Little Wife and the Beehive

“Well, it sure is a lovely fall day,” Little Wife said quietly to herself as she sipped her morning tea and nibbled on her toast. “I wonder what will happen today…” She was full of anticipation as she pondered what might unfold on this lovely fall day. Maybe she would ride her smallish bike. It had migrated out to the shed for the winter, but maybe she could get it out just one more time for a good ride around town. Little Wife thought of her blue Schwinn bike, circa 1965 with such tenderness. The bike she used to ride. That was not the bike she could ride anymore — it had gotten too big for her over the years, and now she rode the white and pink bike that her daughter had received for a birthday gift … when she turned five. It was just the right size for Little Wife, and she was glad for that. At least she could get out for some fresh air and exercise and a lot of sunshine. “What a great day!” she exclaimed to no one in particular as there was no one was in the room.

She climbed down from her dining room chair carefully, carrying her tea cup back to the kitchen. And then back to the table for her little plate of toast crumbs and honey drippings. She carried that to the kitchen sink, and again back to the table for the jar of honey. Something on the label caught her eye as she reached to pick it up — “All pure and natural honey. A gift from the bees in Bemidji, Minnesota.”

“Well, for goodness sake!” Little Wife spoke quite loudly this time, not caring who heard. She had spent so much of her life in Bemidji — how in the world did she end up with a jar of honey from there? What a fine surprise! She had lived there as a child, attended kindergarten there, visited her grandma and grandpa just outside of town for years and years, and then had returned to Bemidji to attend college. And then her folks had even moved there after Little Wife was grown and out the door. If Little Wife ever had a hometown, she would probably name it Bemidji.

But Bemidji is not exactly famous for honey or bees. Bemidji is the home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, and Paul liked maple syrup on his pancakes, not honey. Still, Little Wife smiled mysteriously as she thought about the bees in Bemidji because of a fond memory she held near and dear to her heart…

When she was around five years old (and living just off Beltrami Avenue, so close to the college and the Forestry Office where her daddy worked), her relatives all came for a visit. It was such a fine time because there were so many cousins, and cousins is spelled F-U-N all day long in her family. So grown ups were in the house visiting in the boring way that grown ups have; ten kids outside playing, left to their own mischievous devices. They were climbing trees, playing hide and seek, exploring the garage and other out buildings. There was even farm equipment and old cars and trucks to play on — although, of course, they had been warned several times to stay away from those. And, of course, that’s where the fun is.

(Little Wife was still standing in the kitchen, letting the sweetness of the memory fall down around her.)

Cousin Scottie was a little younger than Little Wife, and always just a little obnoxious. Scottie was usually in trouble — you could hear his poor mother hollering, “Scott Vincent James! What are you up to now?” But Auntie Helen was nowhere in sight today when Scott took a long stick and started poking it into the hole in the ground.

It didn’t take very long for all the cousins to realize the folly of poking a stick into a hole in the ground in Bemidji, Minnesota. Especially a hole in the ground with bees coming and going like it was Grand Central Station in New York. And now those bees were just as angry as hornets! Maybe even angrier!

The cousins were swarmed with bees — in their hair, up their shirts, and down their pants. They ran and ran as fast as they could back to the house, screaming “Help! Help! The bees!” Some cousins were big and some cousins were small — and do you think the bigger cousins might have picked up the smaller cousins and helped them to escape the swarming and stinging bee horror? No. Sadly they did not. Little Wife giggled a little bit to remember Cousin Mark, the oldest and the biggest and maybe the scaredest, outrunning everybody else in his haste to escape from the stinging bees. But she also remembered how much the stings hurt and how scared they all were.

There were millions and millions of bees chasing them! They were terrified!

Finally they reached the house and tore through the open door and into the arms of the grownups who stripped them of their bee-infested clothes and soothed their stings with ice and caladryl. Little Wife remembered very clearly that cousin Scottie got hollered at the most and the loudest. But they all learned their lessons that day…

“Hmmmmm,” pondered Little Wife as she climbed up on her stool to return the honey jar to the cupboard. “I wonder about those bad old Bemidji bees. They sure do make a fine sweet honey though.” And she smiled a sticky honey smile as she headed out the door for her bike ride.

Bee blessed today, not stung! Love, Natalie

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October 2011