When we were young, we loved to walk
down the worn path that led us into the woods. The crystalline creek
tumbled among the boulder rocks in the days we rode rope swings and
dug our heels into the cool sand of the streambed. In the spring,
redbuds and dogwoods swayed in the bracing breeze. Every fall, a
blaze of red and gold filled the forest where fallen leaves crunched
beneath our feet.
Among the billowing clouds
, migrating birds headed south to a summer land protected from
winter winds. It was one of those colorful days of late fall, that
we discovered honeybees nesting high in an old hollow hickory tree.
There seemed to be a sense of urgency in their activity. Although
the meadows and roadsides were still abloom with asters and
goldenrods, these last vestiges of the floral season were quickly
We admired the industry of
these insects and mused as to what treasures they had stored. A
flood of excitement entered when someone suggested we cut down the
ancient tree and examine the nest more closely. Soon, the hickory
felt the bite of our cross-cut saw. After cutting half-way into the
tree, the old hickory splintered and ejected the bees and honeycombs
onto the ground. Thousands of confused stinging insects prompted us
to scramble toward home. At dawn, on the following day, we returned
to the site.
The bees had cleaned
themselves up and assembled upon a fallen branch. We adorned
ourselves with home-made screen veils, heavy clothing, and work
gloves. The heat was terrible but protection was considered
advisable. The bees, surprisingly, did not attack us as we slid a
gunny over them and the limb. In a nearby pasture, a sun bleached
beehive was retrieved.
The previous owner had abandoned the
empty boxes. Therefore, we considered him relieved. Many beekeepers
prefer that” gray, weathered look” to their equipment. Like the
beehives they manage, beekeepers have withstood storms, summer heat,
and howling winter winds to become nature-proof to whatever
challenge may present itself.