Column: It’s all how you look at it
Tony, the cowboy next door, came over to use our phone. I traded a long distance phone call for his permission to tell about the bees. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and nothing could be truer than how he and I saw the bees.
A swarm of honeybees about the size of a football had clustered on a branch in a tree between our two yards and Tony pointed them out. I thought, “How wonderful,” and told him about the time a swarm as long as my arm and as thick as a pickle barrel clung to a branch in our back yard. I had worried the bees would consider my kids, who loudly play outside, a threat and attack, so I called the extension office to see what I should do. They gave me the name of some beekeepers in the area, explaining it was probably a new swarm splintered off from its original colony, with a new queen, looking for a new home. Since it was a cool morning the bees would stay huddled together but as the day heated up they would probably move on, not liking being in the open.
I called beekeepers and left messages and sure enough as the day warmed so did the bees and the colony started to expand. I gathered the boys into the house and we watched from the windows what looked like a fuzzy saddle shape expand to the size of a giant black umbrella covering the tree’s crown. The bees’ noise grew like a blender on low pureeing a heavy load, whirling and vibrating. Then, slowly, en masse, the bees rose into the air traveling over the house. We ran to the front porch to watch them move out across the fields till we couldn’t see or hear them any longer. I called the beekeepers back and said the bees were gone, no need to come out.
Tony listened politely while I talked with all the excitement, arm motions and sound effects I remembered from that day. When I finished, Tony – wearing his sweat-stained, soft felt, cowboy hat – nodded an said, “If I had one bee in the cab of my truck, and I was going down the highway, I would just as soon jump out of my truck and take my chances with the traffic rather than stay in the truck with that bee.”
Tony, a modest man not taken to exaggeration, meant that. It reminded me of the time he accidentally sawed his wrist open with a handsaw and said it was a good thing he got the motor stopped on the thing in time before it cut his whole hand off. Or when he ripped his hand on the cattle shoot, I took him to emergency for stitches; the receptionist filling out forms asked his religious affiliation. Tony said he didn’t think he was cut that bad. This list of injuries received while cowboying includes: a broken knee, a side split open showing his rib bones, his nose sliced open, an ear lopped off and reattached. I understood Tony really didn’t like bees. I volunteered to again call beekeepers to see if they would remove the swarm.
But as before the bees moved before anyone showed. I had been off our place all day so when I saw Tony the next day I asked him if he had the opportunity to see the bees’ flight. He said they had relocated to the loading chute. I didn’t ask any more. I visualized a bunch of cows in a narrow alleyway, a swarm of bees and Tony. I’m sure the bees left with a little cowboy encouragement. What may look beautiful, necessary and good to some folks can be just a lot of trouble brewing for others who can’t wait for someone else to solve their problems. Ranchers have their share of busy bees.
(Marie Johnson is a resident of Fredericksburg, Calif., whose column “Fence Lines” appears monthly.)