In the mid nineties, when I was not quite fifteen, I got really, really sick.  I don’t remember my ailment, but I do remember that I was sick enough to stay home from school for several days, something that never happened in my family.  If we weren’t deathly contagious, we were going to school.

While home, I curled up on the couch and explored the channels of the satellite television my dad had recently hooked up – I grew up on a little farm on the Virginia/North Carolina line, too far from town to get cable or order pizza.   At the time, these facts sometimes seemed outrageous to me, as though I believed I had a personal bill of rights entitling me to at least a thin crust Hawaiian and MTV on Friday nights, especially since my parents were too strict to actually let me leave the farm.

By the time satellite TV dropped in price enough to entice my dad, I had already spent 14 years in a mostly TV free existence, and I have come to believe that the reason I have never been a big TV person is because I spent 14 years entertaining myself in other ways.  At 14, I wanted to read and ride my horse and catch a ride to town.  So when we got satellite, I was content to let my brothers become couch commandos, and in all the years since, I never learned the correct combination of remotes to turn on the TV at Blackstone Farms.  When my parents sold the farm earlier this year, I remember walking through the den one last time, looking at the wicker basket of remotes, and thinking to myself, Guess I’ll never figure it out now.

Country music was not considered cool by my peers, and so I grew up listening to a mix of oldies and Broadway show tunes (when with mom and dad) or rap and pop (when with anyone else).  That day, laid out sick on the couch, Dad turned the TV on for me, and I discovered that even with satellite, we didn’t get MTV.  But we did get CMT.

I must have been so sick that my attention span wouldn’t allow me to focus on sitcoms or movies, because I found myself sucked into CMT.  I eventually watched about 3 straight days of country music videos, dozing in and out of my fever.  And so it was that I fell in love with country music, a love affair that continues to this day, which is a good thing, as I now find myself living on a bee farm in an area of the country so remote it makes Blackstone Farms look like Brooklyn.

After I recovered, I bought Suzy Bogguss’ Aces, and I sang plaintively in the shower along with her to Someday Soon, Letting Go, Outbound Plane and the title track.  When Suzy released her next album, Voices in the Wind, I rushed to buy it, and discovered Suzy had covered John Hiatt’s Drive South – she hit #2 on the country charts with her quick, catchy version.

I didn’t say we wouldn’t hurt anymore

That’s how you learn you just get burned

We don’t have to feel like dirt anymore

Though love’s not learned baby it’s our turn We were always looking for true love

With our heads in the clouds

Just a little off course

But I left that motor running

Now if you’re feeling down and out

Come on baby drive south with the one you love

Come on baby drive south

I’m not talking about retreating no sir

Gonna take our stand in this Chevy van

Windows open on the rest of the world

Holding hands all the way to Dixie land

We’ve been trying to turn our lives around

Since we were little kids

It’s been wearing us down

Don’t turn away now darling

Let’s fire it up and wind it out

Come on baby drive south with the one you love

Come on baby drive south

I heard your momma calling

I think she was only stalling

Don’t know who she’s talking to

Baby me or you

We can go south with a smile on

Ain’t going to pack my nylons

Just leave these legs showing

It gets hot down where were going

We were always looking for true love

With our heads in the clouds

Just a little off course

But I left that motor running

Now if you’re feeling down and out

Come on baby drive south with the one you love

Come on baby drive south

And now, each fall when we round our honeybees up and ship ’em, 408 colonies at a time on the back of a flatbed semi, south to California, I find myself singing Drive South to myself as we work.

I wrote about the ins and outs of how this process works earlier this year, when the bees came home from California, so if you weren’t reading our blog back then, check out that post.  Loading the bees is not unlike unloading the bees, just in reverse of course.  Much was the same – our wonderful truck driver, Chuck, arrived at the holding yard with his flatbed; Honeydew used to the forklift to load the hives, 4 per pallet, 3 pallets at a time, onto the back of the semi, and I placed entrance reducers at the entrance to each hive.  The only thing particularly different was that Brother Dear assisted us, which was wonderful.  He spent most of his time walking carefully across the tops of the hives on the flatbed, about twenty feet off the ground, placing the spreader boards, unrolling the nets, and generally giving his sister a heart attack.  I thought it was bad watching Honeydew, a professional commercial beekeeper, perform these tasks.  It was much worse watching Brother Dear, apprentice beekeeper, high up off the ground.  And I don’t even want to talk about my blood pressure during the time that Honeydew and Brother Dear were both up on top of the semi.

Here are some shots from loading bees in Fall 2010:

We began at first light.

Some of us are cheerier than others.  I’ve got my arms full of entrance reducers, here.

Brother Dear helped with the entrance reducers, too.

Honeydew whipped around like a crazy person in his forklift, knocking over only one hive of bees, which were thankfully too cold to put up much of a protest.

Then Brother Dear got up on top of the hives to help get the spreader boards in place.

Then Honeydew joined him, and Chuck assisted from the ground.

This is my new favorite picture of the brothers-in-law.

And here I am, of course.  Supervisor in Chief.  So happy not to be walking around on top of bee hives, twenty feet off the ground!

Right now, just under half of our bees are on their merry way to northern California.  We’ll repeat this process and send the rest of ’em at first light Wednesday.  In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for their safe travels, and Chuck’s.

2010. Glacier County Honey Co.  Some photo credits to Brother Dear.  All Rights Reserved.