Archive for February, 2009

Saturday, February 21st, 2009
Hope of Spring

Hope of Spring

Roping Wild Bees

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

One warm, late spring day I was with my uncle way up North Morgan creek in western Burnet County. Here the water runs clear between shear canyon walls riddled with natural holes and small caves. These openings in the rock walls make perfect homes for the wild bees that inhabit the area. Building their hives here protect  them from most of the animals, including men, that pray on their sweet honey. On top of the canyons, the land spreads out into level meadows, covered with bushes, clovers, and wild flowers loaded with pollen and nectar. These meadows were a perfect place for bees to harvest their needs.

That day we were in one of these meadows called Mud Flats looking for strayed cattle. The old pick-up bounced along the trail that we pretended was a road. Suddenly Uncle Luther slammed on the brakes, and pointed to an unusual looking something hanging from a sumac bush. It was a swarm of wild bees, out looking for another place to build their home. Uncle Luther explained that in spring, when everything was in bloom, and the bees were making lots of honey, the hive would split and the old queen and thousands of bees would leave the group, looking for a new home. In their search they would light on a limb to rest. This is what Luther had found.

There were hundreds of bees flying around and making me a little nervous, but Luther explained when bees were swarming they were very gentle and rarely sting. He got a burlap bag from the pick-up and carefully eased the open sack over the hanging bunch of bees. He closed and tied the top of the sack and had me cut the limb from the bush. Luther then had me take an ax and cut a cedar pole about eight feet long and tie it to the pick-up and sticking out the back. He then tied the sack of humming bees to the cedar pole. We drove hurriedly back to the ranch house and Luther put the bees into a box hive. He said that was what the bees were looking for and would stay there.

The next day Uncle Luther sent me back to Mud Flats to look for those missing cows. I saddled Pacer, a big paint horse gentle enough for a kid to ride. I was excited about the real cowboy assignment. As I was looking for the strayed cows, I spotted another swarm of bees. I remembered how excited Uncle Luther was with the first swarm of bees, I figured he would be proud of me if I brought one in by myself. I rummaged through the saddlebags and found some string and a burlap bag. I held my breath and eased the opened bag up and over the hanging swarm of bees. I tied the top, and cut the limb from the bush and stood there with a hand full of sacked bees. How am I going to carry this sack on a horse? Pacer, my horse looked at the sack and wondered nervously what I was going to do. I cut a stick about four feet long, tied the sack of bees to one end and the other end to the saddle. I mounted the now wide-eyed Pacer and started for home. We were doing pretty well, going down the trail until the stick came untied and swung under Pacer belly. In spite of Luther’s statement that swarming bees are gentle, several bees were able to sting Pacer’s tender underside. I dismounted, very unceremoniously, but was able to grab the sack of bees as Pacer hurried home without me. I needed to walk anyway. I boxed the swarm of bees in an unused hive and they lived happily ever after. Years later, when I was in college, Uncle Luther sent a jar of honey from ‘my’ hive. How sweet it was.

For Your Pleasure

Monday, February 9th, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

Monday, February 9th, 2009

 

            I don’t know why boys do it.  But on bright, cool, days of late winter we liked to walk in the woods, with no purpose or destination in mind.  We just headed for the nearest wooded pasture and walked for the thrill of being away from houses, streets, and perhaps parents. My friend, Roy Edward and I practiced this pass time often. 

            This particular day the weather was just right, the temperature perfect, and we felt that primeval urge calling from the pastures like Ulysses’ sirens.  With a gentle breeze to our backs we headed for the woods.  We heard a yell. “ Hey guys, where are you going?” a voice called.  It was Donald Guy Hicks.  Donald was an ok guy, but a little round all over and considered a little sissy.  And he was just a kid.  Roy and I were fourteen years old and almost grown, and this boy could not have been much older that ten or eleven.  “We are just going walking,” we said.  “Hey, I want to go too,” Donald said.  With some disappointment we agreed, but he would have to leave that stupid rope.  He said he would walk behind us and be quite, and besides we might find a tall tree to swing from. “Ok, but the first problem you cause, it’s back home you go,” we demanded.

            The pastures, meadows, and woods were particularly pleasant that day.  We walked for some time and came upon an old abandoned quarry.  The scar in the hillside made by the equipment and the cutting of stone had left a jumbled, other world landscape.  We climbed tumbled rocks, and boulders, jumping from one to another with glee.  Exhausted, we found a comfortable place to sit and toss pebbles into the pond of blue green water at the bottom of the quarry.  Hunger is never far from young kids thoughts.  So Roy and I hatched a plan.  We sent Donald back to my house for something to eat.  I wrote Mother a note asking for bacon, potatoes, bread, and a frying pan.  Donald soon returned with the food.  We built a fire, fried the bacon, fried the potatoes, and even fried slices of bread in the bacon grease.  We ate it all.  Like three fat dogs we lay on the warm rocks and talked of far away places, with strange sounding names, and expansive white sandy beaches.

            Suddenly we were aware of the fact it was getting late. We hurriedly scooped up all our stuff and started towards home.  In my hurry I took a short cut close to the forbidding pond.  A sand covered rock, and my hurry caused me to fall into the greenish water, skillet, sack and all.  The walls around the water were all perpendicular and proved impossible to climb out.  I yelled and splashed about looking for a handhold.  Roy was running around the edge yelling.  But Donald coolly uncoiled that stupid rope, tossed me one end and he and Roy pulled me to safety.  That was one cool walk home, but a happy one.  Donald Guy looked a lot older that day, and he wasn’t as fat, or as sissified as we first thought.