from Saturday Evening Post
by Ellis Parker Butler
For six years I have been attempting to get Senator Perlingham Jedbury to let me tell him what I think of the League of Nations. Two hundred times, at least, I have begun, "Now, senator, if you will just let me tell you what I think about the League of Nations --" but he has always had to hurry away to keep an engagement, or has seen someone he had to speak to. As soon as I have begun with "Now, senator, if you will just let me tell you what I think about the League of Nations --" he has got out of his chair. He has always made some excuse for not listening to me, but he has not deceived me; I have understood that he did not want to listen to what I think about the League of Nations. So that is why I am grateful to Henry Hooten.
The senator was sitting in the lounge of the Paxmack Club, where we both play golf, and I entered. I walked directly to him and seated myself beside him.
"Ah, senator," I said, "this is opportune! I have been wanting to tell you what I think of the League of Nations --"
The senator immediately looked around, half rising from his chair, and saw Henry Hooten, Charles J. Carter, Amos Gregg and Jim Overman, who were passing us.
"Pardon me a moment," he said to me; and then to Hooten, "Oh, Hooten, one minute, please."
"Yes, senator?" said Hooten. "What is it?"
"I wanted to ask you," the senator said, and I knew he was mentally pawing for something to grasp -- "I wanted to ask you -- in fact I wanted to ask you to tell me -- I mean -- well, to be frank, I want to know what you think about bees."
"Bees?" Hooten said, looking dazed
"Bees," repeated the senator. "Seems to me Congress is not doing the right thing by bees. The cow, yes; the hog, yes; the domestic fowl, yes; but the bee, no. Now as a bee expert, your opinion --"
"But, Lor' lumme!" exclaimed Hooten. "Lor" lumme, senator, I don't know anything about bees."
"Now none of that!" said the senator hastily. "Modesty is all right enough, Hooten, but not in this case. The future of this nation, bound up in the bee, rests on the wise action of its legislators, one of which I am, and your duty to humanity when a senator of the United States asks your expert opinion --"
"Yes, but did you say bees?" asked Hooten. "I don't know anything about bees. I read the other day that there was a fine book about them written by some person named Dallas Lore Sharp, or something of that sort."
"It seems to me that Belgian fellow wrote something about bees," said Carter. "The fellow who wrote the Blue Bird thingamajig."
"I read a piece in The Saturday Evening Post the other day," said Gregg. "A fellow named Dick Wick Hall wrote it. Sounded untruthful to me, though; it didn't have the ring of truth, somehow. It was about --"
"I remember about Lightnin', that character Frank Bacon played on the stage," said Jim Overman. "He said he drove a swarm of bees from Nevada or somewhere to California."
"This fellow I'm telling you about," said Gregg, "told about a fellow who was taking a hive of bees from New Hampshire to California in an automobile, and in Arizona --"
"That is what I wanted to get information on particularly," said Senator Jedbury; "the transportation of bees. The Interstate Commerce Commission --"
Hooten stood his bag of golf clubs against a table and dropped into a chair.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "if you want to know the truth of it, that story of Dick Wick Hall's was pure fabrication. I read it, and I know what I'm talking about. And I ought to know, because the man from New Hampshire was my uncle. Orlando X. Hooten is his name, from Balesburg, New Hampshire."
"That don't seem to me to be the name I read in The Post," said Gregg.
"When a man like Dick Wick Hall starts out to tell a whopper," said Hooten, "he don't dare use actual names. He'd be sued for libel, most likely. I dare say my Uncle Orlando did stop at this Dick Wick Hall's garage, and of course he had his bees with him; but that's about the limit of the truth in that Dick Wick Hall's story. My Uncle Orlando was not, for example, driving a broken-down flivver. He got rid of that flivver long before then. When that flivver got him his bees --"
"That's one of the points I wanted to ask you about," said the senator, seeing I was about to speak. "Using flivvers to get bees is one of the matters my committee must take up at the next session."
"Oh, that was simple enough!" said Hooten, with a careless wave of his hand. "You see, my Uncle Orlando had this flivver ten or twelve years, and he drove it mighty hard and never spent any money on repairs, and it made a terrible noise when it was driven. Awful noise! Like tin pans and shotguns and I don't know what all. And you know, senator, that when beekeepers want the bees to swarm they pound on tin pans and make a big racket. Well, sir, whenever Uncle Orlando drove that flivver anywhere the bees would immediately swarm! Yes, sir! Thousands and millions of them. Uncle Orlando would go driving down the road and all the bees for miles around would start right in and swarm to beat the band, so to speak, and when he had a swarm of bees gathered in that way my Uncle Orlando would drive right back home and hive them."
"But I thought bees usually swarmed on a limb of a tree," said Jim Overman, and Hooten gave him a mean sort of look.
"They do," said Hooten. "Uncle Orlando had lost the main brace -- or whatever you call it -- of his flivver and he had stuck in the limb of a tree instead. So, of course, the bees swarmed on the limb of the tree Uncle Orlando used as a main brace."
"This is extremely important, Hooten," the senator said. "If our committee should go to New Hampshire, I suppose it can see the flivver."
"Now that's just the trouble," said Hooten. "It can't see the flivver in New Hampshire. In the first place my Uncle Orlando scrapped that flivver and bought an eight-cylinder Rix, and in the second place he sold all his bees but his favorite hive, and he took that hive to California."
"Then," said the senator, "our committee must go to California and investigate your uncle's bees there."
"Now that's another thing that almost breaks my heart, senator," said Hooten. "I don't believe, if you did go to California, my Uncle Orlando would talk bees at all. He's sore about bees. Yes, 'sore' is the very word. If you mention bees to my uncle he'll shoot. Shoot to kill too. You see, senator, when a man has been tried for murder --"
At this Jim Overman and Charles J. Carter and Amos Gregg pulled up chairs and made themselves comfortable. "Yes, that's another thing my committee must consider," said Senator Jedbury; "the relation of bees to murder. There's been too little consideration given to that point. The statistics, incomplete as they are --"
"What my Uncle Orlando thought," said Hooten, interrupting him, "was that California would be a far better place for beekeeping than New Hampshire. Flowers all the year and no off-season in the winter; bees making honey three hundred and sixty-five days a year -- three hundred and sixty-six on leap year -- and no need to feed the little fellows sugar or syrup in the winter. So he sold his place and loaded his favorite hive of bees into his eight-cylinder Rix, and took his wife and two children aboard, and started for California. It was early in the spring -- apple-blossom time --"
"And he took some apple blossoms with him to feed the bees?" said Amos Gregg.
"Not at all," said Hooten. "He let the bees forage on the way. Every morning at sunup the bees would fly out of the hive and fly forward, ahead of the automobile, and grab honey from the apple blossoms along the route. Then they would hover in the air until they saw Uncle Orlando's car coming, and when it came abreast they would dash down and enter the hive. Uncle Orlando used to toot his horn continuously to let the bees know he was coming. It was a pretty sight, he said, the pretty little bees crawling out of the hive, standing a moment to spread their wings, darting rapidly ahead of the automobile and then waiting for it to come up with them when they had gathered the honey and pollen."
"What speed did your Uncle Orlando's car make?" asked the senator, taking out his notebook and pencil.
"Thirty-five," said Hooten. "Thirty-five miles an hour was his average, sir. At times he did get up to forty-two, but his average was thirty-five."
"The bees must have made fairly good speed," suggested the senator.
"Yes, fairly good speed," agreed Hooten. "Seventy miles an hour, on the average, was what Uncle Orlando figured they did. They made seventy miles while Uncle Orlando was doing thirty-five, and that gave them an hour to gather honey before he caught them up. That was plenty. They did not need that much time, as a matter of fact. Often Uncle Orlando would see the bees sitting on the fence, resting, as he drove up."
"The -- oh, yes," said the senator, and coughed gently. "Yes, sitting on the fence."
"And from New Hampshire to the Western desert Uncle Orlando did not lose a single bee," said Hooten. "And even then --"
"He only lost one," suggested Gregg.
"No," said Hooten seriously, "I shan't say that. I'll stick to the truth. He lost several. They were the weaklings, of course, and probably fell in the desert and died of thirst. Probably twelve or thirteen in all. The wings of the rest gradually strengthened --"
"Strengthened?" the senator asked.
"Of course," said Hooten. "They had to strengthen, and so they did. I remember that Uncle Orlando said that Rosario Palacio was the last town where there were blossoms -- flowers. On the eastern edge of the desert, you understand, senator."
"Rosario Palacio, yes," said the senator, making a note of it.
"And of course," said Hooten, "after that, when my Uncle Orlando began to drive across the desert, the bees couldn't fly forward to find honey -- they had to fly back to Rosario Palacio, and then fly rapidly to catch up with the automobile. You see, senator, the first hour out of Rosario Palacio, with the bees stopping there to gather honey, the bees at the end of an hour had to fly seventy miles an hour to catch up with the automobile -- about that. And the second hour they had to fly faster -- they had to fly back to the flowers at Rosario Palacio, spend some time gathering honey, and then hustle like the dickens to catch the automobile. And the next hour they had seventy miles to make to reach Rosario Palacio and about one hundred miles to catch up the car."
"Their wings strengthened rapidly," suggested Gregg.
"They do, in a hot climate," said Hooten. "But by the time Uncle Orlando was three days into the desert, driving thirty-five miles an hour for ten hours a day say, a thousand miles -- the bees really had to hustle to get to Rosario Palacio and get back to the car before the honey soured. They made it in about an hour, Uncle Orlando said -- say, roughly, two thousand miles an hour. The bee is a wonderful insect."
"It adapts itself to conditions, doesn't it? " said Carter.
"To some extent, yes," agreed Hooten. "My Uncle Orlando's bees had to, so they did. But three hundred and fifty miles a minute was just about the best speed they reached. Unfortunately --"
"What are you pausing for?" Jim Overman asked.
"I hate to go on; I'm coming to the sad part," said Hooten. "High-speed bees are all well enough in a desert, but they're a bad thing in closely inhabited communities -- a very bad thing. When my Uncle Orlando reached Corduna, in California, and unloaded the beehive, the bees couldn't get back to their low speed again. The very first day, high-speeding out from the hive like rifle bullets, Uncle Orlando's bees hit a herd of cattle, and six hundred and eighteen bees went through the hides and flesh and bones of those cattle. Killed the whole herd dead! Yes, sir, killed absolutely dead thirty-seven as fine head of cattle as you ever saw in your life. And the next day. when the deputy sheriff --"
Senator Jedbury here closed his memorandum book and put it back in his pocket.
"When the deputy sheriff came to warn Uncle Orlando," continued Hooten, "a high speed bee shot out of the hive and hit the deputy sheriff full on the breast, perforated him instantly, and the poor man fell dead where he stood."
The senator looked at the ling and coughed again.
"And, of course," said Hooten eagerly, "that made a lot of trouble for Uncle Orlando. There was a trial and eminent counsel and all that sort of thing, and some wanted Uncle Orlando hanged. Fortunately the jury disagreed, but the judge warned Uncle Orlando severely. He warned him that he must reduce the speed of his bees or get out of California. So for a week or two Uncle Orlando tried to get the bees to reduce their speed, but he was quite unsuccessful until he thought of the only way to do it. The bees could not fly forward any longer except at rifle-bullet speed, so he induced them to do the only thing that could possibly reduce their speed, which was to fly backward."
The senator moved uneasily in his chair and coughed several times, but Hooten went right on.
"And that," he said, "was almost worse than before. You see, sir, when a bee is flying backward it cannot see where it is going, and it happened that there was a Sunday school picnic at Corduna, and you know what a bee carries as a rear-end protection. Well, sir, a thousand or so of Uncle Orlando's bees started out from the hive, beeline for a field of flowers, guided only by their sense of smell, and --"
It was at this point that Senator Jedbury turned to me.
"Ah, by the way," he said to me, "what was it you were saying about the League of Nations? I am deeply interested in the League of Nations."
So you understand why I am grateful to Hooten.