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The Father Chronicles

The Bee Keeper

The Bee Keeper & Hives
The Bee Keeper & Hives

My dad was the youngest of the six boys, and the only kid younger than he was, was my Aunt Lynne – the only girl in the family – and probably pretty much spoiled for it.

Since my Dad was the youngest of the boys, he was the one left on the farm to help out at the start of the War. As a sideline, my grandfather kept a small stand of trees that he sold timber off of. My father’s “sideline” was bees.

My Dad’s been pretty concerned about the “Colony Collapse Disorder” news that’s been all over of late. He kept bees for years, from the time he was a pre-teen, still living at home, and off and on into the 1980’s. His concerns for Beedom in general are what prompted him to tell this story ; a new one, I’d never heard before. He outed himself on nearly killing his little sister. At least, that seems to be his take on things. I think he still feels guilty, even after all these years.

While his brothers went off to War, Dad stayed home and helped my grandfather run the farm, kept his bees, and helped when the time came to “water the timber”.

“Watering the timber” was the term used for saving time and money on transporting any wood you had to sell. If you were close enough to a main waterway, you dumped it in the water, and floated it to a point closer to where you were selling it – saved hauling it by horse and wagon, which was the only other way to do it if you were a poor farmer on the Manitoulin in the 40’s.

Working or Playing...?
Working or Playing…?

I’m not sure if this is a picture of my dad watering the timber, or of my dad just muckin’ about on a homemade raft. For the purposes of this blogpost, though, he’s watering the timber. I’m a good re-purposer. Learned that from my dad. 😀

That year, about a week before my grandfather was set to water his timber, my Dad’s bees started acting up. He decided he’d better get another hive on the stack. He was pretty sure his colony was about to swarm. How he knew this, he never quite made clear to me. What he did make pretty clear, was the trouble he would have if those bees swarmed on him before he could get an empty hive up for them.

They would split up the colony, a new queen would be “crowned”, and would lead her people away to build a new hive, most likely ending up in a tree somewhere, several fields away. My Dad would have to find the new hive and get it into one of his boxes somehow, I guess, or lose half his bees. I imagine that would cause havoc between queens once the new colony was reintroduced to the old one again, too.

Anyway, he could tell something was up, and was pretty sure they were going to swarm. He wanted to take care of things before that happened, but somehow managed to put it off until the timing right sucked. The morning he and my grandfather drove off to water the timber, my Dad looked out at his hives and saw that it was the 11th hour. They were about to swarm – he knew they were.

So my Dad tells my grandfather that he’ll catch up with him – he’s going to take care of these bees first. Well, Grandpa wasn’t impressed (thought the bees were a stupid hobby to begin with), and told my Dad he could just put that idea out of his head until they’d come back from watering the timber. He needed his help.

My Dad argued, but couldn’t get Grandpa to bend, and then Lynnie piped up. She would have been a young teen then, maybe around 14 or 15, and she told my Dad that she’d take care of it. She knew how to set the hive, she knew how to use the smoker… She could do it.

My Dad reluctantly agreed, and left with my grandfather, reminding Lynnie to light the smoker before she started, but not to use it unless she had to. So, Lynnie got the equipment, and hauled it down to take care of setting up the new hive. She was near-done, my Dad figures, when the bees swarmed – and she’d lit the smoker… but she panicked, and didn’t use it. It might not have mattered by then, anyway.

When my Dad and Grandpa got home that evening, Lynnie was in bed, bandaged to within an inch of skin showing. She was stung hundreds of times, nearly died. She was in that bed for weeks.

I don’t think my Dad has got over that yet.

***

I applied for two jobs today – one will use everything I’ve learned in school these last eleven months… and the other (((shudder)))… I don’t want to talk about that one.

Random Song for the Day: “Give a Little Bit” – Supertramp

3 replies on “The Bee Keeper”

Let me advise you that I enjoyed this immensely. I would have never volunteered to do that job…as a matter or fact, I’m not sure about the log ride either!

Les Says: They didn’t actually ride the logs (”burling”, that’s called) – in fact, I doubt they were even full logs – but floated them down with the current, all mixed up with other people’s timber. They would sort them out by whatever marks they’d put on them once they caught up with them where ever the heck they ended up. Me, I think I’d rather deal with the bees. Mind you, I’d have had them right stoned on the smoke rather than take a chance at being in the middle of a swarm.

For years I have been fascinated with bees, reading as many books as I can get my hands on about them. Thanks for the taste of honey.

Les Says: I’m glad you liked the story, Denise. Now, please get Lucha on the CCD problem – if anybody can solve it, it’s him.

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