Running, or more accurately slowly jogging, up and down a basketball court while officiating some youth games on a recent Saturday I caught a familiar face out of the corner of my eye. It was Kevin Mercer, a neighborhood buddy from my youthful days on Pleasant Street.
During a break in action I got to thinking about Kevin a bit and I chuckled to myself as I recalled one particular evening and a nest of bees.
I must have been 13 or 14 the summer that our neighbors directly across Pleasant Street from our home – the McConnaugheys – started having trouble with big, black bumble bees that had made a hive in a tall birdhouse in their backyard.
The McConnaugheys’ backyard was a busy place from time to time. It was where the patriarch, Carmen, worked most of the day, and it was home to a well-used croquet (actually, we called the game we played Poison) court, plus a small concrete basketball court. Anyway, people were in the yard a lot, the bees got to be a nuisance, and one day Carmen decided to do something about it.
As I remember, it was getting near dusk when Carmen leaned a ladder against the birdhouse pole, dressed all up in some kind of homemade getup to protect him from the bees, and headed up the ladder armed with something to put an end to the bee problem.
I do not remember if he had any kind of smoker or just some kind of mixture to kill the bees, but I do know that a few of us buddies were standing around to watch whatever might unfold.
I also remember that about the time Carmen got to the top of the ladder and applied his bee-killing mixture, there was an explosion of activity around the nest and all of us buddies took off on the run. One of the McConnaughey boys and I dove inside a camper in their backyard and another buddy – Kevin – dashed inside the backdoor of the McConnaughey home.
Once Steve and I got inside the camper we quickly realized that we had to make another move, because we had shut out all the excitement and had no idea what was going on outside. I clearly remember standing there in the silence, looking at each other and asking, “Should we go, should we go? Should we make a run for it?” So after a minute or so we summoned the courage and made a dash for the back door of the McConnaughey home.
The back door led down a short hallway to the kitchen and it was there that we found Kevin and Mrs. Elsie McConnaughey.
We were all sitting or standing in the kitchen discussing what had just happened when we started hearing a buzzing sound. We all looked around curiously and couldn’t see anything. But the more we listened, the more buzzing we heard, and the more buzzing we heard, the more it sounded like there was a bumble bee somewhere in the kitchen.
We started looking behind curtains, inside cabinets and just about anywhere a bee might be able to hide. There was no bee to be found, but we could still hear one buzzing somewhere. Where in the world could that thing be, we wondered?
We listened a bit longer, then all of sudden Kevin started jumping up and down and smacking anxiously at his pants. Apparently, before he managed to get inside the backdoor after Carmen applied his elixir, one of those old bumblebees had slipped up his pants leg and it eventually decided to let Kevin know it was not happy. I do not remember how many times he got stung, but it was more than one or two.
I know it wasn’t much fun for Kevin, but at the time it seemed so funny that the memory of a five-minute childhood episode has stuck with me all these years.
I distinctly remember a couple other things about Kevin during those Pleasant Street years. He was the home run leader of our backyard Wiffle ball games – yes, we actually kept a running tally – and when we played a different game where we split into teams and chased each other around the neighborhood, absolutely no one could hide better than Kevin.
As I’m sitting here typing these words, I can still see exactly where Kevin was standing in the kitchen and the look on his face when that bee started lighting him up and he started jumping up and down. And, sorry Kevin, but I’m chuckling to myself once again.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.