The air is cooling. Dry sunflower stalks droop from the weight of their seed. Leaves take on the golden hue of the honey recently harvested.
Fall is here.
Now comes the month-long task of moving the hives out of their summer homes back to the farm where they’ll await passage to the land of sunshine, citrus and a bajillion ants.
I don’t usually accompany the Beeman on moving nights but sometimes it’s a welcomed escape from honey orders or supper dishes. So tonight, I tag along.
We pull into the open field that is home to 36 hives and park alongside them.
The dance now comfortably familiar to me begins. Beeman pops the ratchet to release the strap on the Swinger. I drop one trailer ramp. Then the other. Beeman drops the truck's tailgate and reaches for the smoker box and wood pellets. I begin the tug-of-war that is removing the strap from its oversized and forever-rusting ratchet.
After a bit, I see a flame flash out of the corner of my eye. The cozy smell of campfire fills my nostrils and I exhale with a smile on my face.
The smoker lit, I stand on my tiptoes and edge onto the tailgate next to Beeman and watch quietly as the sun continues its slow descent toward the tree line.
After a couple minutes of silence, I ask Beeman to entertain me. He smiles and tilts his head back in mock consideration. After a moment, he looks down at the smoker beside him and begins to lightly tap the bellows. A small puff of smoke emits from the nose of the smoker. One more tap, a little harder this time, and a perfect smoke ring floats into the air.
“THAT IS THE COOLEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!! DO IT AGAIN!!!”
So I’m easily amused…and slightly over‑exaggerative….but it was pretty cool.
My eyes fix to the smoker opening. The gray circles emerge one by one into the evening air as Beeman waxes eloquent about the conditions required for the “perfect ring”.
Tonight – still, with an occasional slight breeze - was pretty good.
Being the golden hour of the evening, I jump off the tailgate for a quick photo op because Beeman loves having his picture taken.
But he keeps the smoker warm and his wife happy.
The sun sets, like a curtain ending an unforgettable performance.
Beeman hands me the smoker and gives me instructions for loading. We set to our respective tasks.
Making my way to the first skid, I tap the smoker bellows. A thin, loose “O” appears, and I smile.
Down time in the bee yard is gonna be way more interesting from now on.