We live in an older part of Hays, next to a draw filled with trees. For many years, each morning, my wife, and then in the evenings my wife and I, have walked around that draw, always with a dog in tow. We have watched its ebbs and flows, particularly the flows when it occasionally floods. We have walked many dogs there and cannot keep from remembering them as we take that walk. The neighborhood children grew from tots to teenagers playing in that draw. My three sons, though now in their late 20s to early 30s, still return to its shade and comfortable protection when they come home.
Just a few years ago, we discovered a beehive in the fork of an elm tree in that draw. I do not know how long it had been there; we just noticed it one day. It was right by the road near a small bridge.
My wife chuckled at me many times because I always walked up to the tree as we walked by. I could smell the sweet smell. I would put my ear to the tree and hear the buzzing. The bees never panicked and just flew around me quietly. They never stung me, and I never bothered them. I would just watch the bees coming and going. On hot days, many bees would gather on one side of the crack in the tree, fanning their wings, I suppose, to create a breeze in the hive.
The hive was built in a widening crack coming down the elm tree. Each time it stormed, I was afraid to go by the tree, for fear of it having split in half, destroying the bees’ home and perhaps killing many of them.
Winter would come. I was sure they would leave; instead, they would hunker down only to pop out of the tree at the first sign of warm weather.
Every few months, the crack seemed to grow wider. I could see deeper and deeper into the bees’ private nest, as the tree succumbed to wind and gravity.
We made it through this summer, and September greeted us. At my home, only a few blocks away, the bees were busy gathering nectar from our garden, returning to the elm in preparation for winter. I was hoping they could make it through another winter.
On a recent morning, my wife went to work and called me from her car. The tree was being cut down. She was upset that I did not know what to do or say.
My middle son walked down to the tree that evening, now spread along the ground. When he returned, I could tell he felt I should have done something.
Later in the evening, I took my dog and our neighbor’s dog for a walk. The area around the tree was roped off. I felt like I needed to be near the tree, so I entered the roped off area. I could tell from the logs on the ground the tree really had been in poor health. It needed to come down before it fell unexpectedly on someone.
Yet, it was part of the draw and home to the bees. A few of the bees buzzed around the barren space, where some honeycomb must have fallen. I suspect the hive had been professionally moved before the tree was cut down, and I hoped the hive was in a better, new place. However, it was a sad scene for me.
I really felt like we had lost something close to us. Yes, it was just an old elm tree and some bees, but they were part of us, and I like to think that we were part of them.
Sometimes the simplest things can be important to us, but just because something is simple does not mean it is not important.
The night of the falling of the tree, I could not sleep so instead I got up and wrote this article.
It is funny how we can attach ourselves to something and mourn its passing. Perhaps it is a metaphor for losing friends or family. It just happens and we can do little to control the inevitable. I do not know what it means, but the bee tree will forever be etched in my memory.
Randy Clinkscales founded Clinkscales Elder Law Practice in 1985. He is a 1980 graduate of Washburn Law School and has represented clients at the administrative, county, state and federal levels.