By Norris Chambers

           They say that bull fighting is real sport. Clifton and I were always careful not to get a bull agitated. It is not easy for two country kids to fight a bull with non-lethal weapons. We couldn’t afford to kill or injure the bull but he didn’t seem to think that it mattered if he really maimed us!

            Rooster fighting appeals to some folks. These fight fans want the roosters to fight each other and not the blood-thirsty onlookers. When we were quite young we had a little trouble with roosters and old hens with chicks trying to start a battle with us. Our reaction to the challenge was to do the cowardly thing and run.

            It’s not easy to believe, but some birds don’t care for kids that get too close to their nests. Such feathered antagonists as scissor tails and mocking birds are always ready for a lively scrap. It was never our idea to quarrel with an angry bird.

            Many insects seem to be natural enemies of nice kids such as Clifton and me. Ants, wasps, bees and a few other types seemed to enjoy stinging us. Chiggers, fleas and horse flies must have liked the flavor of our blood!

            We even had enemies among plant life. We had to avoid cactus, mesquite thorns, poison ivy, stinging nettles and blue bramble bushes!

            Since we were brave lads we decided we had to defend ourselves. Someone of great importance once said, “The best defense is an offense.” After thinking it over and some discussion we decided to declare war on the bumble bees. This decision was made shortly after Clifton’s saddle horse, Cougar, stumbled over a bumble bee nest that was concealed by a clump of grass and disturbed the residents. About a dozen of the angry bees came buzzing out of the hole and began to make life miserable for Cougar. The attack caught Clifton by surprise and when the horse left the scene, bucking and snorting, he was on the ground with the bees and Cougar was in full retreat! We never knew if the horse was stung but Clifton was hit twice before he could escape from the pursuing bees. Both stings were on the back of his neck and judging from his complaining there must have been considerable pain inflicted.

            When planning an attack on a bumblebee nest the first item on the agenda is to equip each soldier with a proper paddle. The bumble bee paddle is a conventional ping-pong type thing with a bunch of small holes drilled in it for faster manipulation. Two of Clifton’s younger brothers were eager to join the battle. We warriors quickly armed ourselves with the proper weapons and we were ready to begin the battle. Because bumble bees are large and colorful, they are relatively easy to see and swat with the paddle. The problem arises when the nest is thoroughly disturbed and they start streaming out in swarms and make a "bee line" for the forehead of the attacking warriors.

Sometimes you strike wildly at an approaching defender and he has a couple of buddies, one on each side, just far enough apart for the paddle to miss them. You then have only two choices - stand and have a stinger hit you in the forehead, or turn and hope that you can outrun them before they find the back of your neck or make a nest in your hair. If you hesitate and let one pop you, it is just about like being hit with a baseball bat and caressed with a coal of fire. A bumble bee sting does cause "excruciating" pain! If you run, you may escape injury. But your dignity has been damaged.

            The battle doesn't end until the bees quit coming out and you dig up the den with a spade. The honey isn't a prize to be treasured. Bumblebees do not produce the best honey in the pot and it doesn’t possess the good honey taste that regular honey bees add to their product.

            The battle raged for a short time. There was loud buzzing of angry bees and the swishing sound of paddles as they swiped at the angry bees. Occasionally there was a juicy popping sound as a paddle stopped an antagonistic bee’s vicious attack. During a slack moment I saw Clyde wildly thrashing his hair with his left hand and attempting to defend himself with the paddle in his right. A big, black bee, trimmed in yellow, was circling around his head.

            We held our own and eventually the buzzing warriors disappeared. We realized that we had won the battle and began to inspect our wounds. Clyde was complaining that he was stung on the top of his head and it was giving him a headache. Clifton bragged that he was unharmed. I was preparing to give thanks for my unharmed condition when Carl yelled near my left ear. I turned quickly to see what was happening and observed the younger brother beating the ground with his paddle and uttering a few foul-sounding words.

            A wounded bee, lying quietly on the ground, had suddenly stung his bare foot and Carl was fighting back by slapping it with his paddle.

            Was fighting the bees a lot of fun? The bees probably didn’t think it was and Clyde and Carl might have had their doubts, but Clifton and I enjoyed it a lot!