Honey bees in peach trees
The abundance of rain this summer has subdued the usual, bustling activity of gathering peaches, and I find myself remembering the blooming season more vividly than normal.
With peach blossoms foremost in my mind, I am reminded of another ghostly tale told often by Scout Executive Lawrence L. Stanley at Camp Old Indian’s Wednesday night campfires. It concerned an incident that happened to his uncle’s family.
The uncle had a farm some distance from most of his relatives. It contained a small house, a good-sized barn and several acres of apple and peach trees. The house stood in an area graded out of a hillside on the edge of the peach orchard.
The barn was in a flat meadow about four hundred feet from the house. While the peach trees were in full bloom, the uncle built a fire in the fireplace one cool evening. His 9-year-old daughter walked in front of the fireplace, and somehow caught her woolen dress on fire. Before her mother could pull her down and roll her on the floor to put out the fire, she was badly burned, in life-threatening circumstances.
In less than an hour, a doctor arrived, and told the parents that he held little hope for the child to live more than a few hours.
Someone went to tell the little girl’s grandfather, since she was a favorite grandchild. He and two sons saddled horses immediately and rode to see the badly burned child.
When they arrived, the two boys tied up the horses while the grandfather ran into the house, rushing to the bed where the stricken child lay. He bent down to her. She tried to speak and to reach her hands up to his face, but could not do either.
The grandfather was a pioneer, and was known for treating wounds and illnesses, but he was visibly shaken by the condition of the little girl. In a few minutes, he went outside to his sons. When they asked him how she was, he replied, “I do not believe she will be alive at midnight.”
They were standing near some of the peach trees in full bloom. The grandfather startled the sons by saying, “I wonder why the bees have not gone to their hives tonight.” Most country people know the custom of honeybees is to return to the hive before dark.
One of the sons said, “Dad, we don’t hear any bees.” The grandfather replied quickly, “Well, you are deaf, for I can hear them. The peach blossoms must be full of bees.”
Then he turned and went back into the house. The sons stood astonished at his statement about the bees they could not hear. One of them walked over to the nearest tree and shook a branch; no bees flew out.
Just then, they heard a sound of a loud bumping and the rattle of a chain from the barn. They stood close together in silence, the sound of bees in the peach trees forgotten for now. The sound from the barn was repeated. The older son said, “We can’t just stand here. Let’s go down to the barn and see what is making that noise.”
When they reached the barn, they walked into the hallway, with cattle stalls on either side and the hay loft overhead. At one end of the hallway, a square hole had been cut in the floor of the hay loft, so a ladder attached to the wall could be used to gain access to the loft.