My guess is you have never heard the name Frank Tarloff.
In 1953, Mr. Tarloff was blacklisted. This happened after he was categorized as a hostile witness when he appeared before the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee.
For the next twelve years, he lived with family in England where Mr. Tarloff continued his craft as a screenwriter working under the pseudonym of David Adler.
During the eight year run of the Andy Griffith Show, one Christmas episode was developed and produced. Simply titled “The Christmas Story”, this show aired on December 19, 1960. That was the first year the Andy Griffith Show appeared on television.
Working in England must have rubbed off on Mr. Tarloff. The framework of the script for “The Christmas Story” is similar to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Christmas in Mayberry is disrupted by local department store owner, Ben Weaver.
Ben comes across as mean, ornery, and insistent that Sheriff Andy Taylor lock up Sam, a local citizen of Mayberry who is in possession of moonshine.
As Sheriff Taylor tries to persuade Ben to put these charges on hold until after Christmas, Ben will not budge.
When Deputy Barney Fife chimes in “But, it’s Christmas,” Ben expresses his contempt for Christmas—it means nothing to him.
Reluctantly, Sheriff Taylor complies and puts Sam, a family man in one of the jail cells.
At this point, Andy, Barney, and Sam realize that Ben Weaver has succeeded in crushing the spirit of Christmas. Their traditional plans, the normal celebrating, and all of the trimmings have been dashed by one miserable individual.
But, Andy in his own unique way ponders the situation and exclaims: “No by dogged, there is more than one way to pluck a buzzard.”
At that point, Andy cleverly works to counter the meanness and contempt of Ben Weaver.
Andy saves Christmas in Mayberry. But, he also unknowingly will eventually see through Ben Weaver’s contempt of Christmas. Andy sees that Ben is looking for the same thing we are all looking for— love.
Right now, in America and around the world, we have learned quite a bit about disruptions. This is thanks to COVID-19 who unlike Scrooge or Ben Weaver doesn’t understand anything about love.
In John Feinstein’s book A Civil War: Army vs Navy, he writes about football related to the rivaled competition between the two military academies in their annual meeting. The book is an exceptional behind the scenes look at the longstanding traditions of this game. But, Feinstein also tells the story in real time which adds even more to the passion and emotion.
One chapter in the book is titled Zoomie Warfare. Zoomies is the nickname given to the cadets who attend the United States Air Force Academy. This name was bestowed upon them by their rivals at West Point and Annapolis.
Presently, that nickname appears to have some relevance in our current time.
Since March, how many Zoom calls have you been a participant?
I have lost count, but lots of us now could probably be called “zoomies.” Not because we have been trained to fly supersonic jet fighter planes, but because we have used Zoom technology to keep us connected.
During these months of disruption, my wife and I have a group of zoomies who we Zoom with twice a month on Sunday afternoons.
These zoomies are our college friends.
They are an exceptional group of people.
I learn something from them every time we Zoom.
For example, citrus farmers in Florida think a blast of cold winter air adds to the sweetness of oranges, not all guitars are made of wood, there are lots of different types of sheets for beds, selling an airplane requires an extra dose of patience, avoid ladders, we’re getting older, and when your wife wants a peace sign in her yard as a Christmas present—you make one.
That’s what our college pal, our fellow zoomie, Steve Boone did for his wife, Kathleen, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
We learned about this project a few weeks ago, and of course, all of the zoomies on the call had advice along with a dose of encouragement.
If you are interested in the recipe, here are the basics.
You’ll need at least 8 feet of 3/4 inch PVC tubing.
Next, you must create a jig, a device that holds a piece of tubing in place so that it can be curved.
To curve the PVC, hot water is needed. This allowed Steve to shape the PVC to get 1/3 of a curve.
No glue is required. Steve mechanically connected the pieces so he can break the symbol down at the end of the displaying season.
He used 160 feet of LED “fairy” lights.
Along the way, you will need the patience of Job, the brain of Albert, two huge oak trees, a bit of luck, and a wife who really loves you.
Steve has them all.
The completed peace symbol is almost 8 feet in width, weighs close to 20 pounds. and is displayed prominently in their front yard between two timeless oak trees.
Steve’s only worry is an ice storm, but he devised a quick release system in case of uncooperative winter weather.
Yes, our zoomie pal is a genius, but more importantly he has a kind heart.
In Frank Tarloff’s script, Ben Weaver needed a kind heart to disrupt his unkind heart. He needed someone to counter his drive to make others miserable during Christmas. That person was Sheriff Taylor. He figured out what Ben’s heart really needed—love.
For the life of me, I do not know how the very gifted guitarist and songwriter, Eric Clapton is still alive. The mental and physical abuse he put his body through via addictions and poor choices is unbelievable. Yet, he lives.
In one of the many pivotal points in his life, Mr. Clapton worked to kick a three year addiction to heroin. Mr. Clapton learned that the professionals treating him gave him something very important—“They gave me love, and I found that was the medicine I needed far more than the actual treatment.”( Slowhand Norman 269)
“But, this is Christmas.”
Thank God it is.
And while this Christmas might be the most disrupted one we have ever experienced, we can’t forget its key ingredient, the medicine for all our souls—even for Ben Weaver, Steve Boone, and Eric Clapton—love.
“But, this is Christmas.”
And as improbable as that time worn story might be, we can’t let go of Christmas because that story is love.
If we truly want peace on earth and good will toward us all, then somehow, someway, we must find the way to love.
“But, this is Christmas zoomies,” and we need to remember Christmas every day of the approaching new year.
We need to use its love to disrupt our lives and the lives of the people we encounter every day too.
Love + Will = Peace
Go disrupt zoomies.
Use your love and will to change this world to bring us peace.
In our hearts, we know this is long overdue.
*Author’s note Wikipedia, John Feinstein’s A Civil War, and Philip Norman’s Slowhand were sources for this piece. Thanks also to Steve Boone for his technical notes and this photograph of the completed project.