Apicultura Wiki

As a country becomes cleared up and settled, bee-hunters disappear, consequently they are seldom or never noticed beyond the immediate vicinity of their homes. Among this backwoods fraternity, have flourished men of genius, in their way, who have died unwept and unnoticed, while the heroes of the turf, and of the chase, have been lauded to the skies for every trivial superiority, they may have displayed in their respective pursuits.

To chronicle the exploits of sportsmen is commendable - the custom began as early as the days of the antediluvians, for we read, that "Nimrod was a mighty hunter before the Lord." Familiar, however, as Nimrod's name may be - or even Davy Crockett's - how unsatisfactory their records, when we reflect that Tom Owen, the bee-hunter, is comparatively unknown?

Yes the mighty Tom Owen has "hunted," from the time that he could stand alone until the present time, and not a pen has inked paper to record his exploits. "Solitary and alone" has he traced his game through the mazy labyrinth of air; marked, I hunted; - I found; - I conquered; - upon the carcasses of his victims, and then marched homeward with his spoils: quietly and satisfiedly, sweetening his path through life; and, by its very obscurity, adding the principal element of the sublime.

It was on a beautiful southern October morning, at the hospitable mansion of a friend, where I was staying to drown dull care, that I first had the pleasure of seeing Tom Owen.

He was, on this occasion, straggling up the rising ground that led to the hospitable mansion of mine host, and the difference between him and ordinary men was visible at a glance; perhaps it showed itself as much in the perfect contempt of fashion that he displayed in the adornment of his outward man, as it did in the more elevated qualities of his mind, which were visible in his face. His head was adorned with an outlandish pattern of a hat - his nether limbs were encased by a pair of inexpressibles, beautifully fringed by the briar-bushes through which they were often drawn; coats and vests, he considered as superfluities; hanging upon his back were a couple of pails, and an axe in his right hand, formed the varieties that represented the corpus of Tom Owen.

As is usual with great men, he had his followers, who, with a courtier-like humility depended upon the expression of his face for all their hopes of success.

The usual salutations of meeting were sufficient to draw me within the circle of his influence, and I at once became one of his most ready followers.

"See yonder!" said Tom, stretching his long arm into infinite space, "see yonder-there's a bee."

We all looked in the direction he pointed, but that was the extent of our observation.

"It was a fine bee," continued Tom, "black body, yellow legs, and went into that tree," - pointing to a towering oak, blue in the distance. "In a clear day I can see a bee over a mile, easy!"

When did Coleridge "talk" like that? And yet Tom Owen uttered such a saying with perfect ease.

After a variety of meanderings through the thick woods, and clambering over fences, we came to our place of destination, as pointed out by Tom, who selected a mighty tree containing sweets, the possession of which the poets have likened to other sweets that leave a sting behind.

The felling of a mighty tree is a sight that calls up a variety of emotions; and Tom's game was lodged in one of the finest in the forest. But "the axe was laid at the root of the tree," which, in Tom's mind, was made expressly for bees to build their nests in, that he might cut them down, and obtain possession of their honeyed treasure. The sharp axe, as it played in the hands of Tom, was replied to by a stout negro from the opposite side of the tree, and their united strokes fast gained upon the heart of their lordly victim.

There was little poetry in the thought, that long before this mighty empire of States was formed, Tom Owen's "bee-hive" had stretched its brawny arms to the winter's blast, and grown green in the summer's sun.

Yet such was the case, and how long I might have moralized I know not, had not the enraged buzzing about my ears satisfied me that the occupants of the tree were not going to give up their home and treasure, without showing considerable practical fight. No sooner had the little insects satisfied themselves that they were about to be invaded, than they began, one after another, to descend from their airy abode, and fiercely pitch into our faces; anon a small company, headed by an old veteran, would charge with its entire force upon all parts of our body at once.

It need not be said that the better part of valor was displayed by a precipitate retreat from such attacks.

In the midst of this warfare, the tree began to tremble with the fast-repeated strokes of the axe, and then might have been seen a "bee line" of stingers precipitating themselves from above, on the unfortunate hunter beneath.

Now it was that Tom shone forth in his glory, for his partisans - like many hangers-on about great men, began to desert him on the first symptoms of danger; and when the trouble thickened they, one and all, took to their heels, and left only our hero and Sambo to fight the adversaries. Sambo, however, soon dropped his axe, and fell into all kinds of contortions; first he would seize the back of his neck with his hands, then his legs, and yell with pain. "Never holler till you get out of the woods," said the sublime Tom, consolingly; but writhe the negro did, until he broke, and left Tom "alone in his glory."

Cut, - thwack! sounded through the confused hum at the foot of the tree, marvellously reminding me of the interruptions that occasionally broke in upon the otherwise monotonous hours of my schoolboy days.

A sharp cracking finally told me the chopping was done, and, looking aloft, I saw the mighty tree balancing in the air. Slowly, and majestically, it bowed for the first time towards its mother earth,-gaining velocity as it descended, it shivered the trees that interrupted its downward course, and falling with thundering sound, splintered its mighty limbs, and buried them deeply in the ground.

The sun, for the first time in at least two centuries, broke uninterruptedly through the chasm made in the forest, and shone with splendor upon the magnificent Tom, standing a conqueror among his spoils.

As might be expected, the bees were very much astonished and confused, and by their united voices proclaimed death, had it been in their power, to all their foes, not, of course, excepting Tom Owen himself. But the wary hunter was up to the tricks of his trade, and, like a politician, he knew how easily an enraged mob could be quelled with smoke; and smoke he tried, until his enemies were completely destroyed.

We, Tom's hangers-on, now approached his treasure. It was a rich one, and, as he observed, "contained a rich chance of plunder." Nine feet, by measurement, of the hollow of the tree was full, and this afforded many pails of pure honey.

Tom was liberal and supplied us all with more than we wanted, and "toted," by the assistance of Sambo, his share to his own home, soon to be devoured, and soon to be replaced by the destruction of another tree, and another nation of bees.

Thus Tom exhibited within himself an unconquerable genius which would have immortalized him, had he directed it in following the sports of Long Island or New Market.

We have seen the great men of the southern turf glorying around the victories of their favorite sport, - we have heard the great western hunters detail the soul- stirring adventures of a bear-hunt - we have listened, with almost suffocating interest, to the tale of a Nantucket seaman, while he portrayed the death of a mighty whale - and we have also seen Tom Owen triumphantly engaged in a bee-hunt - we beheld and wondered at the sports of the turf - the field - and the sea - because the objects acted on by man were terrible, indeed, when their instincts were aroused.

But, in the bee-hunt of Tom Owen, and its consummation, - the grandeur visible was imparted by the mighty mind of Tom Owen himself.