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Typist for the Holy Spirit and Careful Listener, I try to put it into words in Jane's Journey. I have another blog for recipes called My Life in Food. Also Really Cool Stuff features Labyrinths and other things like how to fry an egg on the sidewalk.(first step: don't do it on the sidewalk) Come along with me as I careen through life. I always welcome comments or questions. My email address is jane@2els.net

Thursday, August 22, 2019

D Day

The town of Bayeaux, France is packed with history.  Their cathedral dates back to William the Conqueror and the 11th century.  During World War II the mayor was quick to phone the allies and tell them there were no German troops stationed in the town.  Then they were the first town liberated after the war. So, Bayeaux was never bombed during the war and some of its buildings are medieval.  The cathedral is so much like Notre Dame and the other great Gothic icons but in many ways better-- it's smaller and just slightly less grand so not as haughty and intimidating-- a lot more relatable.  We walked over on Saturday afternoon and they were starting mass.  I lit a candle and sat a while.  I felt like part of a congregation instead of a tourist. 



One of my goals on this trip was to see the D Day beaches. I’ve long held the opinion that any baby boomer worth their salt needed to go there if possible and stand on that beach and say “Thank You.”

I am nothing if not a baby boomer.  The neighborhood I grew up in was built after the war by mostly veterans and populated by hoards of kids my age conceived as Welcome Home acts of love.  I knew what branch of service everybody's father had been in and we combined all their old equipment to play with.  David and Tommy Russell, next door,  had their dad's old Navy hammock and my school book bag was an old Army green canvas ruck sack.

Beaven's father and his uncles had deferments from the war because the family's wholesale bakery was classified as essential to the war industry and that was fine with Papa Els. My father's reserve position was activated and he was gone so long during the war that my sister didn't know who he was when he got home.  There were seven years difference between my sister and myself.  It was a long war at my house. But Daddy didn't see much combat.

They say the way to tell a hero is to check the guy in the corner who isn't talking. I learned a lot about heroes on our D Day tour. Our guide put us in a small bus and told us some great stories while he drove us to Pointe du Hoc and Omaha beaches and finally to the American Cemetery.

The two battlegrounds have very different terrain even though they're only a few miles apart.  Pointe du Hoc is a steep cliff and Omaha is a real beach where people sunbathed while their children played in the sand. And, in fact, that day the beach was filled with families playing together when we drove up.

Growing up in a land-locked city I needed a short lesson on tides.  D Day was timed for a day that would have both no tide and a full moon.  They had postponed the landing once because of the weather and rough seas. If they didn't go on June 6th they would have had to delay it for months and morale would plummet.

The guide took us through the strategy and execution of the day.  He referred back to the movies Saving Private Ryan and the Longest Day as the two best reference materials on D Day.

He talked about the bombing prior of the invasion--how they were trying to take out the big guns that would be able to pierce the armor of the battleships and the Higgins boats that would be coming in on D Day.  That was an important task before the main event could even start. It was a startling realization 75 years later how rudimentary the technology of the day was compared to what we have now. Even though they could see the 6 guns they wanted to take out it was hit a "hit or miss" method of releasing the bombs:  if you over shot your target you could hit the civilians in the town; if you released the bombs too early they would either hit the Allied forces in the water or land useless in the sea itself and not hit anything.  

The craters the bombs left still have pockmarks on the beach.



In the end what got those guns was the bravery of the men who came in on foot to do the job when the aerial attacks failed. He spoke of a thousand men unloading on the beach every hour.  Of the blood in the water and stepping over dead bodies on the beaches.  And how as the day wore on how the advantage of the day gradually changed as a thousand men kept coming in every hour.

Once the troops got past the beach the objective was to get into the town. They were able to land tanks onto the beach to drive into the town but the next obstacle for the tanks was the hedgerows.

I got to see the hedgerows up close. These are fences made of vegetation.




I had heard how hard it made it for the tanks to advance beyond the beach and into the town.  Now I know why. And I'm not even sure the photos will show; it's something you almost have to see in person. The vegetation is so thick you can't really make out anything.  Hedgerows are the most dense foliage I've ever seen in my life.  Hedgerows weren't something a farmer went out and built one day to keep cows out of his pasture.  They developed since medieval times as the farmers plowed everything inside and left the rubble alongside the edge of his property.  They are natural fences made of dirt piled up over centuries with trees, vines and brambles growing inside the piles of dirt.  A tank would hit the pile of dirt, turn upward and then either fall backwards or balance atop the row like a turtle on its back.  Or it would hit a tree so thick it couldn't knock it down.

Once the troops made it alive passed the beach on D Day the hedgerows still slowed their progress toward the cities.  D Day was not a walk on the beach.



The last stop on our tour was the American Cemetery.  We got there at dusk just as they played taps.  It wasn't quite the ceremony you might expect for these heroes.  The land for the American Cemetery was given to the United States; we own it.  But it is operated by a French civilian organization. Taps was played via a recording over the PA system and a civilian lowered the flag respectfully. And that was about all the ceremony.

But we heard stories.

We heard that when a relative (now more grand kids than children) comes to visit a grave they get a personal escort who takes them to the grave. (Otherwise, no one is allowed to go to the individual graves.  They are roped off.) There at the grave the cemetery personnel have several ceremonies they perform for the family.  They are presented with small flags they can either leave at the grave or take home with them.  A cemetery representative will rub sand from the beach into the name on the gravestone to make the name show up better.  As time goes by the sand dries and blows away but for a few days you can tell that someone has had a relative visit the grave.

Our guide knew so many stories of the men in the graves that he told us one guy had had family come visit the other day and he sounded almost like it was his own family.

He told us the story of the town of Bedford, Virginia who lost more men on Utah beach than any one town that day.  About a third of the young men in their town died on June 6, 1944.

And the stories of multiple sons in one family who died.  The plot of Saving Private Ryan was based on the Niland brothers. When Robert, Preston and Edward Niland were reported dead the military sent in troops to bring home their sole surviving brother Private Fredrick Niland.

There was a fascinating story about twins who both died on D Day, one on the beach and one on a battleship.  The one who went down on the ship was reported as missing in action and presumed dead.  Seventy years later, using modern technology and a lot of detective work a researcher predicted which part of the boat he would have been in, divers found a body and using DNA identified the body as his.  His body was recovered and was buried with his brother, becoming the only person to be listed twice in the cemetery, once on the monument as Missing and once in the ground under a gravestone.

But my own hero is the guy in the corner who never talked about his story. My step-father, Terry Mehaffie, was a lot like my husband--a quiet guy.  All he ever said about his time in the war was that he was training to be a paratrooper but shattered his ankle on a practice jump.  He spent D Day in the hospital.  It was also his birthday. The only complaint he apparently ever made was that he didn't get the extra paratrooper pay because of some technicality.

But in his last few days of life, well into his 90's,  he did very quietly tell that of all the guys in his outfit not one of them survived the day.  They were all lost on D Day.  Terry only survived because he messed up a practice jump and was in the hospital.  He got to go home and have three boys. And never mentioned it.

I don't know how many men are in a platoon.  But I do know that war makes men close. There's a lot of talk about survivor's guilt.  But it's also kind of sad that Terry never had those guys to reminisce with after the war.

It's sad that 20 guys from Bedford, Virginia died.  And that 20,000 died on D Day.  Or 85,000 died in WWII.

Death is a lonely-maker. Maybe that's why those heroes in the corner are so quiet.

I did say Thank you at the beach.  We went to Pointe du Hoc and Omaha beach and the American Cemetery.  Each time I looked out at the water and quietly said "Thank You."  I looked up into the sky at Terry Mehaffie's friends and said "Thank You" and the next day I went to the Bayeaux Cathedral and told God "Thank You."

I am one of those kids who played with left over war goods. My Daddy came home.  I get to have Jewish friends. And Muslim friends. I just visited a united Europe and sat in an airport where I was surrounded by five different languages in an atmosphere of peace.

Thank you to all the men and women who make that possible.




Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Louvre

Of course all visits to Paris must include the best, finest, largest art museum in the world: the Louvre.  We knew this.  So we prepared.  We bought a Paris Museum Pass.  This let us "skip the line" in all the other museums, some of which were really, really long.  It felt real good.  We just sailed past all the other suckers who weren't as savvy as we are and walked right into Saint Chapelle, Musee d'Orsay, Napoleon's Tomb, etc.. etc.....

But not the Louvre.  Oh, no, not the Louvre.

Not in August.

The busiest month of the year even Parisiennes go on vacation.  And probably half of them are at the Louvre. And, even with the Museum Pass you gotta make reservations to get into the Louvre.

So we did. The first available entry time was 12:30 of our last day in town.

Bright and early Thursday morning we got up and on the Metro and out to the museum.  We loitered about in town a bit.  We had plenty of time.  It turns out the regular city bus #69 has a reputation for passing a lot of tourist sights and for the price of just an ordinary bus ride you get to see what the $30 tourist rides show you. Then we stopped for a leisurely lunch in the courtyard at the Louvre.  It overlooks the vast staging area for the massive lines.  We could tell it would be packed by just looking at the lines.

There were two lines.  The longest was for the unlucky ones who had not bought tickets ahead.  That line looked like it took about an hour or two to complete.  Our Lucky Line for Special People with the Museum Pass zipped us through without even stopping when 12:30 arrived.

However, it was a false sense of specialness.  Once inside everything came to a dead halt. The building was packed to near gridlock. I've been in some crowded places:  two come to mind that I won't bore you with here but this one came close to being elbow to asscheeks.


The Louvre does its best.  They probably consulted the Disney people.  I heard that one technique would be to limit our time in  front of the Mona Lisa to 20 seconds per person.  A tour guide I know timed it on a video.  And, for somebody who is not in grad school for art history that's probably enough time.  Keep the line moving, folks.

My first need was a bathroom and I spent over 30 minutes in line. I heard talk of "area 51."  OK, maybe that was me but it made sense.  I found out later that some women did rebel and barged into the men's room. I enjoyed Beaven's account of the expressions on the mens' faces when this happened.

By this time Beaven had been standing long enough on his bad leg that he needed to rest. (Guess what girls:  Gramps has developed a "bad" leg.  He didn't have one when he left home but he does now.)  So we went in search of a place to sit and drink a Coke before we started our art loving in earnest.  The first Cafe we found had not just a line to get into but I spotted people littered around outside sitting on the floor. eating and drinking. The next one we found was a Starbucks that was just as crowded and doesn't even sell Cokes.

By this time we had spent an hour inside the Louvre without seeing any actual art.

And I was starting to notice how crowded the place was.  I'm a firm believer that the only real enemy in travel is getting sick.  And this is from someone who has had her pocket picked, her billfold stolen and lost her phone.  Things can be replaced.  But if you feel miserable you lose the experiences of enjoying yourself.  And the Louvre was starting to look like the common cold on steroids with a few cases of Ebola thrown in for good measure. I usually start a regime of Vitamin C a week before travel and continue it during and the week after I'm home mostly just because of the airplane germs.  There wasn't enough Purell on the planet to combat what I was going to pick up in this place.

I decided we might need one of those audio guides to tell us what we were seeing after we found ourselves in a room that was itself a work of "art" in that they just scrapped down to underneath the building and found some old ruins of the original city wall and declared that art history. This place was starting to look overwhelming. It was older than Jesus Christ.

So, we went to the audio guide line and got in line.  Three Chinese teenagers broke in front of me but I let it pass for international well-being even though this isn't even my country.  But when I finally got to the human I needed to talk to he told me I needed to have a ticket for the audio guide first and needed to go to the "other" place to pay and get a "ticket" then come back to get an actual audio guide.

Let me pause for a minute and explain something about Beaven to you. I married an introvert.  I also gave birth to two introverts.  One of whom then gave birth to two more.  This means that I am the only extrovert in our entire family.  I usually love crowds.  I revel in them.  A crowd like we faced at the Louvre this day was an occasion for me to party with 1,000 new friends.  Let's all see how many different languages we can listen to and try to understand at once!  Let's see how many people we can talk to without knowing their language!

But what good is 50 years of marriage if you can't reach a point where you come to understand what the other person in the marriage is thinking or feeling?

It was at that moment I realized that I did not have a 50th anniversary gift for my husband.  My rock.  The guy who can guide me to any point on the planet when I can't find my way out of the garage.  Who can forgive my flightiness with the patience of a saint.  But a quiet man who hates crowds. And I thought of the perfect gift right there on the spot.

"Beaven, let's just leave."

There was a flicker of hope in his eyes.

"Are you sure?  I know how much this means to you."

"Look around us.  This is stupid.  No art is worth this."

And so we left.  We didn't even go to the gift shop.  Not even a refrigerator magnet.

We walked out.  Got on the Metro and never looked back. And it was marvelous.

The trip wasn't a total loss.  I have come up with a list of four things to make the Louvre a better Museum.  I had a lot of time to think while I was waiting in line at the restroom. You can sent the Nobel Prize to my house.  If I'm expected to attend the ceremonies I'll have to find someone to go with me besides my family of introverts.

Four Things to Improve the Louvre

1.  Get rid of the men.
        Don't allow men inside.  This will immediately eliminate not only half of the people but double the available restrooms.  Men don't usually want to visit art museums anyway, if they're honest.

2.  Get rid of anyone under 30.
      They are a nuisance.  They move too fast and too much.  They laugh and talk too loud.  They don't appreciate art any more than the men do. The walk around talking on their phones and wearing clothes ripped at the knees on purpose. It's a waste of floor space to let them in.

3.  Get rid of the marble floors.  Replace them with soft carpet.  Once the building is inhabited by older women we will tell you our feet hurt. It would cut down on noise, too.

4.  Get rid of the Mona Lisa 
       OK, you don't have to get rid of her, just give her a separate building.  Half of the people who come to the Louvre are here just to see her.  Moving her to another building will cut the crowd in half again.  She's not really that great anyway.  She was at da Vinci's bedside when he died which tells you he wasn't finished painting her.  Even he wasn't totally happy with the painting.  It's too dark.

I have now cut the crowd into less than one-fourth of the size with only one less painting.  Same amount of art, less crowded. The only expense would be new flooring.

You're Welcome.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Stairs

I have had my pocket picked in all the great cities.

And when I wasn’t a victim I managed to just plain old lose stuff through my own stupidity.

The classic was losing my camera by way of a roomy pocket and a bright blue Columbia jacket and pink ball cap that all but screamed "Stupid Gringa" in the most crowded building I’ve ever been in at the Guatemala State Fair.

The last time we visited Napoleon’s tomb in Paris I fell in love with the stairs and spent most of my time photographing them. Followed by leaving the phone containing the snaps on the counter when we bought Metro tickets. By the time I realized my mistake I didn’t think there was much point in going back to see if the phone was still there. The photos were lost.

So, the first thing I wanted to do in Paris was get a re-do on my Napoleon pictures.

The guy does not disappoint.  I understand he’s inside about six coffins.


As I looked around I realized there’s not an inch of wood anywhere to be seen the entire building is stone. Most likely all marble. But remembering it was the stairs I came to see I made sure to get those snaps.  Clearly this Napoleon fellow was important.






I love stairs.  I love the way they look. I love the feel of walking them. OK- maybe not so much for myself now that I’ve gotten older but I love the graceful action of a young person walking up stairs. I love that scene in Gone with the Wind when Rhett Butler grabs Scarlett O’Hara and carries her upstairs. I know how to build a basic stair and know the formula of 6 inches of rise for 7 inches of run. 

We just left Amsterdam where those people don’t seem to grasp that concept or they use their available space under another somewhat twisted manner because they use something like 9 inches rise and 3 inches run which is a lot more like a ladder than anything you would carry a woman up to ravish her. No-- they guys who built Napoleon’s tomb knew what they were doing. These steps were made for ball gowns and gliding gracefully up and down.

I love the ancient stone steps that have been ground down by centuries of feet carrying just enough sand crystals to add their own slight swipe of sanding. I’ve climbed the tower in Pisa made of the same soft marble Michaelangelo used to carve the David. By my definition I think this qualifies me to say that I have carved Carrera marble, however microscopically. 

The other thing stairs do for me lately is remind me my knees and lungs still work.  

Seriously. I’m at the age where my list of dear friends who have left me for a better life with the angels is growing and I miss them. And I always think of Linda McCormick when I climb stairs. She had both knees replaced and by the time her knees got better her lungs gave out and finally it all went south for her.  I realize with each 6 inch rise that I have been given a gift that Linda is missing. I may huff and puff sometimes but I still appreciate the mere fact that I’m here.  

Maybe this is how I will get to heaven.  Yes.  This is how I would like to go.


Amen.



Saturday, August 10, 2019

Brussels

Our last real meal in Dallas was our traditional TexMex at El Fenix on our way to the airport.  That was Wednesday. Today is Saturday. In the ensuing time we have not had a real meal that our mothers would approve. Fortunately, both of our mothers have gone to the Great PTA meeting in the Sky. We’ve had several each of crepes, waffles, Belgian fries, croissants, gelatos, and pancakes. Beaven has had one beer whose name he can’t pronounce and I have drowned myself in the freshest orange juice you can imagine. For breakfast I operated the machine myself and cut two oranges for my first glass then went back for a second glass. OK, our mothers would probably approve of the orange juice.



Friday, August 09, 2019

Museumorama

Forgive me if this is a little disjointed. I’m working off an iPad zipping along on a train that only has WiFi when the neighborhood it travels through allows. Editing is going to be hard

Our trip starts in Amsterdam with the Stedlijk museum of modern art    Then we hit the biggest one Rijkstadt for the classic Dutch masters the dear Van Gogh and finally we visited Anne Frans house.


Amsterdam is the place to go when you want to pick up a few more of the classic paintings you may have missed in other places. And I had an extra one I was very curious to see in person


I’ll grant you your own taste in art. But this chick has captured me. It’s called Lady with a Brain and Marie Lessnig has even more entrancing art in the museum. One of my tricks when I visit museums is find books in the gift shop then order them from Amazon. Which I did. My book on Lessnig
will be waiting for me when I get home and I don’t have to schlepp it in my suitcase through the next two weeks.

The Lady with a Brain is one of those paintings that just reaches out and grabs you and won’t let go. Is it on my friend’s page when her son came to Amsterdam earlier this summer. He even brought her home a postcard.

Once we had the first museum out of the way I reverted to a technique Elizabeth and I developed years ago.  You might call it the Cliffnotes of museum visiting.  Stop by the gift shop BEFORE going inside. This helps you hone in on what you want to see and not waste valuable time on other paintings. Our theory is "If your art isn’t good enough for a refrigerator magnet  why should I walk all over your hard marble floors to find it."

Thus armed with my remedial Art History 101 trick we went to check out the next two museums.  I discovered to some horror that the Dutch Masters were a bunch of chauvinist pigs.  One of their
biggest and most famous Rembrandt paintings-- not the big one but a lesser painting--depicted them meeting about their administration of a women’s prison.  Women were. jailed for stealing or begging and forced to spin fabric for them.

  




I am always shocked to find that Beaven enjoys art, too.  We spent a little time looking for his favorite  then we both heard a pastry calling our name.




After what some might call dessert but we considered lunch we had a timed entry to the Anne Frank House. You weren’t allowed to take pictures but I have developed a technique for which I do NOT apologize because I AM A JOURNALIST.  There really and truly things that people need to see and jus because they can’t go there themselves I provide a photo. 


And for some reason the photo I took isn’t loading. It was the yellow Star of David patch that all Jews were required to wear on their clothes.  Required. They had one ondesplay in Anne Frank’s house. The house her family had to hide in for three years. And remain silent during the day because downstairs was a business with people coming and going. Three years for fear of their lives. 

Pretend there’s a picture here





Here. Here it is   This really happened. The German Government forced some of their own citizens to wear an identifying patch on their clothes to set them apart.  To deny them full inclusion in society. To degrade them because of their religion. Because of

And I want to say that we’re in danger of something similar happening again.

THEN to touch my last nerve a couple of teenagers came into the room where we had lined up to see the actual diary the line was so long and the room so small that the line had the curve around.  Maybe if you were a teenager not paying attention to ANYTHING THEY HAD SEEN IN THE ENTIRITY OF THE HOUSE SO FAR they might not have slowed down enough to notice there was a line.  At any rate they cut in line right in front of me. Never one to make a fuss I waited. But they they started laughing and joking and moving around too fast for me.  I reached out and tapped one on the shoulder.  "Where are you girls from?"  That seems to focus them and they said they were from Washington DC. I said I bet there were a lot of museums there.  Small talk ensued to keep them focused on talking to me.  I ended with "you know a lot of people consider this place to be sacred ground."  And I got zero response from them. Nothing. Nada.

I despair.



Tuesday, August 06, 2019

A Trip 50 Years in the Making

Leaving: Tuesday August 6, 2019
When we married in November of 1969 we went to Mexico City on our honeymoon.  And we’ve been traveling ever since. We took our kids camping in tents then a pop-up trailer. Then a cruise. And when everybody got older a couple of years ago the ETC (Els Thomas Carrell) clan went to Europe together. 

And while it’s great to take your teenaged granddaughter to Europe it wasn’t the experience two seasoned travelers want, either.  As we sat there in a McDonald’s in Paris I looked at Beaven and said the next time let’s just you and me go.  I’m ready to just travel alone.

So now we’re back to a honeymoon. And this time we have the benefit of 50 years worth of experience in knowing each other like the back of our hand (and still thinking that person is wonderful) of knowing that we travel well together, pack in synch, of finding wonder in new things and appreciation in the beauty of the classics.

I know what buttons we will push. He will walk ahead of me in a crowd. I will linger when we’re on a tight schedule.


We are traveling to five cities in 14 days taking one single carry-on each.  I am the queen of packing light. I also don’t mind wearing the same clothes for 2 weeks. We have plans for 3 museums in Amsterdam alone and a couple of tours in Paris that some may not know about but I’ve always wanted anted to see--like the Sewer tour. Who needs the Eiffel Tower when you can visit an abandoned sewer?  My Waffle Workshop in Belgium got cancelled but that won’t keep us from eating them nonstop and, possibly most important-- the real bucket list item, the main reason to go:  I want to visit the D Day Beaches. I’ve long held the opinion that any Baby Boomer worth their salt needed to go to that place and stand there and say "Thank You."

We’ve spent a year planning this trip. Come along as I add photos to this scrapbook of a blog

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Life in the Fast Lane

OK, so I set the pasture on fire yesterday but it’s out now and that’s the main thing isn’t it?  I mean, “All’s well that ends well” dontcha know?
Yesterday was supposed to be an easy day.  The only two things I really had scheduled was a visit to the old folks' home and a doctor's appointment to check on my broken ankle.  
I started out with the exercise class at the retirement home.  Becky and I decided we would make that an easy way to do outreach for our church and so we would join in with the class to get to know our members who live there. How hard can an exercise class at the old folks home be? Becky walks 10 miles a day and she figured it would be a piece of cake.  It turns out the class is harder than you would think.  It’s run by a physical** blinking** therapist. We spent a good hour moving just about every body part that would move and some that I’m not sure were designed to move and I was frankly beat afterwards.
Then, to be extra healthy I went to the gym and ran through the circuit training a couple of times because I had just signed up earlier in the week and I’m still on that "commitment high" that will fade in two weeks. 
I went home thoroughly exercised and ready to just rest for the remainder of the day.  
Then I noticed it was going to rain for the rest of the week and I had plans to treat my bees for the dreaded varroa mite but first I needed to harvest just one more frame of honey from each hive.  I wanted to get as much as I could from this year's harvest because it was an especially tasty year. 
I expected it to be easy.  Just bop in, get the frame, put it in a plastic tub, thank the bees and leave.  No biggie. I wasn’t even going to harvest the honey.  Just get the frames and let them sit in the box until I was ready. I didn't even take my cell phone for photos.  I didn't even wear my glasses.
Then I would take a nap until the doctor's appointment.
I had a very relaxing day planned.
I lit the smoker and took the lid to the hive off but after a few puffs the smoker went out.  As I kept pumping it to get it going I noticed the wire of the base got caught in my bee suit. A flaw—either in the smoker or in the bee suit. I made a mental note:  these smokers are dangerous. 




We had bought the new and improved kind of bee suits with holes that are ventilated—bee suits can get really hot and these new ones have puffy holes that the bee’s stingers can’t reach past even though air can flow through them.  Very high tech.  But very poor design for getting your smoker caught in them.  I spent a little time untangling my smoker from my bee suit. 
I picked up some more pine needles and stuffed them loosely in the smoker.  I didn’t need much smoke since I was only after a single frame of honey.  It wasn’t like I was going to do a full inspection of the hive.  Honestly, I didn’t intend to spend that much time.  I took my blow torch and lit the smoker again. 




We have stopped using matches—too wimpy—a blow torch is really the only way to go when you’re lighting a smoker.  One flick of a blow torch and you’ve got the smoker lit.  Voila!  I had great gobs of flames –flames shooting out of the top of the smoker, spilling out of the top.  I tried to shut the lid while I pumped it to get smoke and this only produced more flames.  Now I noticed the smoker was tangled in the bee suit again and this time the flames shooting out of the smoker looked a lot more ominous to me. 

This was the point at which I said to myself, "Girl, you are a-bout to set your self on fire." 

I thought about that for about one second. 

I turned the smoker over to get a better look at the wire cage where it was caught in the bee suit and flaming pine needles spilled out of the top of the smoker onto the dry ground. By the time I untangled the smoker I noticed the grass was on fire.  I started trying to stomp the fire out and noticed it had surrounded the propane torch which I figured was probably explosive, so I decided to avoid it and go stomp out flames in another area since the fire was spreading in several directions and I had my choices of places to stomp.
My bee’s hives are at the fence line between our grassy pasture and my neighbors’ woods.  On the other side of their woods is their beautiful house, barn and valuable horses—nothing you want to burn down.  If I was going to save anything it needed to be the woods. 
Fortunately I had driven the riding mower out to the hives since I’m still limping around from the broken ankle so I drove over to get the garden hose.  Emily has started a butterfly garden nearby and has a garden hose but it wasn’t long enough to reach so  I had to drive around to find another hose and dig it out of the underbrush.  I finally took my bee suit off while I was at it.  I figured the bees were busy with their own problems by now since the ground around them was ablaze and I might not need the suit anymore.
Back at the fire I connected the hose but only got a trickle of water. The hose I had connected had been run over by a mower years ago and had multiple holes in it. There was more water coming out of these holes than the end of the hose, forming a sprinkler of sorts--not much for fire fighting.  So I ditched that hose and went up to the house to get another one.  By now I realized it was time to get my phone while I was at it and call the fire department.
We live on the county line and it’s always a toss-up as to who we get when we 911. It’s also hard to tell them where we live.  Our house is in Wood County but our mailing address is in Hopkins County.  The Winnsboro fire department used to know where we live.  We went through a spell about 20 years ago when we were still clearing the land and had to call them about once a year, one time twice in one day.  Those were the good old days, “Yeah, lady, we know where you live.” 
But this day I ended up with the Coke-Pleasant Grove volunteers who had no idea where to come. Our mailbox is nowhere near where the fire was. They called me on my cell and asked where the fire was...…..they could see the smoke but couldn't find a gate into our field.  This was mostly because they were on the wrong road so I ended up having to drive out to the county road to meet them and guide them out to the neighbors’ house and into the woods.  After I got off the phone with them I called the doctor's office and told them I wouldn't be able to make my 3 o'clock appointment because my pasture was on fire. Fortunately I have the doctor on speed dial because I'm old and old people live this way.   "Did I want to re-schedule?" she asked.  I told her I would have to think about it later when the ground beneath me wasn't ablaze. 
By the time I was able to meet up with the fire truck I had managed to put out the grass fire in our pasture and the fire in the underbrush was moving very slowly towards the neighbor’s house.  I guided them through the neighbor's front yard and into the woods that separate us.  
There were about three men and one women.  The woman told me to go home and drink some water and lay down while they took care of the fire.  Less than five minutes later she called me to say the fire was out and make sure I was OK.    
When I went out this morning to check on the bees I was delighted to see the boxes intact--  the thing could have been so much worse; frames of wood and beeswax.  You know they make candles out of that stuff.


There are hundreds of dead bees on the ground below the entrance. Yet of the remaining 9,000 or so bees I saw several carrying pollen into the hive like nothing had happened.  I won’t be taking any more honey this year.  And if you get a jar from me for Christmas you should be impressed.  The 2018 crop was an experience.

I did take a jar to my neighbor-sort of a peace offering.  She is still speaking to me.  In fact, she says the honey is delicious.