To Bee or Not to Bee

Last year, Granny politely asked me to put some bees on her property.

“Sure, we’ll talk about it,” I murmured, hoping she’d forget.

Granny wasn’t offering space for a 30-hive bee yard, you understand. She wants one hive out behind the shed or on the vacant lot next door that she doesn’t own – to pollinate her fruit and garden blossoms. She wants more raspberries and bigger apples.

Curiously, she claims to be allergic to bee stings. But she lives for that garden.

Granny resides in Carbondale, but I don’t. And while I keep some bees near Aspen for a month or so in the spring, after that I hardly ever get up past Glenwood. Honeybees require care and supervision. I’m not about to run to Carbondale every two weeks to tend a solitary beehive.

A couple of months ago Granny brought it up again. I wiggled. Then last week she called. She turned on the charm, like she does when she wants something.

I sensed an obligation. After all, I passed many a summer evening fishing at her place. I never turned down a meal when I dropped in unannounced. Plus Granny and I do go back some.

Long ago she ran the Snow Chase Lodge, a ski bum flophouse at the base of Aspen Mountain. I stayed in the bunkhouse out back. Then she rented me kitchen and bathroom privileges when I moved into a nearby abandoned lift shack. When my shack’s coal stove blew up in my face, and I thought I might go blind, she drove me to the hospital.

When I shot a four-point buck, she told me to hang it by the cellar door and taught me to butcher.

When my dog trotted over Trail Rider Pass and turned up in Marble, Granny picked her up.

She crows that she taught me to ski. Actually, we did ski a day together at Buttermilk once, and she did bark out “tips.”

When she moved from Aspen to a house on Highway 82 outside of Carbondale, the deer carnage on the road bothered her. For a time, when she’d hear the screeching tires and telltale thud in the night, she’d go forth in her nightie with her Winchester .30-30. Stunned drivers and sometimes entire families watched in shell-shocked disbelief as she dispensed her mercy and then dragged Bambi down to the garage.

At some point she changed her name from “Mrs. Mac” – never her real name – to “Granny.” Complete strangers and her very closest friends call her “Pam.” Granny hops around in the garden, cussing and setting traps for “varmints.” She straightens her ball cap and squints into the sun, then takes a hard hit off her Pall Mall. “There aren’t any damned bees around here anymore. That apple tree used to hum with bees at blossom time,” she says.

I knew I owed Granny, but I didn’t want to pay up. So this morning I called Kay, a Carbondale beekeeper.

Kay said she didn’t know Granny, but she thought Granny’s property sounded like a good bee location. “Plus,” she said, “I like old people.” I spared Kay some details about Granny. She’ll learn soon enough.

OK, Kay didn’t actually commit, but she did take Granny’s number.

Like a prayer answered, later today Malika left a message about a honeybee swarm in her Basalt yard.

This gave me an excuse to bug Kay again. “Look,” I said, “You could hive this swarm and drop it off at Granny’s. Save you moving one of your heavy hives.” Kay hesitated, but she didn’t say “no.”

One way or another, Kay’s going to take Granny some bees. I know she will. She has to.

Because otherwise I have to.

Peach Valley beekeeper Ed Colby believes you should pay your debts if you can’t get out of them. You can e-mail Ed at

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