Landrum Human Resource Companies Blog

The Pickle Story

October 18, 2010

Mayberry Monday – The Pickle Story
By Holly McLeod, PHR

If you ask any fan of The Andy Griffith Show what their top five episodes are, I’d dare say that most of them would include “The Pickle Story.” This is one of the few times in Mayberry history when Aunt Bee’s cooking wasn’t exactly something to brag about, and also one of the few times I can recall when Clara Johnson (aka Edwards) was somewhat likeable…

One morning Aunt Bee was in the kitchen bottling pickles for her family, Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son Opie, and in walked her friend Clara Johnson. Clara came bearing the gift of a bottle of her own homemade pickles for Opie. Aunt Bee told Clara she had the best pickles, and recognized that Clara had won the blue ribbon at the fair for 10 years in a row. Clara corrected her, saying it had been 11 years.

Clara insisted on tasting one of Aunt Bee’s pickles, and the look on her face said it all – Aunt Bee’s pickles were not good. However, she told Aunt Bee they were “very nice… quite pleasant… and nice.” She told Aunt Bee she wouldn’t change a single thing “except the brine is just a touch too heavy, and maybe put an extra sprig or 2 of parsley steeped in the vinegar, and possibly if you can get younger cucumbers they wouldn’t be so soft, then drain them more and use fresher spices… but other than that they’re… quite nice.” On top of that, as Clara was leaving she turned around and said, “You might try boiling the vinegar just two seconds more… but… they’re nice.” OK, so maybe Clara wasn’t so likeable after all.

That afternoon Aunt Bee took lunch to Andy and his Deputy Barney Fife. She had roast beef sandwiches, coleslaw, and of course her homemade pickles. Aunt Bee was happy to be delivering her homemade pickles, and told the boys she had made eight quarts so they could have some every day. With that, she gave each of them a big pickled cucumber and watched while they bit into them. Aunt Bee was oblivious to their pained expressions as they tasted their “treat.”

After Aunt Bee left, Andy said they had to find a way to dispose of the pickles so Aunt Bee wouldn’t find out they didn’t like them. Barney asked why Aunt Bee kept making the pickles, and Andy replied that like most women, she automatically thinks homemade is better than anything from the store. My, how times have changed!

Andy said if the pickles were good ol’ store pickles, they could eat them. Barney said, “But they’re not good ol’ store pickles. They’re bad ol’ home pickles.” Andy said that they would just have to turn them in to store pickles. With that, they devised a plan to switch store-bought pickles for Aunt Bee’s homemade ones.

At the dinner table that night, and after the pickle switch, everyone was talking about how good the pickles were. Aunt Bee decided that since they were being enjoyed so much, she was going to enter the contest at the fair this year and that “this may be the year I beat out Ms. Johnson for the blue ribbon.”

The next day Clara came in the courthouse to deliver a jar of her pickles to Andy and Barney. Clara forced a pickle in Andy’s hand so he had no choice but to taste it. Thinking this would be like Aunt Bee’s pickles, he was pleasantly surprised that Clara’s homemade pickles were actually very good. Clara explained that when her husband was alive, he had loved her pickles. She then asked Andy if he had ever seen her scrapbook. She took it out and showed him her blue ribbons for each of the 11 years she had won the pickle contest at the fair, and said, “Whenever I get discouraged or lonely, I take out my book and look at my ribbons. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s a great comfort to know that there’s something I can do. You must think I’m just putting on airs, but I do try to make my pickles better every year. It means so much to me.” To those who are keeping up, Clara just redeemed herself and is likeable again.

Now Andy and Barney were in a terrible fix! How could they let poor Ms. Clara be the victim of a fixed pickle contest? Referring to Clara, Andy told Barney, “That poor soul just lives for that contest, and if she got nosed out by a store pickle I’d never forgive myself.” He then said that they had to make the contest fair and square, and that meant they were going to have to get Aunt Bee to make another batch. Barney exclaimed, “You can’t be serious! You mean you actually want her to make another batch of them kerosene cucumbers?” The only way to do that was to eat up the store-bought pickles – all eight quarts – so Aunt Bee would see them disappearing. Barney told Andy that his heart wasn’t in that plan. Andy told him it wasn’t his heart they needed; it was his stomach.

So off they went, devouring every pickle in site. Jar after jar disappeared out of the cabinet. Andy, Barney and Opie ate so many pickles they didn’t think they could face another one; however, the day finally came when the pickles were all gone. Aunt Bee was upset when she realized there were no pickles to enter into the contest, but Andy quickly made her realize she should make another batch. And that she did.

It was the day of the county fair, and Aunt Bee was nervous as the judges went from jar to jar, tasting and scrutinizing the pickles. When they got to Aunt Bee’s jar, the judges were obviously taken aback when they tasted her pickles. One judge said, “What would you say?” The other judge replied, “Kerosene?” The first judge said, “Precisely.”

When the blue ribbon was once again given to Clara Johnson, Aunt Bee was genuinely happy for her. She said, “As long as my family likes what I make, that’s blue ribbon enough for me. Actually, you boys are going to be the winners. I made a double batch this time… 16 jars. I’ll see that you get them every day.” After Aunt Bee went off to congratulate Clara, Andy said, “Well, there’s only one thing to do. Learn to love ‘em.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone would communicate in such a way that there’s no need to pull the shenanigans that Andy and Barney pulled? Had they just been gently honest with Aunt Bee in the beginning, they wouldn’t have had to eat a total of 24 quarts of pickles. Sometimes the truth isn’t easy to hear, but in my book it’s better to hear the truth than to be blissfully ignorant. Think of all the time and energy (productivity), as well as vinegar and cucumbers (resources), Aunt Bee could have saved had she just known that her talents could better be used elsewhere. I’m sure she would have enjoyed baking an apple pie much more… and we all know that Andy, Barney and Opie would have enjoyed that better!

See you next week. Stay tuned…

Holly McLeod is a Human Resources Manager for Landrum Professional Employer Services and Landrum Consulting. She is a certified professional in human resources (PHR) and has more than 15 years of human resources consulting in the corporate world, healthcare and manufacturing environments

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