My uncle Jessie B and I started keeping bees together about 30 years ago in Burnet, Texas and these are our first hives. This, in fact, may be our first time to look at them on the inside. If you look closely you can see the plastic bags wrapped around my shoes in lieu of boots. We had a hodge-podge of equipment and not a clue as to what we were doing, but we loved every minute of it. We caught swarms and built our own equipment, and eventually worked up to about 20 hives. Then, a short time later, I started my career to help support my family and other than keeping a hive or two along the way, I left the serious beekeeping to my uncle.
Thirty years later I am able to keep bees full-time, but I am still separated from my bee partner by too many miles and the passage of too much time. Now known by family members simply as Grandpa, my uncle paid us a visit today. After a hearty meal to sustain us, we headed out to the bee yards like a couple of excited youngsters, this time with boots in lieu of plastic bags. We fed bees, checked on queens and early brood and were pleased that “our” bees today were a bit more gentle than our first hives. By the time we came to the second bee yard, Grandpa was opening hives like they were long-awaited Christmas gifts. Then, when his back grew tired we came home and, in the spirit of J.N. Russell, enjoyed home-made pecan pie and hot tea sweetened with honey. I don’t know if this is the last day I will work bees with Grandpa, but I cherished it as if it were. But I also know that down the road we will keep bees together again and we will both have strong backs, and the bees will be gentle and the honey sweeter than we’ve ever tasted.