The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Bee and the Blackberries

By Ernest F. Reynolds © 1989

Issue: November, 1989

While stationed in London, Kentucky, as Enforcement officer for the U.S. Department of the Interior's Coal Agency, I hastened out State Route 80 to arrive before the mine boss of Bear Rock Colliery left for the face. As I wound down the tortuous curves of Rockcastle River Bluffs, a honeybee flew down my unbuttoned shirt collar. Near the bottom of the grade was a wide graveled shoulder; cutting throttle I began braking and closing down the car engine.

Along the wide graveled strip walked a lovely old sunbonneted lady, with full length sleeves, and ground length dress. She was carrying two pails of blackberries.

I stopped the big car opposite her and leaped out. Just as I alit, the bee stung my left armpit. I screamed; "Whahoooooo" and violently tore my shirt off.

The old lady panicked. Holding on to her berries, she simultaneously hoisted her skirt and berries as she hurdled a rail fence. She was an excellent runner; small obstacles slowed her none. She circumnavigated larger ones and ordinary brush she ran right through.

Livestock bolted, cows bellowed and goats bleated. Nearing a placid little brook a bevy of honking, quacking, waterfowl joined the exodus. A bull, tail up over his back, went snorting ahead. Reminiscent of cattle rustlers and great posses of the old movies, I imagined myself being hunted down and strung up.

I decided against the mine inspection and retraced my route homeward. My legal defense would be the swollen armpit; witnesses were needed. Predominantly Swiss, the people hereabouts held all "Giviment" men in distrust.

I stopped at the General Store of a most memorable lady. She then weighed about eighty pounds. Brought to Kentucky by her parents in 1874, they were victims of a great scam. Tintypes of lush bluegrass farms had been shown in Switzerland; a colony was formed and this rough mountain land was fobbed off on the colonists.

Mrs. Ott was Postmistress, Bernstadt, Kentucky. She bathed my swollen armpit with peroxide and left the big cotton swab under to soothe the sting.

Mrs. Ott was a fount of wisdom. She said, "You didn't catch her, did you?"

"No way, she's too fast for me; I'm too fat to run. Mrs. Ott regretted that she had not been there to witness the stampede but added in her soft Swiss dialect.

"Jolting won't help dem berries a little bit!"