To Bee or Not to Bee
“The widder’s good to me, and friendly; but I can’t stand them ways. . She won’t let me sleep in the woodshed; I got to wear them blamed clothes that just smothers me, Tom; they don’t let any air git through `em. . I got to wear shoes all Sunday.” – Huckleberry Finn, in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
As dusk descends on the honeybee yard on Charles Ryden’s Main Elk Creek ranch, I hear the distant laughter and faint shouts of boys running through woods. I set down my smoker and listen.
Oh, those boys! They embody everything the rest of us lost long ago – openness, innocence, a sense of wonder.
Cody and Mark live in the old ranch house. They both love to talk.
When I asked 11-year-old Mark about the fishing in the creek, he allowed as how it was pretty good. I asked him what kind of trout. “Oh, browns, brookies, rainbows,” he said.
“How big?” I asked. I wanted to know.
Mark held out his hands and moved them slowly back and forth like an accordionist – or an honest angler.
“You sure they’re that big?” I asked.
“Oh, you bet,” he said.
I had only recently put bees on the ranch, and Mark wanted to know all about the little darlings.
Just then 10 frisky bulls came stomping, kicking and head-butting across the bridge. I gave a start, but Mark lounged casually against my pickup.
Mark knows a greenhorn when he sees one. He said, “I’d move my truck if I were you.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because those bulls could wreck it if they ran into it. That’s what happened to my dad’s truck.”
Jesus and Sergio and a bunch of the other Mexicans chased after the bulls, whooping and laughing as they herded them into a pen. Mark ran to join up.
When he came back, I said, “Aren’t you scared of those bulls?”
“Naw,” he said.
I said, “Wow, I’d be.”
That little philosopher looked at me and said, “Think of it this way. You’re scared of bulls. I’m scared of bees. Everybody’s scared of something.”
Mark doesn’t miss a trick. If he had a fence to whitewash, he’d let you help.
Mark’s 13-year-old brother Cody – a living, breathing reincarnation of Huckleberry Finn – wears shorts in the summer. Just shorts.
One day he said, “Your bees got in the shed, and I got stung eight times.”
“Uh oh,” I thought. “This doesn’t sound good.”
“Let’s have a look,” I said.
Just inside the shed he pointed to a nest by the door.
I said, “Let’s get out of here. Those are hornets.”
Safely outside, I said, “What happened, anyway?”
He said, “I was inside the shed, and Mark came over and said, `Mom wants you.’ Then he slammed the door and left. As soon as he slammed the door, those bees tore after me, and I went running as fast as I could, but they got me eight times.”
In my mind’s eye I watched him sprint barefoot down the lane, legs and arms pumping, yelling at the top of his lungs, while bald-faced hornets lit into his bare brown back. Why didn’t Mark Twain tell that story?
“Those were hornets,” I corrected. “Not bees.” I hate it when honeybees get a bad rap.
Youth vanishes like a dream. Rub your eyes, and it’s gone. The magic lies in remembrance, don’t you think?
Sadly, by mid-summer Mark and Cody had to wash behind their ears and . go back to school. I’m pretty sure they have to wear shoes.
Beekeeper/ski patroller Ed Colby’s column appears every other Sunday in the Post Independent. Ed’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.