Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Bee for Me

Oh, the lovely honeybee!
She pollinates flowers, can't you see?
With all the world in which to be,
Why'd the asshole land on me?

It was a beautiful day here, and I wanted to get Dink out and dusted off before we have a riding date with a nervous horsewoman (possibly tomorrow). He was eager to get out in the world, even to the point of reaching out to take the bit into his mouth, a sweet and helpful gesture.

Off we went. Dink was so good and calm that I was able to watch a couple hawks soaring above us, spot a meadowlark and hear its song, and watch a strange dance in the sky between a flock of crows and a huge flock of blackbirds -- it looked like the crows were herding the blackbirds away from their tight formation! The sun was warm, and Dink let me know if he saw any orchard machinery: a tractor, a fungicide sprayer. No worries.

We'd reached the halfway point in our walk-around when I saw that bee boxes had already been delivered to that particular orchard. It was our turning point to head back north along Kincade Road; bee boxes were staged on either side of the road.

I wasn't worried; we pass by bee boxes all the time during almond blossom season, with no mishaps. Only this time, unlike the photo here, the almonds are not yet blooming. Yet the warm temperature (58 or so) had the bees active ... and frantic for sustenance.

As we passed by the boxes (we were on the road, the bee boxes on the edge of the orchard), Dink and I were pummeled by bees zipping back and forth. I felt them hit my arms and face and back, saw Dink toss his head as his nose and forehead were hit. I could feel them land and take off again, but knew my nonchalance had been a mistake.

Dink began to fight the reins, wanting to put his head down and rub the bees off on his leg, which would have made them sting him, and what would he have done, just said, "Hey, no prob" -- no, he'd have either bolted or shied or reared and I would have ended up on the road with a broken old bone and bees on me. I held his head steady with the reins, and he tried to lift a front foot to brush the bees away. Sorry, Dink, no can do! I pressed him forward with my legs, and talked to him. "Just keep on going, Buddy, we're going to be fine, just let's go, let's go, you're doing fine ... "

He switched his hindquarters back and forth, prancing, still trying to get his front legs up to scratch. I sat deep in the saddle, held the reins firm ... and felt a bee land on my head, heard the bee begin buzzing madly. I shook my head much the way Dink was shaking his, but the buzzing only got more frenzied, and I knew what was coming.

While I held Dink steady, the bee snuggled up against my scalp, and cursing in its little bee language, stung the shit out of me.

There was nothing I could do. I had to keep the horse calm and under control.

By the time the bee stopped buzzing -- and died, I presume -- we were out of the craziness, Dink had no more bees clinging to him, and I was able to use my riding crop to flip my hair up, hoping the bee would fall out and take the stinger with her.

Back at the ranch, some half an hour later, I carefully checked for bees on my jacket, the saddle, Dink's flanks before I dismounted. I examined his face -- no beestings. With a quick brushing I turned him back out in the pasture and fled for home, to beg Bernie to comb the bee out of my hair and remove the stinger, which he did with efficiency.

I learned some lessons today:

Stay away from bee boxes if they have no blossoms to occupy the bees.

Wear a hat, not a sun visor. A bee won't get tangled up in a hat.

And finally, if I had shaved my head the way I was wanting to the other day, a bee could have landed on me and taken off, no problem. 

Oh, one last bit of kudos: Dink is one phenomenal horse.

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