By Stephen Bishop
You Have A Right To A Lawyer
Apparently, I had been speeding down a South Carolina highway without wearing my seatbelt (uncharacteristic, I swear) and couldn’t provide a logical answer to a state trooper’s question, “So where you heading?” My conundrum was I didn’t know where I was heading. I was searching the countryside for a logging crew, any logging crew to photograph. I had just written an article, in fact my first ever as a freelancer, for Grit magazine on forest management, and the editor wanted photos to accompany it. The state trooper doubted my story and asked me to exit the car and follow his finger with my eyeballs without moving my head. Then he proceeded to tell me to recite the alphabet backwards from M.
It’s difficult, even sober. I was sober but petrified because my story sounded ridiculous. After walking a line, toe to toe, which isn’t so easy either under the gaze of a lawman, the trooper asked if he could search my backpack in the passenger’s seat. I consented thankfully. If not, I might have been escorted to the slammer. In that backpack was a copy of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and about a year’s worth of Writer’s Digest. After that, the trooper handed me a seatbelt violation and let me go on my aimless way.
Today I use that same backpack to tote beekeeping stuff. It contains, among other things, a crowbar-looking thing with a little hook on the end that looks like a perfect tool for burglary. I have a grafting tool that looks like a lock pic and an unlabeled ziplock bag of a white powdery substance. In my truck bed is a long metal wand that I can hook to my truck battery to volatilize my white powdery substance. I reek of smoke. If stopped by a state trooper today, I would soon be sitting behind bars until the lab results came back showing oxalic acid.
Beekeeping is hard to explain. The greeter at Wal-Mart, who also checks receipts on the way out, asks me half in jest and half in earnest if I’m making liquor. I just say, “Sweet tea.” People look at you oddly when you have 150 pounds of sugar in the cart. My wife and I also make beeswax soap, and it’s gotten to the point where I send her into the hardware store to buy lye. I’m thin and tend to go too long between haircuts and wear an unkempt beard attached to my face. The old man at the cash register thinks I fit the profile for methamphetamine use. He told me once while purchasing lye, “You better not be cooking stuff with this.” The whole drive home, I was paranoid that the old man had dialed the police after I left and soon flashing lights would pull in behind me.
Speaking of lights, we brought a swarm home one night and set it in its new location, after which my wife removed the rag from the entrance. Unbeknownst to her, a bee was crawling in the folds of the cloth. The bee resented her enclosing hand. “Help! Help! Get off! Get off!” she screamed at the top of her lungs. A neighbor’s window soon alit. I guess our neighbor realized, after seeing headlights in the bee yard, that it was just the kooky beekeepers next door, no need to worry. The window went dark again.
As many of you know, a swollen eye or hand is sure to induce comments about fist fights and who won. Some people are too polite to ask. We all know what they’re thinking: “Who’d that guy make mad?” Well, I made a bee angry, after which it went kamikaze and pumped my eyebrow full of venom. Just remember, you, as a beekeeping addict, have rights too even if your appearance, behavior, and paraphernalia appear shady to normal people. You have the right to a lawyer and the right to remain silent for fear of self-incrimination. Perhaps the best bet, though, is to always buckle up, drive the speed limit, wear your veil, and pray the old man at the hardware store thinks your spouse looks honest and upstanding.