So, back by popular demand is my friend and colleague Doug. The man whose entire life is one big adventure (or misadventure, depending on how you view the world). When Doug was a young lad of 14 growing up in Zimbabwe he had a dream of owning his own beehive and cultivating honey to make some extra cash – at the time he was only receiving 50¢ a week in pocket money. He was determined though, and after six months of saving every single cent, he had enough money to buy the equipment he would need – wood to make the hive, beeswax to attract the bees, and proper protective equipment (bee veil, wide-brimmed hat, goat skin gloves and overalls) to cover his entire body from head to toe.
He made the hive and waited for the bees to come. He waited and he waited. Some bee scouts came and looked around but unfortunately showed no real interest. One day Doug’s 29 year old brother-in-law, Ginge, came over and asked about the hive. When he heard that it wasn’t going so well, he felt bad for Doug and suggested that they go find a wild bee hive and ‘borrow’ some bees from it.
Doug got excited, as he knew of a wild bee hive under a large boulder about a ten minute drive from home. Ginge, being considerably older and appearing very knowledgeable about bees, naturally took control of the operation. He told Doug that they would need to cut off the piece of honeycomb that had the Queen Bee on it. The other bees would naturally try to protect her, and when they had enough bees on the honeycomb they would gently place it in the bucket, put the lid on and transport the bees to Doug’s hive. Simple. They agreed to be partners and, though Doug wasn’t all that happy about it, he accepted a 49/51 split. After all, Ginge owned a car, which was a necessary part of the plan.
The next day was very hot and sunny. Doug excitedly put on his bee suit, donned the goat skin gloves to protect his hands and thick rubber boots to protect his feet. Ginge took one look at him when he arrived and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m putting on the bee suit,” replied Doug.
“No, I’m wearing the suit,” said Ginge.
“But it’s my suit,” protested Doug.
“No it isn’t. We’re partners, so it’s OUR suit,” declared Ginge, “and I have 51% share in the business, so I outvote you. I’ll be wearing the suit.”
“Well, what am I going to wear?” asked Doug.
“I think you’ll be alright with your jeans and sneakers. Just go and get some gardening gloves and wear a couple of thick jumpers and you should be fine.”
“Can I wear the rubber boots at least,” pleaded Doug.
“No there’s no need, bees can’t fly down. They always fly up, so your feet will be safe. I’ll wear the boots.”
So Doug put on his mother’s cotton gardening gloves and three thick jumpers as advised by his brother-in-law. He looked at Ginge who had put on the proper bee outfit and asked if he could at least have the wide-brimmed bee hat with the sewn-in gauze veil. Ginge shook his head no, but suggested they make their own hat and veil for Doug to wear. They looked around, and found his Mum’s round, white, wedding hat which was decorated with a pretty lace veil. Doug was concerned that the hat lacked a brim and that the lace was only 6 inches long – barely long enough to tuck into the neck of one of his sweaters. Ginge reassured him, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine”.
So they set off into the sweltering midday heat, Doug feeling a bit faint from wearing three woollen jumpers and a wedding veil. They drove to the spot where the hive was, and as they walked towards the boulder they could hear the cacophony of a great number of African bees swarming under the rock. When they got there Doug suggested that Ginge put his hand under the rock and break off a piece of the hive seeing as he was the one wearing the protective suit.
Ginge took one look and said, “You do it, I’ll go get the car started,” before hightailing it back to the car. Left alone, Doug didn’t want to waste an opportunity to build up his beehive so he knelt down in front of the rock crevice, put his hand into the hole, grabbed some honeycomb, shoved it into the bucket and within 10 seconds was completely covered in thousands of bees. He had the presence of mind to put the lid on the bucket and walk carefully back to the car feeling himself being stung everywhere (but particularly around his ankles).
When he got back to the car, Ginge took one look at him covered with bees and quickly wound up the windows and locked the car doors. Doug knocked on the window and begged for him to open the door. Ginge shook his head, no.
Doug started to panic and yelled, “OPEN THE DOOR!!!”
“No, the bees will get in the car,” shouted Ginge. “Get onto the bonnet and I’ll drive you down the road and you can brush them off.”
So Doug dropped the bucket, climbed on top of the bonnet and they drove down the road at 50 kph, with him covered in bees and clinging on to the bonnet for dear life. Eventually most of the bees fell off so Ginge stopped the car and allowed Doug to get in (though he freaked out about the dozen or so bees that still managed to get in the vehicle – and don’t forget he was still wearing the bee suit and was fully protected).
When they got back to Doug’s house Ginge asked him if he’d been stung and Doug showed him his ankles which had over a hundred stings between them. “I thought you said bees don’t fly down,” accused Doug.
“Oh… well, I guess they do,” was Ginge’s response. Poor Doug. But then Ginge said, “I’ll tell you what, you can wear the rubber boots when we go back”. Doug nearly fell over from shock but, when he realised Ginge was being serious, he flat out refused. Those bees had been mad as hell. He wasn’t going.
“Yes we are, I’m the controlling partner and I say we’re going back,” ordered Ginge.
Being the self-confessed ‘skinny little runt’ that he was, Doug backed down. He took off his sneakers in agony and slipped on the rubber boots before his feet swelled too much. They headed back down the road and on the way Doug begged Ginge to be allowed to wear the professional hat and veil. But nope, Ginge wasn’t giving it up, “You didn’t need it the first time, so you won’t need it this time”. For some reason Doug idolised his brother-in-law, so even though he really didn’t want to continue on this suicide mission he went along with it anyway.
When they got to the bees, this time Ginge didn’t even get out of the car. He sent Doug off by himself. And when he got to the boulder the bees were already riled up and attacked him before he could even put his hand in the crevice. Running back to the car, he didn’t even bother trying to get in – he knew that the doors would be locked. He jumped on the bonnet and again they sped down the street to get rid of the bees. An African man riding a bicycle in the opposite direction was laughing so hard at the sight of a 14 year old boy on top of a speeding car, wearing a frilly, white wedding hat and veil completely covered in bees that he fell off his bike.
When they got home Ginge once again asked Doug if he’d been stung. It would appear that he had – in all the mayhem, the veil had come loose and he’d been stung in the eyes, nose, ears, mouth and neck. He had about 50 stings on his face, which started swelling to twice its normal size. His feet were so swollen by now that the boots had to be cut off with shears. He couldn’t walk and had to be carried around. Ginge got scared and finally did something logical. He took Doug to the hospital, where he spent the next three days recovering.
Eventually Doug did attract bees to his hive, and his dream of producing honey became a reality. Ginge was so impressed with the result he made Doug construct a hive for him too. A year later, Doug was at Ginge’s house when they decided to go and collect some honey. They waited until the sun went down and Ginge once again suited up in Doug’s protective gear (seriously). This time though, he had a better plan for what Doug should wear. Ginge and Doug’s sister had recently bought a new mattress and Ginge produced the thick, plastic mattress bag that it had been wrapped in. He told Doug to put the mattress bag over his head and body, and as it was much larger than him, the bottom of it would drag along the ground – protecting him from bees flying up! He was only wearing shorts and a t-shirt but he knew there was no way on earth the bees could get through that plastic so he felt pretty confident this time.
So in the darkness they walked to the hive, at the bottom of the garden and, as Doug was the bee expert, Ginge told him to take off the lid to the hive so they could see if there was any honey. Of course it was slightly difficult to do this as they hadn’t cut out arm holes in the mattress bag (otherwise, of course, bees would be able to get in) so he had to do it through the thick plastic. Another problem was that it was a warm evening, and the plastic bag had no ventilation so it was starting to fog up, meaning that he couldn’t really see very well out of it. Nonetheless Doug did what he was told and took the lid off, causing the bees to become enraged and aggressive. At the first sight of the bees swarming out Ginge shouted, “RUN!,” turned on his heel and started running back to the house.
Doug realised that he should probably get the hell out of there too. Covered from head to toe in thick, fogged up plastic, he turned around and started running back to the house, trying not to trip over the bottom of the mattress bag. Through the condensation he saw an odd thing – Ginge wasn’t running in a straight line but, rather, he was zig zagging across the garden. A moment later, Doug found out why. Ginge had neglected to tell him that his gardener had spent the day digging deep holes to plant trees. Doug discovered this fact only after landing in one of the holes, head first with his exposed legs straight up in the air. The bees knew what to do. They attacked Doug up and down his flailing legs – and seeing as he was wearing such short shorts they took extra care to sting him most vigorously in the groin area.
After this incident, Doug finally saw the light and fired Ginge, taking back 100% ownership of this honey business. In fact he made pretty good money from it, enough to buy his first car. I’m sure you’ll be happy to know that Ginge never saw a single cent.