The names of the individuals and places I have written about have been changed to protect their privacy
It seemed like an eternity before we eventually arrived at the place where the bees were encamped. Ah, it felt good to finally climb down out of the truck and feel the earth once again under my feet. After Olena’s father and I were out of the truck, the driver turned the big flatbed truck around and backed the rest of the way in. The way he skillfully maneuvered the truck in the darkness around the corners one could tell this wasn’t his first rodeo.
It was still quite dark and the bees were still in their slumber mode as all of us wranglers walked the short distance into the encampment by the light of cell phones to begin the batten down the hatches to protect the bees for their ride back home.
The bees had spent the past 90 days working hard collecting pollen and making honey from the grechka (buckwheat) fields. Their home was in a beautiful spot well protected from the elements by fruit trees that ringed the camp, creating a giant canopy. There was also an old building that was crumbling. It served as a place of storage for the beekeepers.
The men moved quickly to shutter the entry and exit holes the bees used. They had their smoke canisters handy to calm the bees when some of them found other ways out of the hive and the holes very plugged very quickly. It was remarkable how precise and orderly the bee wranglers went about their business. It took them less than 30 minutes to have the 27 hives ready to load on the truck.
Victor, who could speak English, was very helpful keeping me informed what was happening. It made him feel good that he could once again practice his English. When it came time for loading they felt like I was a guest that I shouldn’t help with the loading. I told Victor to tell them, I grew up working hard. What we were doing, carrying hives to the truck to be loaded was easy.
They had their system of doing things and didn’t want me getting in the way because every hive had to be arranged on the truck for easy unloading later. However, some of the older men didn’t mind my helping. This allowed them to clean up the area around the camp.
Before we left the wranglers wanted me to experience a man milking his cow in the field. I smiled to Victor and said, “I had milked a few cows in my day. I told them that not ever American lives in a city and has soft hands like a woman!”
Olena’s father must have been feeling guilty about having me ride in the big truck because he suggested that I ride back in the car. The trip back in the old Lada was as memorable as my experience ride in the soviet truck. I was asked to sit in the front seat with the driver and in the backseat were three others. Victor was very talkative and asked me about Montana, where I grew up. I told them that Montana was very similar to Ukraine.
But what stands out about my first trip in an old reliable Lada, was my first impression of seeing a car full of policemen in one of them in Kiev and how uncomfortable they looked. Nonetheless, the trip was enjoyable and the company was great. The driver was a pro at maneuvering his dependable old Lada over and around the ruts and holes in the dirt road on our way back without slowing down. What a fun filled morning of adventure I had and it wasn’t even 10 in the morning!
Story to be continued