PUT TO FLIGHT BY HONEYBEES
By S. C. Turnbo
One day in the month of August, 1873, I and Allin Trimble were sitting together at my fathers spring that runs out of the river bank where we lived from September 6, 1859, to my fathers death in 1870. This spring gushes out at the foot of the bank and only a few feet above the common stage of water in the river. This farm is known now as the Jim Roselle land. As Uncle Allin was an old pioneer of that neighborhood he recounted to me a number of incidents which occurred there in the near vicinity. Among the accounts given me was one that he said had considerable fun attached to it. Pointing up the river he says it occurred up yonder. The year it happened was in 1852. "One day in that year I and a man of the name of Masters who lived just on top of the bank from this spring went up on the bluff just above the mouth of Big Beach Hollow to hunt a bee tree. Bee trees in that day were numerous and were but little trouble to locate. We took plenty of bait with us and after placing it in several places convenient for the bees to find we sat down by one of the baits to wait for the bees to come and sip the bait. We were not there but a few minutes before the bait was covered with them and soon after we had a few courses we started out to hunt for their abodes and discovered four bee trees in less than an hour. These trees were not over ¼ mile apart. One hive was in a small shelly cedar which stood In the face of the bluff. I pushed the point of my hunting knife into this tree two feet below where the bees went into the tree which was near seven feet above the foot of the tree and drawing it out the honey flowed out and dripped down the body of the tree. Not deeming the tree rich enough on account of its small size we went back on top of the bluff and selected a much larger tree which stood on the brink. of the bluff ¼ of mile from the mouth of Big Beach Hollow which we thought was the richest In honey of the four trees. We had taken plenty of vessels with us to hold the honey and having our axes with us we went to work to cut it down, but very soon after we commenced to chop on the tree the bees flew into a rage and swarmed out of the tree and swooped down on us and forced us to retire on fast gait until we had went 100 yards when we stopped behind a tree where we got rid of the fighting bees. The infuriated colony had drove us away but we did not propose to leave without robbing the tree, but the odds were against us for if the bees kept up the fight we would experience the pain of numerous stings before we got through. After we had suggested a few plans to protect ourselves from the fury of the hive, none of which seemed feasible, Masters says, "Allin, Ive got it, all right. Now I will pull off my shirt and you take it and wrap your head up in it, leaving only an open space large enough for you to see through, then go and chop the tree down." To which I agreed to do and Mr. Masters pulled off his shirt and handed it to me and I wrapped my head up with it in such a way that I knew it would give ample protection to my face and eyes and on returning to the tree I went to work again to fell it. The bees got into an uproar again immediately and swarmed all around to force me to retire.
Mr. Masters was entirely naked from the waist up and remained behind the tree where he had give up his shirt to me. Though the colony had attacked me fiercely but I was so well protected from their stings that they were not able to hurt me except my hands. Very soon after I had felled the tree, Masters left the tree he was behind and ventured up in 20 yards of the stump of the fallen tree. The anger of the bees had rose to a high pitch and were flying in every direction when all of a sudden I heard Masters cry out in agony, "Oh Lord, Oh Lordy, Oh Lord God Almighty, save me from their wrath," and away he went down the point of the bluff toward the mouth of Beach Hollow as fast as his legs could take him. At first I thought the man had gone crazy but at the next thought I knew what was the matter. A lot of bees had attacked him and were tormenting the man with their stings. I left the tree at once and ran in pursuit of him. As I ran along I could hear Masters yell at the top of his voice, "God, have mercy, these infernal bees are killing me." Though I knew Masters was suffering with pain but his actions and noise was so ludicrous that I laughed as I ran along behind him. In a little while Masters turned to the left and went down the face of the bluff to the river and plunged into the water and pushing out to where it was over his head he made a dive for deep water, then rose to the surface to get his breath. He went under the second time and by the time he come to the surface of the water again the bees had give up the fight and left and the man swam back to shore. The bees had stung him severely on his breast and back. I pulled the stingers out and gave him back his shirt which he soon donned himself with and I says, "Masters, let us go back now." "Go back where, It says he. "To the bee tree," says I. "Oh no, I am going home," said he and he left me and went down to the shoal at the mouth of Beach where the water was shallow enough to wade and he crossed over and went home. I went back up the bluff and gathered a lot of dead sumach and bunched it together and tied it at one end and attached it to the top end of a long pole and after setting the sumach on fire I held the burning faggots at the opening where the bees passed in and out until I burned more than half of them to death and the remainder were suffocated so bad they were almost harmless and I went to work and filled all the vessels with honey which exhausted all that was In the tree. Then I went home for help to take the honey home and after I had divided a portion of it with Masters and his family I strained 9 ½ gallons out of the remainder for the use of myself and family."
The author will add here that the river bluff mentioned as the scene of this story is situated between the mouth of Beach Hollow and Bradleys Ferry all of which are in Crocket Township, Marion County, Ark.
Springfield-Greene County Library