refusing him the keys (one might not expect a criminal to say such a thing). Warren, of course, had all his authorization forms in order when he was put in charge of the museum. Finally, the fact that Warren hesitated before walking away also indicates he was not entirely convinced the badge-less "officer" was on the level. I think Warren was on the right track and, if he was not preoccupied with the cannon, would have kept at his post or, at least, kept a suspicious eye on the mysterious officer.

Andy's Guilt

Why was Andy so adamant against firing the cannon? His point that the cannon had not been fired for a century seemed weak considering Warren was an expert on guns. The cannon was definitely a sore spot for Andy, but why? Maybe Andy was thinking back to the time in the episode The Horse Trader when he tried to sell the town cannon by claiming it was once used by Theodore Roosevelt when the future U.S. President and his "Rough Riders" charged up San Juan Hill. He told this lie after he lectured Opie about always obeying the "Golden Rule." It was Opie who called him on it and Andy, no doubt, never got over his guilt. Warren had an excellent idea; but, Andy would have deprived the governor and the Mayberry residents of, what Warren called, an "unforgettable moment" because he could not deal with the painful memory of telling a lie in front of his son. How sad.

Warren Needed No Help

Yes, Warren caught the crooks by accident, but how many times was Barney the hero due to dumb luck? The difference here is Andy's lack of participation in the capture. More often than not, when Barney solved a case or captured a criminal, Andy was behind-the-scenes helping him out. Andy then would cover up Barney's incompetence by allowing him, and the townspeople, to believe he solved the case by himself. I will discuss this issue in greater length in my analysis of the episode The Legend of Barney Fife. In this case, Andy was in the grandstands when the cannon was inadvertently fired. Andy did not even realize with what the couple was attempting to drive off; it was Goober who spotted the museum mementos in the automobile. Warren would have noticed them as well if he were closer to the windows. A lot of great things are achieved through luck. Warren's luck here was not fabricated by Andy working behind-the-scenes, it just happened. This experience was, no doubt, added to Warren's vast range of knowledge gained at the Sheriff's Academy.

You want to check out the next episode, don't ya?
huh? huh? huh?
Sure ya do!

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