Saturday, December 15, 2012

Apples & Honey

Well… onceuponatime waybackwhen longlongago at the very beginning of things, man and bear used to be a bit more…civilized with each other.

Oh, it wasn’t like it is now, the bears is raiding our chicken coops and our honeyhives.

No, in fact it was the bears that taught us how to treat them honeybees all nice-like to get ‘em to work for us.  They knew just the right time to get the smoke going under the hives to put those bees to sleep.  Ah, but once they wake up and get to work: what happy honey those hives harbor.  

But enough about the bees for the moment.  Though the bears lived in the mountains and man lived in the cities, they was still friends.  The bears knew all about hunting and honey and woodworking while men knew all about farming, building and mechanicals.

They worked hard in those days (much harder than some do now, mind me) and there’re even some folk say the bears worked twice as hard, it being their job to tend to all the flora and fauna of the forests they was responsible for.  And man, well, let’s just say they got fat and slow, like most of them farm animals they gots to take care of.

Yet no matter where you hailed from, hills and valley or anywhere in between, the thing that they all had most in common was baseball.

They held their tournaments here, Haven being the center of all of Clint, and the same distance for just about everyone to get to from everywhere.  Keating Mountain Keggers, Spangler’s Spokes, Hammer’s Mill—you name ‘em, this is where they played.

Petty’s has always had their ball fields here, but what is now apple trees was once rows upon rows of the freshest sweet corn you ever did taste, better than that over in Logan’s Valley, mind me.  Corn over here stretchted up both sides of the magical Sus’kenna River, back when its magic waters still ran pure.

The season had gone well (as well as it ever could with a team like the Cubbies bumping everyone out of the brackets) and the home field advantage went to Haven’s own Petty’s Punch against the mythical Cubbies Clubber’s.

The stands were packed, and the crowd was throwing a big hullabaloo—chanting, cheering, mascots chasing each other about the field.  The crowd was getting rowdier, the ballads bawdier, and the moonshine flowing fine. 

But what really moved them was the game.  It looked as if the Cubbies were going to clinch it again this year, but as the Punch took to the dugout, there was an air about the boys that was hard to ignore.

It didn’t take long until it was the bottom of the ninth, and though the bases were loaded, there were two outs and the Punch was still down by three.  Now…the air that was hard to ignore…well, it had blown out of the Punch’s sails.   

But…up to the plate swaggered Sullivan Slugger.  Well, Sullivan didn’t let that first pitch go by without swinging.  Strike one.  And the second?  You guessed it:  strike two.   But the third? 

Well, ‘ol Slugging Sullivan lived up to his namesake, and boy-howdy connected with a loud CRACK that split the bat in half and tore the hide clean off the ball.  The Cubbies could only watch in disbelief as the ball flew over their heads, knowing all was lost.  Both sides cheered and greeted the Punch on the ball field while the Cubbies lowered their heads in defeat, and retreated to the cornfield to search for the missing baseball.

The game had taken most of the evening, and by now it was getting late, but there was a full moon rising, and they went deeper into the cornfields…it had to be around there somewhere, right?  Now on top of getting awful late, the Cubbies were getting a might tired and hungry to boot.  They’d been walking a long time.

Harvest had come and gone, and the crop had been especially high that year on account of the Great Flood after the spring thaw, and ‘sides, all had had their fair share of corn for awhile.  Yet with their tum-tums rumbling, them industrious bears smelled something better.

It was in that instant that they saw it, as if their rumblings and ramblings had opened up the earth.  There before them grew a gi-normous tree, branches ripe with buds near-big as the baseball they were a-searching for.  Having not been there mere moments ago, not to mention being a superstitious people, the bears assumed that the magic of the full moon on Hallow’s Eve coupled with the fertile land and the pure waters of the Sus’kenna—anything could happen.  And as in this case, it usually did. 

As the bears approached the tree, the buds exploded, opening into the dazzling white apple blossoms.  And even though the night air was chilly, heat radiated from the tree, pulling warmth from the good earth.  Hot sap pumped through the tree’s veins, they could hear it’s lifeblood beneath the bark, now joined by a chorus of bees. 

The bears looked up in awe as the bees made their way in and out between the branches.  Blossoms fell upon the bears as the temperature dropped outside the canopy of the apple tree and snow blanketed the outer world. 

Patiently, they waited.  It was by instinct, and their protesting stomachs longed for the fruit that was bound to form before long.  The bears eyed the limbs hungrily, heavy-laden with apples, mouths watering as the fruit reddened in the night air, and the bees lit upon the bears’ shoulders saying:

            Pleez eat from the treez, but do not dizturb our honey hivez within the hollowz  
            of our homez.

One was only to harvest from the hive, as the bears had promised no to even longer ago.  The bears promised again not to (in typical bear fashion) and the bears stuck to eating of the tree.  They ate and ate and ate until the apples filled the bears’ bellies to bursting.  But bears being bears, hungry and tired as they were, made the move to eat something sweeter.  Hmph—and you thought the apple was the forbidden fruit.

Though the bears knew how to treat them bees, they waited for ‘em to fall into a restless sleep, even though they didn’t have any smoke to put ‘em down.  So there they were, sticking it to them bees, the bears’ arms up to the elbow in honeycomb.  A-course, the bears getting stuck was the first of their problems.  It didn’t take long for those bees to wake and take flight once they found out they’d been stung.

But the bees stung back.  And it didn’t take long for the bears to realize they were on the wrong end of the deal.  The sheer number of bees sacrificing their lives for the cause decimated the population, but they won out in the end.

The bees attacked, over and over again, until the bears freed their paws from their prison.  As much as those stingers stung, there was nothing worse than one getting stuck under the thick skin of the bears.  The bears pawed and clawed at the bees and the stickers, running back through the fields for their lives.  Running, this way and that, swarms of them bees confusing the bears.  And the bears having eaten too much of the apples and defecating all over the place, it wasn’t long until they all lost their way.

Now, even more tired than before, sluggish from their feast, and the honey sticking to them, slowing them down, the bears couldn’t help but pass out in the snow, sleeping that long slumber that we call hibernation.  Upon waking, the bears were a might testy, what with their rearends all stung and hurting from the apples and the bees. 

We never do see much of them anymore, keeping to the woods, except for when they come to rob us of our honey.

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