A HORNET'S NEST
The legend around this ranch says:
Redheads are more apt to land in a
hornet's nest than anyone else, and I don't disagree.
During my lifetime,
I've been stung so many times I've lost tally,
and each summer "me and the
bees" still make connections, one way or the
My first memory of the big sting
was back when I was still riding a
stick horse. I'd thrown the big "sorrel" fellow
over a foot gate near the
corral and began the climb to join him on the
other side. Little did I know
as I stepped on the top pole, that my hoss had
squarely speared a mammoth,
smoking hornets' nest during its airborne trip.
By the time it all registered, I
had been "hit" twice and was knocked
backwards, landing on my back in the dandelions.
I left "Old Red" to fend
for himself and raced to the house to let my
mom know I was dying.
The next summer, when I was about
six or seven years old, I headed down
the irrigating ditch near our old house. I hadn't
gone far when the soft
ground along the path ignited in a storm of yellow
jackets that were trying
to make their home beneath the sandy ditch bank.
They were outraged at the
little brat who'd stomped through their territory
and stirred 'em up.
It took only a second for them to
put fire in my baggy pants and a buzz
in my tee shirt as they swarmed into every opening.
Once again, I was sure
I was dying as the bees drove me back to the
house. My mom ripped off my
clothes, and the "jackets" flew to the four winds.
Over the years, I've even been stung while
moving cows. I can simply be
riding along minding my own business and out
of the blue - Pow! - they've
gotcha. After being "nailed," the pain grows
rapidly and moves away from
the bite site like fire in dry prairie grass.
It goes from a sharp nip to a
deep tidal wave of pulsing pain, radiating from
your pigtails clean to your
I, now, can predict precisely how
bad the pain will be, if I chance to
see the little devil before I've pinched, stomped,
slapped, squashed, or
scared it off with high-pitched screams.
I've knelt down on honeybees while
filling bale-sweep water cans at a
creek or slough, and have discovered that the
impact from their sting
doesn't last very long. But from the little honeybee
on up the chain of
command to bumblebees, hornets, yellow jackets,
and wasps, the effects of
the sting can be the topic of conversation for
This summer has been no different
for "me and the bees." One morning, I
was sweeping out the outhouse getting ready for
the hay crew, and while
nonchalantly humming Song of the South, "...the
bare necessities, the
simple bare necessities...forget about your worries
and your cares..."
something kept tapping me lightly on the head
and shoulders. Still, I
continued sweeping and humming, while the tapping
kept happening, until
suddenly it dawned on me that my humming had
picked up a deep bass
accompaniment, and I thought, "Oh, sh--!"
When I looked up, the little one-seat
cubicle was swarming with
hornets. Seems I'd been poking my broom handle
against their football-sized
homestead that was hanging in the corner. I knew,
indeed, as I listened to
the intensity of the drone vibrating deep within
the layered paper nest, I
was NOT welcome. But, for some strange reason
this particular colony of
little hotshots only warned me, politely, "Get
the heck out! And stay out!"
Because I never argue with any bee, I backed