I lived in Coronation,
an Alberta village in Canada, until I was 18. This is the 3rd of 25
Coronation stories & essays.
go to coronation files
Bee Keeper to
They say nothing every happened in Coronation but
that's because I kept some secrets.
The Bee Story comes to mind.
Mr. Adcock, a bee farmer, lived a block from our
home in Coronation, (pop 990), in the center of the Alberta plains.
I was 14 years old and decided to raise bees so I bought a few books and
talked to Mr. Adcock, who was about 75. The year was 1956.
Every spring Mr. Adcock would buy bundles of bees, each containing an
Italian queen, and shake them gently into his hives.
Then in the fall he would kill them and take their honey.
There was about a six month season in Canada when the bees worked
furiously to produce enough honey to make it through the winter that
they knew was coming, even though they had just arrived from Europe.
A pound of bees with an Italian queen cost seven dollars. You had to buy
unassembled supers (the hollow boxes you pile on top of each other to
build the hive.) Mr. Adcock helped me nail the supers together.
You also needed racks with sheets of wax in them. You drop these in the
supers, and the bees extrude the wax and fill the racks with honey.
Oh, you also had to get the honey into jars.
You would take out the racks, use a hot knife to cut off the ends of the
wax cells and then the honey would run out.
Mr. Adcock had a centrifuge—a gadget that spun the racks. Honey would
splatter onto the inside of a barrel and run down the inside and you
could drain it off.
In my best year I harvested a thousand pounds of honey and I sold it for
25 cent a pound.
Not counting my time, the use of my father's car, Mr. Adcock's
machinery, taking my dog to the vet after he nearly got stung to death,
I almost broke even but I learned things:
1. Bee stings were good for you. Mr. Adcock had palsy that made him
shake; he would get the bees to sting him and his shakes would stop.
2. The secret to great honey had nothing to do with bee types. It all
depended on the kind of flowers and grasses that they gathered nectar
The best place was Mrs. Selfors' farm. There were lots of wild flowers
and acres of clover. Mrs. Selfors was my high school English teacher.
3. Never go to Mrs. Selfors place after dark in a new moon, shinning
through fresh snow.
I had just killed my bees with cyanide, it had snowed early, and I was
taking a rack of honey to Mrs. Selfors'.
She liked it in the comb.
I was feeling badly because I had murdered all my bees and stolen their
honey and I worried that some of them might be alive, following me in
the dusk. (Although killer bees did not exist then, I imagined them
A new moon shone in the pale night air.
As I crept past some shrubs, almost to Mrs. Selfors' door … something
watched me from the shadows … maybe the bee spirits had come to get me …
then a shaking thing busted out of the bushes and screamed at me.
A giant bee!
It was a naked crazy man and he leapt for my throat.
Luckily for me he was wearing a dog collar on his neck that was attached
to a heavy chain.
When the shaking wild man was one inch from me, the heavy chain jerked
him back on his ass.
Mrs. Selfors ran outside and, using a broom, beat him back into the
She told me not to discuss what had happened with the other kids at
I never quite figured out what the wild man was doing in my teacher's
I think he was a relative who was simply out of his head and they kept him
at home, other than put him in some kind of asylum. You could do that in
the middle of the last century.
The asylums in Alberta were awful places.
I promised my teacher I would keep our secret, even though I longed to
tell my friends about the crazy shaking man chained under the bushes in
our English teacher's yard.
I mentioned it to Mr. Adcock and said I thought maybe bee stings would
calm down the wild man.
He said he did not think it would be advisable to get the bees to sting
the crazy naked man and the old apiarist asked me if I wanted to be a
beekeeper or a writer.
I said a writer.
He said: "Keep your mouth shut, stay on the good side of your English
teacher, and forget about wild men."
For many years I was able to follow this advice.
But then I came to Hollywood to write screenplays. Here there are wild men
(and wild women) everywhere.
They are called producers and even when they are asleep they are much more
dangerous than the guy who lived in Mrs. Selfors’ bushes.
Tragically, almost none of the producers here wear collars with chains
while they are at work.
So there is not much to restrain them.
They make a lot of B movies.
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