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Ed Colby
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By: Ed Colby

That Redheaded Tina

That redheaded Tina rolled into Colby Farm late from Durango in her ’94 Volvo after she had to detour around the mudslides south of Red Mountain Pass. She did look at some bees on the way. The gal Marilyn and I put her in the guesthouse out back. We all got up with the roosters but lingered over breakfast. Then Tina and I lit out over the mountains for some honey bee politicking.

Tina likes to wear a dress in the beeyard. She argues that it’s when bees get caught between tight clothing and your skin that they like to sting you. This inspired me to wear hiking sandals when I’m in the beeyard. It works! Bees might pepper my veil and find the holes in my jeans, but they almost never sting my toes. And tickling bees on bare feet lets me know when the little darlings are thinking about climbing up my leg to check if I’m wearing underwear.

Tina and I are neither of us city folks. I’m generally lost every time I cross the Continental Divide and descend into the Denver/Boulder/Colorado Springs maelstrom. She likes to say, “I don’t know the difference between Arvada and Aurora.” This resonates, because I don’t know the difference either.

To keep the conversation lively as we climbed over Vail Pass, Tina launched into a political tirade. Not bee politics, on which we’re staunch allies, but right versus left, with a pinch of The Donald thrown in. We didn’t agree on much. After we wore that one out, we started in on religion.

Just when I thought I might have offended her with my take on right, wrong, and the meaning of truth, Tina startled me. “Ed!” she said. For an instant I took my gaze off the road and looked into the bluest blue eyes. “I’m really enjoying our conversation!” she exclaimed.

Father Bob liked to slip in a good clean joke now and then at Mass. I wish I’d thought to tell this one to Tina:

Pope Francis is praying in his study, when the phone rings. It’s God. He says, “Francis, my faithful servant, I have some good news, and I have some bad news. What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”

“Oh, I’ll take the good news,” the Pope replies.

“I’ve decided to unite all the world’s believers under one religion. No longer will there be religious bitterness or strife.”

“That’s the answer to my prayers!” Francis exclaims.

“And now the bad news,” God says.

“How can there be any bad news after what you just told me?”

“You’re not going to like this,” God says, “but I’m calling from Salt Lake City.”

This was one of Father Bob’s favorite jokes, and it’s surely one of mine.

Tina brought a GPS, so she’s way ahead of me. I’m still trying to figure out my flip phone. My idea of finding your way in a strange town is to have a human navigator riding shotgun with a Rand McNally road atlas barking out instructions.

We were only 20 minutes late for our meeting, and the polite folks at the Colorado Department of Agriculture were waiting for us. Tina and I were emissaries from the Colorado State Beekeepers Association (CSBA), and the Ag people knew we had a beef. They listened attentively and nodded at appropriate moments as Tina and I did most of the talking. This all had to do with who might best represent Colorado beekeepers on the state’s Pesticide Advisory Committee, and who might not.

I’m not going to hang dirty laundry here. Bee politics can damage tender ears. Suffice it to say that there are significant differences of opinion among Colorado beekeepers on just about everything. In the end, the Department of Agriculture officials invited the CSBA to submit its own candidate for the upcoming beekeeper vacancy on the Pesticide Advisory Committee. Great!

But you know how in sci-fi movies somebody figures out that their neighbors are from Outer Space, and they report it to the police chief? Then afterwards they wonder if maybe, just maybe, the chief is an alien, too? That’s what it felt like challenging the Ag establishment and the status quo.

It’s August as I write, and the drought here in west-central Colorado continues unabated. We have fires all around us. The smoke envelops you. Like a novice smoker, I got used to it and finally stopped coughing. Here in the Colorado River Valley the un-irrigated land feels brittle, it’s so dry. Toss your stogie out the car window, and the cheat grass is sure to burn like gasoline.

Remarkably, bees in some locations are making honey.

A rancher traded me fishing access for honey. A little creek meanders through his place. In Autumns past I spotted big brown trout that presumably came up from the Colorado River to spawn. I don’t know how they’d make it this year due to the low water. I dropped off a case of quarts by the rancher’s back door this afternoon. Now I need to break out my rod and see if I can find my fly box. This means temporarily dropping my obsession with bees and mites and honey harvest and taking a day or at least a morning off. I can do this. Really.

Ed Colby practices beekeeping in Aspen Mountain, Colorado, where he lives with his partner, Marilyn.