Flight of the Bumblebees
The sight of a bee makes me feel terrified and all queasy inside. Even to this day, whenever a bee happens to land on a flower nearby when I am on the yard, I stop breathing and my heart starts to pound in my chest, and I immediately look for ways to get as far away as possible, while at the same time trying not to panic or someone might see how ridiculous I look, swatting and screaming and jumping around.
My fear of bees goes back to one blistering hot summer day in Provo, Utah. I was about 8-9 years old at the time. My friend Mark and I were riding our bikes home from the nearby trails, and decided to pull over at Franklin Elementary to get some water from the school’s drinking fountains. After turning onto the yellow sunburned grass field, Mark and I stopped in shock. On the site where we erected Bunker’s Hill stood the beginning of a wooden trailer-sized classroom.
Mark and I liked to play a game called King of Bunker’s Hill during winter. That was our favorite recess and lunch activity after a snow storm had blown through the Rocky Mountains. King of Bunker’s Hill was a very easy game to play. We would make a bowling ball sized snowball on the ground, and then proceed to roll it across the fresh snow until it stood about two feet in diameter. With about ten other kids also making these huge snowballs and rolling it into one big pile and packing it, we would soon have a small “hill” big enough for two to three of us to stand on. The object of the game was to knock off whoever was standing on Bunker’s Hill. Throughout winter the snow would continue to build on the Hill; it became imposing and the slopes more icy. Mark and I were very good at using our bodies as torpedoes, and we had been King of Bunker’s Hill on many cold winter mornings. So imagine our dismay at this small trailer-sized classroom being erected where Bunker’s Hill would be every winter.
We approached the trailer, stunned. The foundations were already laid out and the outside skeleton of plywood and two-by-fours of the trailer were already up. There were about four steps that led up to platform for the entrance, and the rest of the trailer stood off the ground several feet. I was so upset that this block of wood was sitting on the area where I planned to topple many of the older kids that following winter that I picked up one of the dirt clods and threw it at one of the plywood panels. It exploded with a satisfying crunch, and soon both me and Mark forgot about Bunker’s Hill and instead imagined we were throwing grenades at an oncoming tank, throwing the dirt clods from all angles.
Somewhere in the process, I spotted some bumblebees building a small hive under the recesses of the trailer. I had never seen any type of bee making a hive, and to watch these large grape-sized insects with yellow and black stripes picking up pieces of wood chips and dead grass blades to form a nest of sorts was quite fascinating, for a few minutes. Once boredom began to set in, I decided it would be much more exciting to throw our dirt clod grenades at the bumblebees.
The pulsing mass of yellow and black buzzing energy was soon bombarded by our missiles, and the 40 or so bumblebees began to drop dead to the ground with pieces of their nest and hive falling everywhere. Somehow they regrouped into an angry dark buzzing cloud, and began to drift towards us.
Mark and I ran in different directions.
For some reason, the bumblebees decided I had killed more of their comrades, because they all came after me. Now I run pretty fast, so the bees could not catch me, yet they seemed to follow at a leisurely yet menacing pace. Their buzzing was constantly behind me, no matter how many twists, turns, and evasive maneuvers I performed. I began to get tired, and started realizing their droning was getting louder in my ears. I started yelling for Mark to help me, (even though to this day I do not know what he could have done) but I must have looked pretty ridiculous, because when I looked up and spotted him, he was laughing and pointing at me.
Then I realized how I could beat these bees: I would run straight at Mark and once I got near him or passed him by, the bees would veer off and chase him instead. Mark would serve as a great decoy. I could beat him in a footrace anytime, plus that’s what he gets for laughing at me.
Mark was about 30 yards away when I began to run at him, and 10 yards later he already knew what I was up to. It was the fastest I ever seen Mark run, and that was one footrace that he beat me in. He got to where our bikes were, picked his up, jumped on, and rode off, all in one motion.
I screamed in frustration and fear, and fell onto the ground, exhausted. I had outran all but about five bumblebees that day, and they made sure that I never forgot them, even to this very day. So the next time you see me jumping away from some bees, please understand and come rescue me.