Letters from a Beekeeper’s Wife

At convention, February 1, 1917

Dear Sis:

I know you are anxious to know how we are enjoying the convention, so while I am right here in the midst of it I’ll take time to give you my impression. Rob is having the time of his life.

To begin with the first session—the only impression I had was of heavy solemnity.  The beekeepers who came into the dark, stuffy room in the Capitol assigned to us were heavy-bearded, heavy-footed, solemn and important!  I was almost frightened! They all wear terrible red badges with a queen bee on!  There were two other wives who sat with their husbands, as I did—I mean each sat with her husband—and we all listened very respectfully and attentively to the President’s address and reports of committees.  I looked around during the reading and discovered that although there were a great many elderly bearded men present, there was more than a sprinkling of young, clear-skinned, wide-awake-looking men too.  And some of the older men looked younger after I had heard them talk—especially good old Mr. Randolph.

I expected a great deal from the papers that were to be read—but, oh dear, such a disappointment!  They were nothing more than the endless discussions I hear at home between beekeepers.  The same old subjects—Queen-rearing, Bee Diseases, Marketing Honey (about which most of the men seem to know almost nothing) and the men who talked didn’t know any more about their subjects than the other men apparently, but, just like all beekeepers, when a paper was ended there was wordy, wandering all discussions of it.  As every man had to air his pet theory—every beekeeper has a pet theory—the discussion wandered off in all directions and never seemed to arrive. They talk about the aimless discussion in women’s clubs, but it can’t compare with a state beekeepers’ convention.

At the end of the day I wondered to myself what Rob can get out of this organization to want to come year after year.
Rob read a paper on “Home Marketing of Honey” in which he described our work last summer.  One man actually said that it was not right to charge twenty cents a pound for honey, and several intimated that Rob had not really done what he said!  That made me furious, and I was glad that a young beekeeper rose and completely annihilated Rokb’s critics, finishing by telling them that a man who will retail honey for ten cents a pound is little short of a fool.  Rob’s paper was the best one read yesterday—of course I am unbiased in my judgment.

However, today the apiarist from the State College talked, and, as every one had worked his pet theory out of his system the day before, the discussion stated somewhat nearer the topic.  I noticed that the younger men almost always led in progressive ideas, but I must again include Mr. Randolph, who is almost eighty years young, and the conservative old heads would shake in disapproval.  I suppose it was the same in Langstroth’s day when he tried to introduce the movable-frame hive—and you know Susan B. Anthony had troubles of her own.

I’ve been over to the last session but slipped out to write to you.  They were carrying on a question-box when I left.  That’s the funniest thing!  Any one who desires writes out a question he would like to have answered.  There are read aloud and then any one at all answers, whether he is an authority on the subject or merely thinks he is.  I have an idea that some of them put in questions that they expect to answer themselves, for a lot of the men have not had much chance to talk today while there were real subjects being discussed. There will be five or six absolutely different answers to each question, so that I should suppose that an amateur would be pretty will muddled in the end.

Of course now that I’ve been with these beekeepers for two days I begin to see why they like to come to conventions, but I don’t believe that most of them know the real reason.  It isn’t for the papers, and certainly not for the awful question-box, but for the human contact with beekeepers—and they are a mighty nice lot of people.  After the sessions it’s the hardest thing to pry Rob loose from any little group that happens to form, and last night he stayed up and talked to the apiarist from the college until half past one.  Poor Mr. Apiarist!  I’m not pitying Rob for I’m sure it was his fault.  The beemen hang around that dingy room or the hotel lobby, swapping bee stories until the lights are turned out.  Rob says the convention has been a success this year, for the usual bore with a new hive did not come, and the man who has kept bees a few months but knows more about beekeeping than all the rest put together has been kept in the background.  Rob is quite elated that they didn’t make a new constitution this year, for he says that is the beekeeper’s favorite indoor sport.

I’m glad I came for I have met lots of men that I’ve known by name for a long time. Tonight we leave for home. Goodbye.
                                                                                                                                            Mary