Beekeeper for a day

 

The summer when I was 17, I decided that I did not want to work in the fields on the farm.  However, my father decided I needed a job, one way or another. So he found a job for me with a friend of his who is in the beekeeping field.  Now, I had never done beekeeping work before, but I thought it would be interesting (stupid me).  So, early one morning, I drove to Visalia, about 25 miles from home, to start. I was assigned to an older beekeeper.  Now this guy must have assumed that I had some experience since he handed me my gear and we went to the truck.  He was not a talkative guy, so, in virtual silence, we headed to Porterville, which was about 30 miles away.  The beehives were in remote farmlands to help pollinate the fruit trees. At the first stop, he handed me the smoker and directed me to go spread the smoke around the hives.  As I had never been beekeeping before, I was not really sure what to do, but decided to fake it.  While he was changing the slats on which the honey is collected, I was standing there with my smoker not knowing what to do. Even though I had a beekeeper outfit on, a bee was able to get into a gap somewhere and stung me on the neck.  I slapped the bee, muttering about how this was starting to suck, and went back to smoking the hives.

At our next stop, there were a larger number of hives than the previous spot. Also, this group of hives was in an orange grove. We started the routine over again.  Again, the bees were able to get inside my hood and I was stung again.  I slapped that bee, but  was then stung twice more on the neck.  As I went to slap these other bees, I misjudged and ended up knocking my helmet and hood off.  Since I was standing in a swarm of pissed-off bees, my face and neck were immediately covered in stinging bees.  I took off running into the grove with bees in hot pursuit.  I started running headfirst into the orange tree leaves to try to lose the bees.  Now, if you are not familiar with orange trees, they have sharp thorns on the branches.  This added another level of sensations to this experience.  I finally outran the bees and killed the ones on my head.  I was probably stung about 30 or so times in the head and neck area.  Needless to say, I was done beekeeping.  However, the old guy would not give me a lift to the nearest phone (this was before cell phones), so I took off walking.  I knew if I headed north, I would run into a town.  So, there I was on a lonely county road with the beekeeper suit hanging around my waist. What I did not foresee was that the temperature would hit over 100 and that I was at least 15 miles from the nearest town.  My second miscalculation was that I expected some kind passing farmer would give me a ride. Would you give some guy with a lumpy face and bee guts in his hair a ride? Neither did anyone else!

So I walked through the day and finally reached a town.  I tried calling several of my friends to come get me, but no one answered the phone.  As I was about to break down and call Dad, the beekeeper showed up.  He gave me a ride back to base...after we go back to the site where I was stung so he can finish his rounds.  My one day as a beekeeper ended with me driving home with a face with more lumps than a bad batch of mashed potatoes.