Monday, July 16, 2007

Sweetness




He was married to my grandfather’s oldest sister and I called him my uncle. He was as big an influence on my life as anyone else has been. He cut quite a figure in his overalls and straw hat, throwing his stiff leg out in front of him as he walked. A horse had thrown him onto a catclaw bush in New Mexico when he was a young man. The only available medical practitioner was an army doctor who split the patella to get the thorns out. My uncle told him to set the leg so that he could still ride so his leg was permanently fixed into a forty-five degree angle.

By the time I knew him he was an old man. At least he viewed himself as one. He and my aunt had a few acres in northeast Texas. He raised sheep but still kept his old horse, Trixie, even though she was almost to old to ride by the time I can remember her at all. (I am sure that she lived to be over thirty years old.) He never quite got the difference between a horse and a truck. He had four or five heifers and a habit of chasing them around the pasture in his truck. One day, one of them tripped and ended up with a ’60 Model GMC stuck high center on her carcass.

He also kept bees. He did not have a big honey operation like some of his neighbors but he had the most colorfully named bee yards. He kept bees on a piece of land where a man had killed himself in a horrible way. My uncle called that place the Suicide Yard.
He also had the Tyra yard, named for a nearby community. I know there were a few others but their names escape me just now. He certainly had the most interesting honey house. It was built on the side of a terrace. The supers (the frames filled with comb in which the bees had deposited the honey) were unloaded one level and taken up a few steps to a trough where a hot electric knife was run over them to remove the comb from the frame. The frame was then placed in the slinger, a centrifuge which slung the honey out. The tub of the slinger drained into a large tank which was on a lower level. The tank had a spigot and the honey could be drawn into square five-gallon cans or into sterile glass jars and labeled.

I spent quite a bit of time in and around the old honey house when I was small because my parents would help with the honey harvesting. I don’t remember ever getting stung.

As far as I know, nobody keeps bees in that area much anymore. In the mid to late ‘60s, a mite invaded the bees and killed most of them off. Bees were quarantined and the people I knew who used to haul their hives north with the blooming of the wildflowers were out of business. The old honey house still sits in the pasture. My brother and father use it for storage.


6 comments:

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I will never think of honey in the same way again.

Your childhood stories are wonderful. Please keep sharing them with us.

Pendullum said...

What a great tasting story...
Laced with the heat of the summer sun of Texas, and honey in wonderful glass jars, sad that the house is used for storage today but glad such history still runs through your family...

Taexalia said...

Something for you over at my blog ;)

Melanie said...

I wonder about people keeping bees now. You hear about the bee's dying, and the killer bees breeding with the honey bees...

this is a lovely glimpse into what seems like an interesting man.

seventh sister said...

Thanks, heart. I most likely will keep writing them.

pendullum, I used to think about trying to turn t he old honey house into a cabin but we would never be able to get to it when it rains.

taexalia, Thanks. I'll pass the honor on to others in a fe days.

melanie, I wondered about all the bees disappearing, too but I was reminded of this particular story when I met a youg woman who keeps bees just a few days ago. Her bees are thriving and she has captured a few domestic swarms this season. As for the Afticanized bees, I know we have them in this area but I have not heard of anyone being stung bu them.

Anonymous said...

Lovely. I enjoyed the description of your uncle and his bees so much.

Pax Kimberly (www.igallopon.com)