Stories are a form of comic relief and building good neighborly relations. As a kid, I grew up listening to stories about family and neighbor foibles around the campfire at the lake cabin. Usually all or most of us witnessed the thing that the stories were based on, but we loved recounting the chain of events, building on each other’s assessment of the situation. One our favorites focused on my Dad, our neighbor Kevin, and his father-in-law Willie, and THE BEEHIVE. Willie was an old farmer who, even at the lake, would wear overalls just about every day as if he had a cornfield to plant. He was a self-proclaimed “expert” in many things, but mostly he was an old coot, retired from a long stint as a local county commissioner. Kevin was no handyman or horticulturalist and spent a lot of time harassing my Dad from his lawnchair. The more Brandy and Diet Coke he drank, the more his common sense would be replaced by a “ah, screw-it” attitude, which was entertaining to see in action.
One summer Saturday, Kevin discovered a hive of bees in the tree he was trimming and was completely perplexed about what to do. Shortly, my Dad became engaged in the situation and suggested that Kevin get some hornet killer, but unfortunately there was none to be had. My Dad, aka, the “instigator”, probably had the right item to do the job, but did not offer because he wanted to see what other interesting ideas Kevin and Willie might come up with. Kevin told my Dad “we don’t need no goddamn spray, I got some RoundUp” (which Dad noted, only kills things with roots, not wings) and proceeded to shoot a heavy stream of the stuff on the hive. It seemed Roundup is indeed only effective on weeds, as the bees just swarmed around more angrily than before. Willie, who was watching and assessing the situation expertly suggested that they smoke out the bees, as he pointed out, this is what they used to do “back in da old days”. My Dad enthusiastically agreed this was the best plan. Willie went back to his garage and came out with a dripping rag soaked with dirty oil and Kevin found a long stick. Willie directed Kevin to stuff the lit rag into the tree. Like an Olympic torch-bearer, Kevin paraded with the stick toward the tree and nervously propped it up by the beehive. As he ran from the swarm, he inadvertently kicked over the stick and started a small grass fire. The bees were still in the tree. Dad chuckled and said “Well boys, I think you done well here” and headed off to find the hornet spray.