Save the short-sleeve, bee-hive robbing job for ‘brave’ dads!

Published 8:32 pm Thursday, January 26, 2017


Every now and then, one of LaGrange’s most elegant daughters – my second cousin Emily – will send me a story about our growing-up years. I think our little knack for storytelling came from that side of the family, because Emily is exceptionally skilled at spinning a yarn. Her only fault is that she feels compelled to stay with the facts, which sometimes my friends like Coca-Cola Mike accuse me of going “awfully light” on.

 I have to say that Emily especially made my day several years ago when she wrote me a story about my dad, a good man whom people, for some reason, called “Dut.” I thought of this story this week, as Dad would have turned 86 on Wednesday.

            Emily’s family – my Aunt Florence and Uncle Luther – lived a few miles out of town on a farm off the Hutchinson Mill Road. Emily still lives and writes just down the road from the old home place. I still remember spending time out there learning how to churn buttermilk and how to milk a cow. I haven’t done either of those things in a few days; and, the truth is, I am not sure I ever actually learned to do either: I kind of “watched” it done, and I’m not convinced you can learn how to do something all that well just by watching it done, although I’ve sure seen people try.

            Uncle Luther and Big Aunt Florence – as she was called to differentiate from my “Little Florence,” Mama’s baby sister – also had bee hives out on the farm, which gave us a chance to taste some real, live honey from time to time. Emily said those bee hives weren’t opposed to causing trouble occasionally, such as the time she had a birthday party at their farmhouse, and some of the kids got to playing around the bee hives and made them mad. Emily got stung about a dozen times, but another little girl got it over 30 times and had to go to the hospital. That marked the end of their bee hive playing days, naturally. The danger those bees could pose, though, makes the story you’re about to hear the more remarkable.

            Emily said that when her dad – my Uncle Luther – would have to go out to “rob” the honey from those mad bees, he’d dress in heavy clothing and would have every inch of his body – from head to toe – covered. But, still, a bee or two somehow would get underneath his clothes and give him fits. “Honey-robbing” day was always a bad day for Uncle Luther.

            So he learned a little trick: He would call “Dut.”

            My dad would mosey out to the farm and rob those bees as nonchalantly as if he were stirring a pot of his famous, homemade Brunswick stew. He’d go out to the farm wearing nothing but his normal clothing – khaki pants and a white, short-sleeve T-shirt  – walk out to the bees as if he was the new superintendent, reach his arms into the midst of all those buzzing bees, and come away with all of their honey, and — if they had any – their money, too. Then he would walk away as though all he’d done was get the mail out of the mailbox.

            Emily thinks – and I agree – that the reason he could do that was that he had no fear. He wasn’t afraid of them, and I guess the bees could tell that and would just keep doing the busy things bees do in a bee hive.

            I have to say that’s a pretty good lesson for a dad to teach a son, even today. But – don’t get me wrong – I’m not about to go put on a short sleeve shirt, hunt down the nearest bee hive, and put the theory to the test. I don’t advise you to try it, either.

            But what I will do, I think, is this: The next time a little stray bee starts flying around my head out on the front porch, I’m going to try my very best not to run hollering and screaming into the house the way some say Coca-Cola Mike likes to do.