Last week I ended with sharing my battle with yellow jackets at my childhood friend Torrey’s house. I must confess that the battle on Torrey hill was my only one-sided victory with yellow jackets. That is if you don’t count the times they had the one-sided triumphs. Though I’ve had dozens of encounters with yellow volcanoes, I have only two more worth mentioning.
The first one involves my time as a construction worker. It was shortly after I graduated high school and I had a job working for a concrete wall company. Our job was to take six foot by three foot forms, pin them together, and set them to hold tons of concrete in order to form a solid wall. A lot of these construction sites were houses on wooded property.
To carry the forms from the truck to the build site, it was easier to balance them over your head and carry with arms extended upward. It was also great exercise.
One thing I’ve learned is that when you are in motion, it’s the person behind the one who disturbs the nest that receives the wrath of the yellow cloud. And I was the second one in motion. The first guy grabbed a form and tromped through a grassy area. As I approached the grass, I saw the cloud pouring out of the demonic hole. They were swirling in a circle, trying to decide who to take vengeance upon.
I froze. The cloud was merely ten feet in front of me, but didn’t seem to notice my presence. Of course, I can’t stand there with a sixty pound aluminum form over my head and wait for them to simmer down, so I decided to ease back. I moved my left foot back very slowly. It wasn’t slow enough. The demonic horde detected the motion and every yellow jacket stopped at the same time. In unison, they all turned toward me. It looked like something from a cartoon. But I knew from experience, these cartoon characters had a strong punch.
I heard demonic screams coming from the mass of yellow and they all charged toward me. I decided that they needed the aluminum form more than I did, so I tossed it to them. I think it might have been too heavy for them, because about half the horde disappeared. The rest were undeterred, so I used my secret karate moves as I ran backward. I could feel the thumps of bees as I swatted them down while sprinting in reverse.
Somehow I managed to get out of their attacking zone with only one sting on the elbow. All in all, I thought that was a good victory. At least I took out a good number of them.
Someone asked me what I was doing. I guess the swarm of bees didn’t provide a strong enough clue, so I had to spell it out. One of the guys said, “Ah, I ain’t scared of a few bees.” He then walked over and grabbed the form I had tossed, walked by the nest and to the build site. He swatted a few times, but didn’t seem to mind.
He was a bigger man than I. I grabbed another form and made a wide arch away from the nest. I still don’t know how that guy could stand getting stung each time he walked by the nest. He was known for his drinking. Maybe being snockered all the time has it’s privileges.
Rock climbing up Yellow Hill
My greatest yellow jacket adventure came when I went rock climbing with two friends, Cade and Steve. Actually, we didn’t quite make it to the climbing part. It was my first time rock climbing, and after we left, my wife and daughters prayed for God’s intervention on my behalf. I think they were thinking the Lord would keep me from falling off the mountain, but He had a little something extra in mind.
The three of us drove to Sand Rock, AL to a place popular with rock climbers. With adventure on our minds, we left the car and headed down a trail leading to the rocky cliffs. Cade led the way and Steve brought up the rear.
I heard and odd commotion behind me, and Steve was laying on his back making strange gestures. After a minute of flailing, he climbed to his feet and started running in my direction. Though I didn’t know why, I assumed it was for good reason, so I decided to match his pace. That’s when I looked back and saw the familiar yellow cloud. My arch nemesis. And the demons were mad. Very mad.
One decided to take out our leader and stung Cade on the back of the head. Since he wore a close shave, it was a direct hit. It must have hurt, but it was the only sting Cade received.
Steve wasn’t so lucky. We counted fourteen stings.
We stopped to regroup about fifty yards from the site of the attack, but a few daring bees continued to pursue us. I watched one attacking everything in sight. It attacked a pebble, then a small twig, and another pebble, and then my shoe. I let him commit and then stomped. Would you believe that little bugger dodged and attacked my other shoe? I stomped with the other foot, but he dodged again. I then tap-danced like Fred Astaire, but I couldn’t connect with the little beast.
Then I lost sight of him. I looked around, but couldn’t find him. I knew he was in a battle frenzy and still in the area, so I decided it was time to vacate. Soon after my departure, I heard Steve scream again. He found the bee. That was number fifteen.
He came running my way and we began leaping from boulder to boulder on the edge of Mount Doom. One false step and it would have been over. I looked over the cliff where we were leaping and started laughing at the thought of two grown men risking their lives to get away from a flying bug that was only half an inch long.
Eventually the demons returned to their hades hole and we regrouped to count our injuries. Or should I say ‘their injuries’. Sting count: me – 0, Cade – 1, Steve – 15. Steve had earned an overwhelming victory.
Believe it or not, they still wanted to climb. But since Steve was now complaining about a ringing in his ears, I didn’t think that was a good idea. I could just imagine him going into an allergic coma about halfway up the cliff.
Sure enough, about ten minutes later he started getting sick. I knew we had to get him out of there, but that meant facing the evil hordes. What was worse is the fact that we didn’t actually know where their hades hole was located. I had a general idea based on where Steve began his writhing.
We cautiously moved forward, looking for a hole on the trail. Only it wasn’t on the trail. It was in the side of a hill beside the trail. As I walked along, Steve said, “I see a bunch of them behind you.”
That wasn’t good. Steve fled back the way we came, and I ran in circles trying to figure out where they were coming from. I trotted a little ways from the trail and looked back. A yellow bullet shot from the hole and hit me on the head. But it missed stinging me. Then it dropped between my glasses and my eye. I heard an awful buzzing frenzy and the critter fought like a cat trapped in a paper sack.
I swatted him away – along with my glasses. Glasses I had just spent $400 on the week before. As the glasses tumbled through the air, I took a step to retrieve them, thought about the angry horde in the direction my glasses flew, and decided it might be better to sneak back in later to get my vision enhancers. I left my spectacles to fight the insane bee alone while I retreated back to where Steve had gone.
I now knew where the demons lived, and there was no good way to get back on the trail leading home. Time for plan B.
Cade joined us and I led the way around the hive by climbing on the rocks on the side of the mountain, just out of sight of the horde. Looking back I realize that a guy missing his glasses probably wasn’t the best one to lead the escape party. But since they didn’t volunteer, I led.
Rocks dropped off the side of the mountain and it was hard to find a good way back. But then I saw the perfect spot. There were two large boulders that made a V shape, creating a perfect slide into a soft-looking patch of black dirt. It was a steep slide, but the soft dirt looked like it would cushion me enough to make a safe landing.
Cade looked over my shoulder and said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
I wisely replied, “If Hong-Kong Fooey can do it, so can I.” In case you don’t know who that is, Hong-Kong Fooey was a cartoon character that bungled almost everything. Prophetic words indeed.
I sat in the V and started my slide. My backside hit some leaves and friction disappeared. I shot down the steep incline and something else disappeared. The soft dirt. I wasn’t wearing glasses and what looked like dirt to my limited vision was actually blackness. It was a crater that disappeared into the rocky side of the mountain. I would later come back to see that it was about a twenty-foot drop into jagged rocks in a cavernous side of the mountain.
I’m now speeding down the mountain so fast my lips are flapping in the wind, and the hole came into focus. Fortunately, it wasn’t until the last second that it came into view. This prevented me from panicking. As my feet went into the hole, I threw my arms out. It happened so fast, I don’t know what I grabbed. I suspect it was angel’s hands. I briefly saw darkness as my body disappeared into the hole, followed by my head. Then I shot back up like a cork, kicked off the V-shaped rock, and landed safely on the other side.
For some reason no one else was willing to follow my lead any longer.
When I returned to look for my glasses the next day, I visited the Hong-Kong Fooey slide with my dad. He said, “How did you reach the sides to keep from falling in?”
I looked and wondered at that myself. It looked far too wide to reach both sides at once. We leaned over an looked into the shadows and I realized how close I came to hearing the angels sing. Fortunately, the angels were dispatched to prevent me from making the Darwin awards, rather than taking me to my eternal home.
I never did find my $400 glasses, but all things considered, that was a good trade-off. I also retired from rock climbing. Or should I say, from almost rock climbing.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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