Not long after we moved to Rome, we meet Mr. Jack. He was a lifelong resident of Floyd County and lived in the Cave Spring Community. He had spent his early years being a dairy farmer. He raised milk cows and initially sold his own milk. He was also a farmer. But to many folks in this area, he was THE bee man.
Mr. Jack knew everything about bees. EVERYTHING. He had many hives all over his farm. He sold the finest honey I have ever tasted. He taught others about beekeeping. He also loved to educate young and old about bees. The first time he took my kids to the hives was a perfect example of how he loved to educate others. First he would pull the brood chamber off and pull out the wax so you could see where the Queen was laying eggs. He would show how he had painted a white spot on the Queen and show her to you. It was important to him that you would not fear bees. Meanwhile, during his initial instruction, there were lots of bees zooming all around you.
Next he would catch a worker bee. That group would build the honeycomb, gather honey and protect the hive. He would have the worker bee sting his son, who was also there. This was so he could show you the stinger moving around on his son’s arm. And Mr. Jack could then show you how to remove the stinger.
The drones are the last group of bees. Their purpose is to fertilize the queen and then they are done. Drones do not sting and Mr. Jack would show you that.
Last in the lesson was to get a chunk of honey-filled cone to chew. Yum-Yum!! And that was Mr. Jack’s Bee Knowledge 101!
The big thing that my children loved about Mr. Jack was that he had his own soft serve ice cream maker. He had a dairy once upon a time so he installed his own ice cream maker. If you went to his house in the spring, summer or fall, you would get to eat all the soft serve ice cream you wanted. There was only one catch—-you had to use the same cone! So you would slurp up the ice cream from the cone without damaging the cone. We found that generally a careful ice cream eater, could use one four or five times before it fell apart!
One little known fact of ice cream making is that Mr. Jack made two kinds. If children were present, the ice cream was kid friendly. If only adults were present, Mr. Jack would add a little additional flavoring—say a little amaretto!
And yes, we would use the same cone over and over again! But we did not have five of them!
As you already know, I was a teacher for many years. And I was also the crazy teacher who loved to take middle schoolers on field trips-overnight. One of the most interesting and physical field trips that I ever did was the time we went to a wilderness camp. Yes, you heard me correctly-a wilderness camp! We could have a total of 15 people. The reasoning for 15 was that was the size of a van. And we didn’t need to take too many students because not everyone is ready for that kind of experience. By experience, I mean that we were going to do a ropes course, go hiking on the Appalachian Trail and we were sleeping in tents on the trail. We didn’t have to do cooking-thank goodness! The other teacher had never been camping-EVER! But she was a good sport and willing to give it a try. So that left space for thirteen students. We were not sure how many eighth graders would want to attend but we figured that it would be mostly boys. Right? Nope. We had ten girls and three boys. All of the boys were in Scouts-so no worry there. The girls were bright and funny and cheerleaders. I was concerned a little about them.
The day began misty and gray as we set off from the school parking lot. By the time we had driven 20 miles, the girls had begun to tell knock knock jokes. They were hilarious! By the time we reached the 30 mile mark, the girls had switched to blond jokes. The fact that they were all blondes made the jokes even funnier! Next they switched to singing songs. The other teacher and I didn’t have to do a thing. The girls were the undesignated entertainers for the trip. When we arrived at camp, we put our things away and started on the ropes course. Ropes was the key word here. We were divided into teams and used group strategies to use ropes and cross rushing streams and climb cliffs. It is a good thing that I could do heights! The strangest and scariest activity was something called the pamper pole. It was as tall as your typical telephone pole with the little iron steps up the side. The activity for this was to climb up the pole using the iron steps/grips. When you reached the TOP, you were to crawl up and stand up on your two feet on the very TOP of the pole. BTW, we wore a safety harness. Once you reached the top and were standing up straight, you were to spring from the top and grab a swinging bar. The harness person would then let you down to earth. Some of the kids started up the pole but came back down. Most of the kids climbed to the top and leaped to the swing bar. No one made it to the bar yet. Then it was time for the adults. My teacher friend said no and looked at me. So up I went. Once you got into the groove of climbing up, it was ok. But when I looked down when I was almost to the top—yowie! I made it to the top and then climbed up. Next was the swing bar. Man, it was hard to leap into the air but I did it. I missed the swing bar but was fine. Well, check that off my list!
The next morning we left the base camp and headed to the mountain trail. It was misty rain. The guys were glum. They were not hikers. The girls were cheery and sang the WHOLE day! We had a great time eating by the campfire and sleeping in 2 man tents at night. The next morning after a hearty breakfast, we hiked back to base camp. The guys were tired.. The girls were singing-again! The guys even mentioned how difficult it was to hike with cheerful people. The girls mentioned that the boys were real stick-in-the-mud campers and started singing again.
Well, I know one thing from this experience. I will choose blonde cheerleaders to hike into the woods with any day over Boy Scouts. Sorry guys!
Have you ever heard of a water witching? Do you have any foggy idea of what this means? Well, in 1978 when we were looking for some property so we could build a house, I certainly had no idea of what this was about or even anyone who did this. Well, let me tell you–I have been there and seen it in action.
We found some property that was pretty close to town but not in a subdivision. We had this idea we wanted to live without neighbors. We wanted to be in the woods. Our kids were excited because they liked the idea of a country life, too. First of all, you need to know that just because you find some property, it doesn’t mean that the said property has modern conveniences-like electricity, cable television, natural gas, sewage, trash pickup or water. Now some of those items are easy to arrange. Electricity was not a really big deal. There was a line pretty close to our land and all the power company had to do was to extend it over the hill to our house. Whew! Natural gas was a no go. No lines in this area. So we went with propane gas. I had never used propane before but my mother-in-law had used it for years. So it was not a big deal. We had to find a propane gas company and get a tank and fill it up and we were in business. Check that off the list! Cable was a no go. We would have to pay for the lines and it made cable out of reach forever. So we did something else. Check that one off. No sewage lines? Just get a sceptic tank and field lines. Check again. Telephone? Ahh-run those lines under the power. Check again. Trash pickup? Well you just put the trash in your truck and take it yourself to the dump. I recycle a lot so we don’t really have much garbage-maybe one bag a week.
Let’s see. What did I not mention? Water. Yep. WATER. The life force for drinking, washing, cooking, flushing——WATER is very important. To run water lines to our house was only a little less than the national debt in 1979. What would we do? At that time, our neighbor and friend, Johnny, stepped up to the plate. “You need a well,” he said. “And I can help you”. How could he help was what I was thinking. He said he would help us on Saturday and we decided on a time. Saturday came and we met at his house. We started walking to the property when he made a little detour. He went to a peach tree and cut off a very specific kind of branch. It was like a capital Y. He told us he would use this peach branch to find where our well should be drilled. I plastered a smile on my face although in my heart I was a total non-believer in his method. Let me say for all of you reading—-this is crazy! He began to move over the property walking slowly and looking at his branch. He told us that when the branch dipped down, he had found a water source. We kept walking and watching. As he neared the place where we planned to build our house, the branch dipped down. It was a trick-I though. He marked the ground and then handed me the stick. He had me walk away from the area and then turn back. Oh my goodness, I felt a tug and the branch dipped down again. Even though I fought the dipping, the branch pulled down. The look on my face must have been priceless because he laughed at me. Then he showed my children how to use the stick to find water.
Well. We have a well at our house. It has been there since 1979 and has provided us with excellent water. And the way we found where to drill was determined by our friend Johnny using the peach tree branch and his skill as water witch. You know, sometimes things happen and you can’t explain it. You just go with it. And thus ends the tale of the water witch!
Fall has arrived in my neck of the woods . Yay! I love Fall! Mornings are a little cooler. Maybe a tad crisper. Jeans and flannel shirts come to the front of my closet. Listening to the thunk of acorns hitting my metal roof. Sleeping with the window open–yes! Listening to the hoot of owls at night. Fall is glorious!
This morning when I went to teach water aerobics, it was raining. We get a lot of rain in the Fall in my area. I had to stop in the driveway to let a group of wild turkeys cross the road. It was my first turkey group in the road sighting this year. They are beautiful creatures to me. Also they do not eat my roses!
In the first years that we lived here, this is when I put my boots in my car. Boots are important if you live in the country. It’s easier to walk up a muddy road in boots rather than other shoes. If you have to drag part of a tree out of the road, it is easier in boots. I wore boots today for the first time. My boots aren’t pretty but they carry me where I need to go.
No high heels. No wedge heel. No fake fur. No pointy toe. No decorative trim. Just work boots that keep my feet dry and with room for my toes to spread. They have no zippers. They lace up. They go great with jeans. With walking in the woods. With cutting wood. With raking leaves. With walking in the rain with my Doodle Ozzie.
In a few days, my road will be completely covered with leaves. You will not be able to see a single piece of tar and gravel. That is when I drive up the road and stop. And get out of my car. And just look around and listen to the quiet wonderfulness of Fall!