by Ross Murphy
On part of my acreage I have created a Community Garden. There I rent out garden plots to 12 families. I set aside some additional room for growing communal crops: cantaloupes, watermelon, Winter squash, cucumbers, and flowers. These are crops that would cover a single garden plot with foliage. People share what is produced in these areas.
It works out well, not as a profit-maker, but at least with the additional help I now have a fighting chance against The Weeds. There is something else I grow, bee food, especially white, crimson and alsike clover. As urban growth continues in this area, the former open prairies which formerly fed my bees has been covered over with shopping centers, duplexes, condos, apartments, homes, asphalt and concrete. So what was once my lawn is mainly clover and other flowers.
Everyone grows lots of food: beans, 16 varieties of tomatoes, 10 kinds of hot and cold peppers, peas, beets, potatoes, well, just everything. I also keep 12-15 colonies of bees, partly to pollinate everything but mainly to assist in the world-wide effort to sustain the bees until the scourge of CCD can be eliminated.
Before I retired, I was a top salesman and small-business consultant for IBM. One of our gardeners is Dave Williams, formerly a salesman, sales manager and district manager for Xerox.
As with all salesmen, we enjoy talking about our sales careers, our great successes and triumphs that only other salesmen can understand and appreciate. A sales career produces lots of interesting tales, especially how one goes about prospecting and selling new customers for our former companies, IBM and Xerox. Selling isn’t easy, and any idea that works well is used over and over again, until it doesn’t work any more. Then new, clever ideas must be invented. Or re-invented, because there is really nothing new under the sun.
Some of these stories are fascinating, and some of them, I think, are just a little fanciful. I mean with maybe just a little embroidery around the edges to increase their beauty. At least Dave’s are, not mine; mine are always completely true, at least as I recall them with my stainless steel memory.
I also like to talk about bees and beekeeping, fascinating topics indeed. I talk about bees to anyone I can corner. Sometimes I bribe them with cold beer. They often see me, surrounded by puffs of smoke and puffs of bees, usually in shorts and a tee shirt. Of course they wonder what I am doing.
The most frequent question I am asked is, “Aren’t you afraid of being stung?” “Actually yes, I’m terrified.” “But can’t you wear protective clothing?” “I could, yes, but there’s a certain nobility in displaying courage in the face of danger.” Then I look slightly heavenward. “It’s a calling, I suppose, one man’s effort to confront his fears and overcome them, sometimes at a fairly high price. It’s just something I have to do. The bees need me and, I suppose, I need them. I guess some bees just have to sting and it’s better that they sting me instead of you. By the way, would you like to buy some honey? It’s cheaper if you buy three pounds.”
When Dave Williams hears this, he also looks heavenward and he rolls his eyes as if he is thinking, Am I really hearing this stuff?
I often wonder what he is thinking. Of course the other gardeners hold me in awe, or even esteem, which is good for business.
So with this explained, one recent sunny day, I had been engaged in garden-talk with Dave, the master salesman, watching him digging potatoes. I left him and walked around the other side of the pole barn. There, on a fairly low branch of a pin oak tree was a large swarm of bees. They were almost the size of a basketball, six feet off the ground. I felt sure they were from one of my Carniolan hives and I had missed the clues that they were going to swarm.
I walked back around the barn to Dave. “Dave, I’ve been thinking about something. What is the most important character trait that a top-notch salesman must have in order to be successful?” He leaned on his spading fork and gave it considerable thought. “It’s Persistence, that’s what a salesman must have, Persistence.”
“I agree that persistence is important, but it’s just a part of something bigger, Courage. Persistence is only a part of being courageous. I’ve told you that I was a top salesman for IBM, and it’s true, for I was both brave and persistent. If you will follow me, I will give you a demonstration of both these qualities and just how brave a man can be.”
He trailed after me to the oak tree. He could hear the bees, because some of them were still flying. He looked up and saw the swarm. “Oh my gosh! What is that? Oh no, it’s bees!”
“Yes it is, it must be at least 15 thousand, and I think they are a little angry. Okay, here I go. Watch this!” I used my left hand to grasp my right wrist, as if to steady it. With my fingers pointed on my right hand and assisted by my left, I slowly thrust my hand into the writhing swarm, all the way up to the wrist.
“Oh! Oh no! Ow! Ow! Ouch! Oh no! No!” I kept my hand in and never stopped whining, “Ow! Ow! Ow!”
Dave: “Are you crazy? Take it out! You’re going to kill yourself, you’ll go into antididactic shock!”
I kept my hand in. I was gritting my teeth, like John Wayne. “Dave, when I stuck my hand in, Ow! that was Courage. Oh! Ow! Keeping it there is Persistence.Ow! Ow!” Still complaining in my great pain, I slowly withdrew my hand, with the help of my left hand pulling on the right wrist. A few bees clung to my “badly stung” hand; I shook them off.
“Dave, you’ll have to excuse me. I think I feel a reaction coming on. Oh yes, I do. I am going in to soak my hand in epsom salts and tomato juice; I read somewhere that could help.” I left to go in to watch a golf match on television. The only antidote I took was a large Pepsi with lots of ice. And Fritos. Later that day I moved the bees into a hive body.
A week later, I saw one of my women gardeners, Brandy Alexander, coming in with her two little daughters to work in her garden. She looked at me with great admiration. “Dave Williams told me you are the bravest man he has ever met.”
“Well yes, I suppose I am. He didn’t say I was the bravest man in the whole world? No! He didn’t? Listen, would you like to buy some honey?”
Of course she did; three pounds. See? It’s good for business.