By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012
Issue: September, 1983
Each month we feature a craftsperson in The Mountain Laurel. This month, we are proud to feature Mr. Adam Clement of Ararat, Virginia. Mr. Clement was born July 3, 1901 and has lived all his life within walking distance of his present home.
I first met Mr. Clement when Mr. Coy Yeatts and I went down to Kibler Valley, but you can read about that elsewhere in The Mountain Laurel this month. (See “Reminiscing” with Mr. Will Barnard and Mr. Coy Yeatts.”)
His craft is beekeeping. He was taught by his mother and has kept hives since the 30’s. Ordinarily I’m not all that crazy over honey but Mr. Clement’s honey is a different matter. It’s delicious! After talking with him, my knowledge of the honey business has really increased. According to Mr. Clement, pure honey won’t turn to sugar. This surprised me because I’ve bought a lot of supposedly pure honey that has turned to sugar. He said that occasionally, people boil sugar water with alum which creates a syrup. This way, a little bit of honey will go a long way but the result is no more than honey flavored sugar water that looks like clear honey. Mr. Clement will occasionally boil a little sugar water and feed it to a weak hive in early spring to ensure their survival, but at 82 years old, he’s set in his ways and vows to, “sell it like he gets it,” as long as he’s in the business. He usually has between 25 and 30 hives to tend. His son, Romey Clement, lives next door and he is following in his dad’s footsteps as a beekeeper also. The honey I’ve bought from Mr. Clement has been dark in color. He says it’s primarily poplar honey. Whatever kind it is, it’s the best I’ve ever tasted.
I told Mr. Clement that I’d never been able to understand how people can label honey “sourwood” or “poplar” without keeping track of every bee and which flower he’s visiting. Mr. Clement patiently explained that if you take a sourwood blossom and switch the back on your hand with it, small drops of nectar will appear on your hand. This is what sourwood honey will taste like and if it doesn’t, then it’s not sourwood. The same is true for poplar honey but you must squeeze the nectar from a tulip poplar blossom. Lots of rain will hurt poplar honey because the blossom stands up and rain drops fall directly into the flower. Hummingbirds are among the few birds with beaks long enough to harvest poplar nectar. All my life, when I’ve bought honey, I’d look for the light, clear honey that you could read a paper through the jar. This is more likely not real, pure honey. Pure sourwood honey, while not as dark as poplar, is a dark rich color that sunlight turns gold. Next time you buy honey, pass-up the pale yellow-gold stuff and try a jar of pure, old dark mountain honey. I’ll bet you’ll taste a difference and it won’t turn to sugar.
His ways are old fashioned, even the way he separates the wax. In his backyard in the shade of ancient trees, he melts the wax in an old black pot over an open fire. He sells the beeswax in large blocks, along with honey.
The section where he lives used to be known as “The Hollow” and received quite a bit of notoriety from the book, The Man Who Moved A Mountain. “The Hollow,” Virginia was the home of the Reverend Robert Childress, whom the book was written about. From Mr. Clement’s back yard you can see an old store building where Robert Childress once operated a roller mill for John D. Weatherman, years ago.
My entire visit with Mr. Clement was enjoyable. We talked about bees and he told stories of what life was like in the neighborhood 50 years ago. It was apparent that Mr. Clement is a gentleman of honor and as long as he sells honey, it’ll be old time honey, sold like he got it - as pure as a mountain flower.
If you’d like to go by his home to pick up a jar, he lives on State Road 614. From Meadows of Dan, Virginia, 614 turns off US 58 approximately 100 yards east of the Blue Ridge Parkway and follows the Parkway south. Follow 614 approximately 13 miles to the first stop sign at the foot of the mountain. Mr. Clement lives on the left, just before you get to the stop sign. His house is next door to the old John Weatherman house which is no longer occupied. There will be a sign in the yard with “Honey For Sale” written on it. If you arrive during the hot part of the day, more than likely Mr. Clement will be sitting on his porch and perhaps taking a nap.
Don’t take my word for it, go by and sample Mr. Clement’s honey and see for yourself just how good honey can be. If you can’t get by Mr. Clement’s, then stop by Mayberry. Miss Addie Wood has a dozen or so jars of Mr. Clement’s honey for sale at Mayberry Trading Post and Mountain Man Produce on US 52, in Cana, Virginia also has his honey for sale.
Now that I’ve told you how good his honey is, I’m heading downstairs to butter a biscuit and savor some more of Mr. Adam Clement’s old time mountain honey.