Chapter 8: The Bee Paddock

Dad decided to get some bee hives. Not that I minded because I had an insect collection kept on pieces of plywood boards covered with wallpaper. The insects were stuck with pins and the big ones such as wetas stuffed with cotton wool.


You'd catch the insect in a jar, then throw in a piece of cotton wool saturated with carbon tetrachloride used for getting stains off clothes. While the insect was still soft you'd set it out on a special tray with a groove that Dad made.

I also kept a live ant nest between two sheets of glass and fed them on bread soaked in honey and water, and tried to set up a bumble bee's nest. There was a story on it in a book, so I made it but never found a bumble bee.

Plan for bee's nest

Yes, I thought, the bee hives were a good idea. Yet still I avoided "The Bee Paddock".

The creek flowed into "The Bee Paddock" and formed a large, still pond by the corner in the shade of some trees. Tony and Rick caught twenty-three eels in that pond. They'd gaff them. I never gaffed eels. It was cruel. I caught them with a piece of string with a hunk of meat knotted at one end. The eel would swallow the meat whole and you could pull the eel up with the string. Then you'd hit the eel with a spade.

I never told you, but of all the animals on the farm I didn't like geese much, especially in the nesting season. Chooks would peck at you on the nest, and ducks would huff, but the geese would go berserk and attack.

One day, Tony and Rick were standing completely still in the creek and I couldn't work out what they were doing. So I went over to look, and just as I neared, Tony flicked a huge eel into the air with his hands and the eel landed on me. I ran straight into a goose's nest. The goose attacked. The gander joined in and chased me all the way home. Now you know why I never went into "The Bee Paddock". I suppose you thought it was because of the bees.

I've gone on about the eels and the geese to give Dad's bees a bit of time to get some honey. Now it was time to harvest the hives. Dad had all the gear. He had overalls and gloves and a hat with gauze to cover his face. He looked like what we thought an astronaut would look like. And he had a thing that made smoke and huffed like a duck to make the bees placid and pleased. So we all sat in the Humber Super Snipe with Mum and the windows wound up and the car doors locked for extra safety, to watch Dad collect the honey.

He huffed the smoke into the hive and took off the lid. Out came the first tray of honey crawling a bit with a few pleased bees, and Dad huffed more smoke. Then he pulled out a second tray and must've got stung because he dropped the tray on the hive and bees swarmed everywhere. Now Dad had a temper so he kicked the hive which didn't help one bit.

Then somehow he bent over and the gauze that covered his face came away from his neck, and a good ten thousand bees flew up under the gauze. Dad stood up and the gauze returned to his neck entrapping the bees inside his headpiece.

By now Mum's thoughts of fresh honey had turned to uncontrollable laughter and Dad was shouting things he didn't even say to the dogs. He ran to the car, leaving his smoke huffer behind never to be found. But the car was locked and Mum was too helpless to open it immediately, and she probably didn't want bees in the car any way.

Eventually Dad got in and we drove off at a fair rate, with the headgear being tossed out the window on the way with a reasonable swipe. Dad was still swearing and starting to look quite puffy, with swollen lips and eyebrows.

And then he laughed.

And we all laughed, and Mum became reasonably sympathetic, but mainly not.

After that, each year the honey was collected by Joe Fletcher, Mum's old, distant cousin. And I always avoided "The Bee Paddock" - because of the geese.

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