The Bee Whisperer


I’ve been reading about beekeeping over at Flimsy Sanity. They’re endlessly entertaining creatures – although a bit anal-retentive (do bees have anuses?) – in their perfectly ordered societies. No wonder Sherlock Holmes kept them as a hobby.

Poor But Sweet

My grandfather and two uncles were beekeepers. They lived in a remote West Virginia holler, so poverty-stricken that their tar-paper shack was one step up from a homeless person’s cardboard box. Baths were taken in a creek behind the house. The toilet was a two-hole, open pit outhouse where old, crinkly Sears catalogs served as paper. Water came from an open, leaf-choked spring about 1/2 mile from the house. Wood chopped from near the spring heated the place – although one year they disassembled the dining room and burnt it in the single pot-bellied stove when the snow was too deep to cut wood.

As a boy of 12 or so, I clearly remember electricity coming to the holler courtesy of a spool of wire on the back of a mule and tree-mounted insulators leading from the gravel road atop the high ridge. Food was a combination of spuds, corn, and cabbage from a rock-strewn garden, supplemented by squirrel and coon killed in the surrounding hills. A dozen chickens had the run of the place, sometimes coming into the house in the summer. They laid eggs under the house where I collected them immediately before being fried in lard. Ten or 12 beehives provided sweetener for coffee and fresh biscuits.

The three men of the house were practiced beekeepers, able to understand the intricacies of bee life and capable of gathering fresh bees into the fold by carefully moving wild bees into their pitiful homemade boxes. As my grandfather grew older, my uncles tended the bees more and more. They wore thick clothes tied off at the sleeves and ankles and topped with netted pith helmets for protection. They always approached the hives hesitantly, armed with smokers – small containers with a bellows atop and smoldering rags inside. Sprayed into the front of the hives, it induced a lazy euphoria – a sort of marijuana high encouraging the bees to be less active. But even with the protection, the uncles suffered stings and yelled loudly in pain each time.

Zen and the Art of Beekeeping

But watching my grandfather was a zen experience. He connected with the bees in a supernatural way, a sort of “bee whisperer” who understood them better than most folks understand their neighbors. He rarely wore the beekeeper getup and gave the bees the most fragile of highs.

He approached the hives slowly and methodically, creeping so slowly the bees must have considered him a tree suddenly sprung up from the ground around the hives. With bare hands, he gently scooped the bees away from their front door, opened the tops of the hives, and slowly drew out honey-dripped screens full off comb and royal jelly. He softly brushed the bees off the screen and removed the gooey gold. The bees never seemed to mind his benevolent robberies of their sticky home. They rarely stung him for his efforts.

As a suburban kid raised on refined sugar I didn’t like honey. But as the years flew by I adjusted and came to love the sweet nectar spread on fresh biscuits and in my tea. When I eat it today, I flash back to those visits over home and think of my grandfather, the bee whisperer, gently going about his business while the bees went about theirs. The old man may have been achingly poor, but his relationship with the bees kept him spiritually fed.

And, that’s just not something you can say about fresh squirrel meat in a pool of red gravy.

Spin the Wheel of Random

Hey Homie! – Yes, I can feel the love shining through.

The Few, The Proud, The Dykes – Seeing as how Cap’n Dyke has bestowed an honorary lesbianship upon me, I’d like to take this opportunity to show my solidarity with my sisters.

Clever, Fiendish Bastards! – Those paragons of moral relativism, the Saudis, are really striking back against the thundering Christian Crusade. And I bet they they think Christians are Pootieheads to boot.

Flown On Weekends by a Lil’ Ol’ Pilot From Petropovlosk – I always wanted my own air force.

Indignity Heaped Upon Indignity – Yes, it is tastefully obscene, but I can’t resist.

Does Robin Williams Know About This? – I liked the razor so much, I bought the company!

Put THAT In Your Funk & Wagnall’s – The newest edition to the Omnipotent Poobah Memorial Reference Library.

I Love a Good Boob ArticleBeer. Boobs. What’s not to like? The dogs say yum too.

The Human Genome in Action – Funny, I never noticed the resemblance before.

Charlatans on Every CornerLook all you want, but remember, “Thou shalt worship no other Poobah before me.” Thanks Mary. Come back soon, I miss you.

Not FunnyThis isn’t a funny post, but it’s a damn good one. Thanks and a tip of the keyboard blogstyle to Ms. Syl.

Raincoats and YouThis is your condom. It is your friend. Read it. Learn it. Live it. Who knew they were so versitile?

Blue Gal Where Are Yoooooou – I’m not sure, but this bears a striking similarity to Blue Gal’s MO.

Pierce This! – And another bit of proof for my belief that making yourself whistle when the wind blows is NOT a good idea. Even if you do know what time it is.

Lesson #436, Not Getting LaidA self-explanatory video.

I’ll Give it a Nine Because It Has a Good Beat and I Can Dance to ItJust go see it (NSFW).

Golden Age of Animation – I first saw this movie in college and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s the best movie ever!

Go Bears! – At least he has his priorities straight.

Watch Out Starbucks – Friends don’t let friends go to Starbucks…they just put on lingerie and grind the coffee.

What the Hell is Wrong With the World Today.

Poobah Down, Traffic Up

I’ve been a little busy the past few days (today too judging from the length of this post) so I haven’t posted. It’s heartening to see that despite my absence traffic went up.

Hey! Wait a minute! Are you trying to tell me something?

He’s Got a Gun!

I heard several minutes of the Blitzer/Cheney interview yesterday and The Big Dick is apparently practicing answers for his probable testifying at Scooter’s trial. Proving he’s not a one trick pony, the Dark Prince answered nearly every question with, “That’s an unfair question” or “I’m not going to answer that” or “Dammit, shut the f**ck up before I blow half your face off”.

Damn pesky reporters asking questions. Who the hell do they think they are?

Let’s All Go to Our Happy Place

Fox News – not content with outing Osama, er, Obama as a dreaded six-year old, madrasa-trained terrorist – has moved on to polling via scowl. They say Hillary was trying to send a message with her oh-so-expressive face. Me? I think she was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the Sandman Insurgent Army and was trying to keep her eyes open during the Snooze of the Nation speech.

I’m With the Band

It looks like George Bush’s rock band, The Imperial Morons, have their share of groupies. Michel “Plaster Caster Bachmann, just couldn’t keep her hands off the Big Guy after the SOTU speach. After a few minutes of fawning, Bachmann was able to canoodle with Prez while whispering in his ear, “I’m all yours you big dumb ox. Stop by the cloakroom after this and me and Katie Harris will fix you up with a threesome you’ll never forget.”

No report if Laura, Barney, and Mrs. Beasley were jealous.