“D-d-don’t move suddenly or shout!” I screamed, swatting, not brushing. The kids exploded like a school of minnows beset upon by garfish.

Sometimes It Bees That Way

By —— Bio and Archives--November 6, 2018

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Sometimes a fellow stumbles into calamities worse than he could ever imagine. Consider mythological Actaeon. He and his dogs were out hunting when he spied Artemis, bathing butt-naked in a stream. Lusty, red-blooded god Actaeon froze as he ogled the gorgeous goddess.

Suddenly, Artemis spotted him, and residing higher on Mount Olympus than he, and therefore having more powers, batted her eyes, clapped her hands, turned him into a deer, and his own hounds made hash of him.


Honeybees got me in a fix about as bad as Acteon’s. When I managed my father’s Mississippi Delta farm, I kept several hives, and often asked my boyhood best friend and mentor Jaybird to help me harvest honey. But whenever I removed a hive’s lid and the bees’ hum shifted upward several octaves, the old black man scampered a safe distance away.

“This is Louise Crenshaw,” a voice snarled over the telephone one day. “Come git this swarm out of my peach tree.”

“Yessum,” I said. Nobody disobeyed Miss Louise. Her face glowed lobster red, and her torso rivaled the Incredible Hulk’s.

When Jaybird and I arrived, kids thronged the yard, eager to watch a crazy man fool with that huge ball of bees. Recognizing an opportunity to tell them about one of Mother Nature’s marvels — an insect society that gets along far better than human society, I gave them a short lecture.

“Bees swarm when new queens threaten old queens,” I orated. “Two female bees are no more willing to share first place than two female people, and each makes a high-pitched piping sound until one out-pipes the other. The loser leaves with a bunch of workers who have gorged themselves on honey to start the new hive, and being so full, they can’t bend their bodies enough to sting. So, never fear swarms like this one.” They were impressed, although nobody edged closer.

“On the off-chance you upset the bees, never make loud noises or sudden movements,” I droned on, as a battalion of bees coated my arms. “If you get stung, never swat — brush, so you won’t squish venom into the sting.

“Now, when I lower the swarm into this box, Jaybird will clip the branch. Then, I’ll close the box, and soon the bees will start making honey in their new home.”

My unwilling assistant’s hands were shaking as he leaned over as far as he could to clamp the pruning shears above my hand on the branch supporting the bee swarm. When he exerted pressure, his right and left hands swapped places, swooshing the branch upward, creating a total eclipse of the sun as a buzzing, black ball of bees went from docile to deadly. Instantly, Jaybird disappeared.

“D-d-don’t move suddenly or shout!” I screamed, swatting, not brushing. The kids exploded like a school of minnows beset upon by garfish.

“Thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four,” Jaybird counted, daubing alcohol on welts covering my polka-dotted body. Stifling laughter, he croaked, “Don’t feel bad, son: Sometimes it bees that way.”


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Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran (Vietnam Era), former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer and ginner, author, and retired college teacher. His short story anthology, Boss, Jaybird And Me, is available at Squarebooks.com (telephone: 662-236-2262). His latest collection of faith-based short stories, entitled One Hundred By Five Hundred, is also available at Square Books (telephone: 662-236-2262) and at amazon.com. To receive Reed’s free weekly newsletter, send an email address to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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