Rides Again!

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

Wyatt Earp Rides Again
original airdate: January 31, 1966


Andy and Opie are visited in the courthouse by Fred Gibson, a loud, pushy, rootin-tootin promoter for Gibson's Wild West Show. He claims that the star of his show is Clarence Earp, the great nephew of Wyatt Earp. Andy is more over-powered by Gibson's assertive sales tactics than he is impressed by the prospects of such a show coming to the Mayberry Fairgrounds. Opie, on the other hand, is very excited about the news.

Later, at Floyd's Barbershop, Warren is getting a haircut by his uncle as Andy mentions the upcoming Wild West Show. Floyd starts reminiscing about a "fire eater" who visited Mayberry and had to keep getting extinguished by the fire department. Warren looks a bit puzzled by this story. Floyd then pictures a man with "broad shoulders, narrow waist, [and] rippling muscles." No, he is not describing his dashing nephew; he is imagining Clarence Earp with "steely eyes looking straight ahead as he rides tall in the saddle."

When Clarence Earp arrives, however, Andy and Warren are not impressed by his geeky appearance and short, squat frame. Warren figures "something sure went haywire in the bloodline." Gibson and Earp meet Andy and Warren at the steps of the courthouse to receive their permit. Warren makes sure the crowd clears the way.

Warren's uncle paints a
majestic image of Clarence Earp.
first impression
Andy and Warren's first
impression is not as thrilling.

Later, at the barbershop, Warren questions whether Clarence Earp can put on a good show. Gibson and Earp show up to put a poster in Floyd's window. Floyd reads the poster and is impressed by the "lassoing, fast draws" and "knife-throwing" it promises. A skeptical Warren asks, "Can he really do all that?" Gibson defends his star, "Well, friend, just because Clarence here is scrawny don't think he ain't tough." He challenges Warren to an arm wrestling match with Earp, best two out of three. "That's one department I happen to excel in," Warren boasts as he gives Floyd a wink, "Right?" Floyd goes on to explain that Warren was the arm wrestling champion at the last Founders' Day picnic, winning a month's supply of mint jelly. Gibson asks Warren if he is willing to lay down 50 cents to defend his title. Warren readily agrees.

Andy comes in just in time to witness the match. Warren and Clarence get down to business and Warren's confident demeanor immediately changes to shock when he goes against Earp's unseeming strength. Clarence wins the first match effortlessly. Warren, who can't believe he lost, attributes Earp's victory to luck and admonishes his uncle for getting hair cream on the table, which Floyd emphatically denies. Andy gives Warren a towel to dry off the table but the second match seems even easier for Earp. He allows Warren to struggle a little longer while he pockets the two quarters and then slams the handsome deputy's arm down. Gibson and Earp smugly saunter out of the barbershop leaving behind a stunned Floyd, Andy, and Warren.

The Mayberry champ
takes on Clarence Earp.

Go Warren Go!
"Warren, Warren, he's our man!
If he can't do it..."
Must be the table
"...I guess nobody can."
It must be the table.

Later, at the fairgrounds, Clarence Earp impresses Opie's friends by whipping Goober in a wrestling match (actually, Goober kept lunging at Earp who would move out of the way or flip the dim mechanic over). To the kids, Gibson extols the code of the old west: "The man who can fight is the man who is right."

Back at the courthouse, Opie tells Andy and Warren about Clarence Earp's exploits and how he wished he could have lived back in the wild west. Andy describes the "dull" age in which Opie now resides with "planes going faster than the speed of sound, astronauts orbiting the earth, [and] rockets going to the moon." Opie still prefers the days of "ridin' and fightin' and six-shooters on your hip." After he runs off with Johnny Paul, Warren predicts the destructive influence Gibson and Earp may have unleashed on the Mayberry youth: "a couple of guys like this can cause a lot of trouble."

Of course, Warren is proven prophetic [his ESP was never disproved]. Andy finds Opie and his friends fighting over territory with Opie reciting, "The man who can fight is the man who is right." Andy is certain of the source of this proverb and has Goober track down Gibson and Earp. With the wild west duo in his office, Andy voices his concerns about what they are teaching the Mayberry kids. Gibson asserts that Wyatt Earp is a great role model for young people; Andy, however, does not believe the name Earp carries the same meaning it did back in the old days. Gibson and Earp jump on Andy for "besmirching the name of Earp." Clarence "demands satisfaction" at high noon. He offers Andy the choice of weapon and marches out of the courthouse. Gibson laments, "I sure wish you hadn't besmirched the name of Earp, sheriff." Andy replies with the memorable line, "For heaven's sake" [my grandmother used to say that a lot].

astronauts orbiting the earth
Andy compares the 1960s to the
1870s as Warren looks on.

In the courthouse at 11:00, Warren voices his concerns to Andy. He considers the idea of challenging people to duels to be "ridiculous" and thinks they "ought to clamp the cuffs on those jokers and throw them in the ol' pokey." "If you come face-to-face with this fellow you're liable to get hurt, Andy. He is tough, believe me," the deputy warns. "He can take a man twice his size. If he starts foolin' around with that gun of his, there's no tellin' what's gonna happen." Andy leaves the courthouse. He returns within the hour and, at two-minutes to high noon, tries to ease Opie's visible fears by comparing his situation to a great western where one must wait for the ending.

After hearing of the duel, Warren
is concerned for Andy's safety.
Sheriff Ferguson?
High noon in Mayberry:
Will Warren be the new sheriff?

At high noon, the townspeople hide and Warren and Andy look on as Gibson and Earp stroll towards the courthouse. Warren shakes Andy's hand and whisks away the kids who have gathered to watch. Seeing the sheriff unarmed, Clarence prepares for a fistfight but Andy presents an unconventional weapon of choice: a book on the Earp family line. Low and behold, Clarence's name is conspicuously absent. Clarence is confused by this revelation. Andy convinces Gibson to own up to his deception; he had made up the name to build up the confidence of the sickly, insecure, abandoned boy and give him a heritage to live up to [Andy and Gibson act like Clarence is a na´ve kid, but he looks almost as old as they are]. Clarence asks about his real surname and a light goes on for Gibson: Dempsey.

Gibson and the newly-christened Clarence Dempsey, now dressed in boxing garb, return to the scene of Clarence's great victory over Mayberry's mighty deputy sheriff. They are now promoting a new show starring an actual descendant of legendary boxer Jack Dempsey. Warren, Goober, and Floyd are present to hear Gibson's new spiel. Andy sees the poster in Floyd's window and rolls his eyes.

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.

1 1/2 Huh?s

Note: Now, you may be wondering, what is a half a "huh"? A hu-? Well, in the scene where Warren is getting a haircut, he is heard to say a very half-hearted "huh." (perhaps he knew this was his last episode and his heart was not in the "huh"). Well, the "huh" is barely audible, and may even be more of a "heh"; but, because I vowed to count every single "huh," I count this one as 1/2 a "huh." Warren lived by the code of the north east: "The man who out-huhs ya, out-does ya," or something like that.


Warren's Last Ride

Later, dude
It was nice knowing ya.

Wyatt Earp Rides Again was Warren's final episode and it was not a memorable one. Warren's superior arm strength [at least in Mayberry] is revealed and his match with Clarence Earp was his one big scene. The writers must have known that Warren's character was to be written out of the series as, for the most part, he had a background role, not even comedy relief. What if Clarence Earp took out Andy at high noon like his alleged great uncle took out so many bad guys back in the day [actually, I think the real Wyatt Earp beat up a few dancehall girls]? Clarence Earp lived by the code of the old west and also seemed a bit obsessed with his gun-slinging image [Barney would have called him "a nut"]. Who knows of what he was capable? Warren would have become the new sheriff [at least on an interim basis]. This possibility should have given Warren more air time. Curiously, the potential of Warren succeeding Andy is not even brought up though it must have crossed each of their minds. Still, Warren concentrated on his job and, instead of interfering with the stand-off or begging Andy not to go through with it, he stayed focused on the Mayberry citizens, making sure the kids stayed away from the scene of a possible shoot-out. Rest assured, no matter what happened, Mayberry was in good hands.

What Happened to Warren?
and Warren's Legacy

What happened to Warren? The writers never say. He just vanished and his name would never again be uttered on the show and not even on the reunion specials, although Jack Dodson rattled off Jack Burns's name when he was breezing through a list of actors who were semi-regulars on TAGS during an Andy Griffith Show reunion aired sometime in the 1990s. Maybe Warren joined the FBI or the CIA. Maybe he was discovered as a brilliant mosaic tile artist and toured the world displaying his creations. Maybe he sleep-walked (or is it slept-walked?) back to Boston.

A more plausible explanation is that Helen fell in love with Warren after the sleepwalking incidents to the point that Andy had to physically restrain her or else she'd be all over him. In the original airing of 'Warren's Eleven,' Helen does not appear in the remaining 4 episodes after
Girl-Shy. In the order that the episodes were filmed, after Girl-Shy, Helen only appears in The Church Organ during which she anxiously agreed to work with Warren (and only Warren) on the church organ committee (...hmmmm). Anyway, afraid of losing his girl to his handsome, young deputy (he had a lot of Tuesday night dates invested in her), Andy called in a "favor" from one of his law connections and had Warren sent away on a trumped up charge. Mayberrians, with no reason to doubt the bogus charges, regarded Warren as a disgrace and never mentioned his name again.

As conceivable as this theory sounds, we will never know the real reason for Warren's departure. What we do know is that he was not replaced. Andy would never again have a full-time deputy. Being the only law enforcement officer in town must have been very taxing; no wonder he continued to be such a grouch. Warren's tenure was very short but he deserved some explanation for his exit from Mayberry. At least he left us with 'Warren's Eleven,' being the featured character in five of the episodes (
The Bazaar, A Warning From Warren, The Cannon, Girl-Shy, and, sharing the main role with Otis, Otis the Artist), playing a significant part in two of the episodes (The Church Organ and The Legend of Barney Fife), and, in two other episodes, poviding comedy relief during the season where TAGS began being more story-line and less slap-stick based (Aunt Bee Takes a Job and Lost and Found). Still, his character is sometimes forgotten by TAGS fans and was not even listed on several TAGS websites (until this author pointed out the glaring omission to the webmasters). This website thus serves as Warren Ferguson's "Revenge" (not even Howard Sprague has such a site) which leads to my:

Ode to Warren

There once was a deputy named Warren,
Whose Boston ways seemed a bit foreign.

But when he stamped out gambling,
Cannonballed the museum thieves,
And almost changed a drunk's life,
The folks of Mayberry realized
He was the perfect replacement for Barney Fife.

When the dashing Warren was around, the females were in heaven,
But, alas, the episodes he lasted numbered only eleven.

But during his brief stay,
Did he make people laugh?
Did he make people smile?
Did he entertain?
Well, duh!

So, please give Warren a chance...
Won't ya, huh-huh-huh?

You want to make the rounds again, don't ya?
huh? huh? huh?
Sure ya do! Back to The Bazaar!

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