A Honeybee Allegory

July 31, 2013

In the tenth and last of “The Good Lord Made Them All” animal story series is a fascinating story that will appear in the book next January. As I was preparing to write this week’s blog, a subject prominent in today’s media (both electronic and print): the current standoff between the forces of entitlement and the forces of job-creation came to mind. Keeping in mind, of course, that both opposites are always with us, each serving a purpose. For some strange reason, I felt impressed to take some lines from the story, and use them as this week’s allegory, leaving the application, if any, to our readers.

Until now the sycamore hollow had been strictly a female domain, but in early May there emerged from the central brood cells a limited group of double-sized, stripeless bees who conducted themselves in a decidedly loud and lordly manner. To some extent, this arrogance was understandable. From the very first they were pampered by the household legions. They toiled not and neither would they rule, yet the queen herself received scarcely more attention.

These males, numbering perhaps three hundred, each resplendent in a velvety jacket of golden brown, grew fat and sleek on the choicest sweets from the honey pantry. By June they were spending their hours mainly in a sluggish stage of honeyed drunkenness. But the thousands of toil worn harvesters and domestics pursued their ceaseless duties….

There nestled in the carefully guarded center of the brood nest a half-dozen cells much larger than the rest. By the second day after the old queen had been swarmed away from the sycamore, one of these cells pulsed with life. There was a stirring within, a faint, gnawing commotion somewhat like a chick pipping an exit from its swaddling shell.

Excitement quickly simmered throughout the queenless colony. A corps of nurse bees hurried to the a-borning cell, and lent their aid. Soon a new queen, as pallid as alabaster, crawled forth into her mysterious new world. Nature, ineffably wise, had not forgotten Apishontee.

Even the drones, who until now had shown little concern for the queenless condition of Apishontee, perked up noticeably. Twirling their fine sensitive antennae – somewhat as ancient suitors were wont to flourish waxed mustachios – the males crowded toward the royal brood nest.

For once, their arrogance was resented. Jealously ministering nurse bees drove them back, swiftly and unceremoniously. Whereupon, recoiling sullenly, the drones marched back grandly to the nearest honey cups.

The new queen of Apishontee emerged into daylight two days later. Pausing on the threshold of her honey-scented domain, she chanted a muted drone of motherly affection, while her joyous thousands of subjects thronged about her. The queen presently took to the air and made a series of calm, slow flights about the slanting sycamore tree.

It was now that the phlegmatic males quit their sulking and made their appearance. Heads glistened in the bright sunlight like buttons of ebony. On each proud back gleamed an irregular dark crest – that mark of bee royalty found also on the queen, but not on her daughters who wore the gold-striped livery of toil.

Drumming up their deepest bass of male importance, the drones wheeled about in songful courtship. The queen, for a time, seemed unimpressed. The drones continued to circle. They rose and dived, spun and droned with magnificent song, strutting in their most handsome behavior.

Abruptly the shining new queen zoomed into the air. She spiraled steadily and rapidly into the cloudless azure sky. The drones, momentarily bewildered, perhaps reluctant to attempt such dizzy heights, finally coursed after her. But of the several hundreds of them, scarcely a dozen of the lustiest continued their pursuit. These whistled on into the blue – up, up.

* * *

July burned its course across the countryside. Apishontee the Younger had quickly regained her busy stride. The new queen, moved by that serene gravity imposed by her station in life, set herself to bee-queenly tasks. Eggs multiplied with a machinelike prolificity, a thousand a day, two thousand a day. The numbered strength of Apishontee grew steadily.

But not so the golden stream of new honey. There came hot, rainless weeks. Wild bloom, which normally laced the swampland, withered and dropped. Nectars, so scarce, so scattered, were gathered more and more tediously. Honey came into the sycamore more and more uncertainly.

Finally it ceased.

Apishontee grew frantic. During this lean season of drought only the handsome drones remained unruffled. The thousands of busy harvesters, ranging farther afield, worked themselves ragged. Busy little legs became worn to a wirelike smoothness. Small striped abdomens took on the dull, harsh sheen of worn satin. Gossamer wings became dusty, torn. Hundreds died.

But the drones, born to a life of ease, knew but one thing to do – eat. This they did, and kept luxuriously fat. Early each morning they descended from their comfortable perches in the highest sector of the hollow. They promptly gorged themselves on honey, then thrust an indelicate and wobbly course through the humming household legions, to gain the outside.

For the handsome drones, though at first pampered and allowed choicest foods and privileges, had come to suspect that their importance in a busy household had somehow vanished. As difficulties afield stirred a subtle change of attitude among the toilworn workers, the drones seemed more and more anxious to make themselves scarce while daylight lasted.

True drones, they were strict, however, in maintaining dignity. They thrust a way past the sentinels at the entrance and took to the air in grandest manner – bound, their pompous actions assured everyone, on an important mission for the day. Safely beyond sight of the tumultuous hive, they promptly dropped their air of high purpose.

Shiveringly careful of the dew-damp woods, they loitered awing. But as soon as the sun had dried away the dew, they settled themselves comfortably in open spots, where during the busy morning hours they might remain pleasantly stupefied on fragrances that they could no longer hold in substantial form.

The drought was broken in late August. Black clouds bilged up at sunset. By midnight, rain again lashed the swampland, and again the wind blew violently. Apishontee huddled inside her sycamore hollow, feeling no complacency tonight. The sycamore rocked before the wind, groaning fitfully. Apishontee, the Many-in-One, huddled together anxiously, perhaps fearful lest another blast of sky-fire might demolish their home.

It happened an hour later, but it was not by lightning this time. It was the steady pressure of driving wind. Each rocking motion of the leaning sycamore bent it farther, left it slanting at an increasingly perilous angle.

Apishontee sensed this unexpected threat with a sort of collective despair. No more flowers to harvest. If the hollow were broken asunder, the precious store of honey lost, the colony could never collect enough to survive the coming winter.

The wind continued its fury. Rain ceased, and started again; but the wind came on unceasingly. Lower bent the sycamore. Then, under a violent surge of rain-chilled wind, the bee tree was abruptly uprooted. It began falling – a dizzying sensation even to the hollow-huddled bees.

But the sycamore top had slanted only a foot before there came a grating, sliding sound. It ceased falling and came to a dead rest. Its central bough, sturdy and crooked, was caught in the solid crotch of a giant water oak near by. Instead of her home being demolished, Apishontee now sensed that it was made permanent, even more solid, by this chance stroke of storm.

* * *

Rain brought belated life to the scorched earth. Late season flowers sprang up. The harvesters of Apishontee plied them eagerly, willingly, for soon winter would be upon the swampland. The drones were undismayed. The drought had not worried them.

It was on a crisp, chill morning in October that they were made to give close heed, however, to their laggard existence. Descending as usual toward the nearest honey store, they brushed through a collective mood distinctly hostile to them. The drones tried to ignore it; they galloped hurriedly down the narrow corridors between the honeycombs. The domestics, wings aflutter, voiced shrill resentment this morning.

It happened swiftly, then. The workers surged upon the glittering-bodied drones. Tumbled legs-over-wings, the males tried to right themselves, sought futilely to retrieve their dignity. But the outraged honey harvesters and work-worn domestics were firm. In a seething pattern they fell upon the gorged, oversize members of Apishontee.

A few reached the outside with injury no more serious than a deflated ego. Many, alas, came into the early day sans wings, or minus certain of their glossy black legs. These were hearsed away by the zealously determined house cleaners, and dropped to the ground with grim finality.

Apishontee of the sycamore tree as simply, as sternly as that, rid her colony of those members who had long ago served their one purpose in life, who could thereafter contribute no mite to its perpetuation. Winter was soon upon the swampland. Apishontee went to sleep, content in the knowledge that she had at last reached a proud peak of wildwood civilization.

Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 5:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Will Carleton’s “The First Settler’s Story”

July 24, 2013

Several days ago I had a long phone conversation with a dear cousin of mine, Steve Hamilton. Especially dear because when we were young, we were perpetually getting into mischief together. What one of us didn’t think of to perpetrate, the other one did. Back in those “spare the rod and spoil the child” days, given that our fathers were in the prime of their manhood, Steve and I got spanked together with alarming regularity. Not that it was considered alarming to us, for we merely considered it part of the rhythm of life—except we didn’t believe for an instant that old line, “Son, this hurt me more than it hurt you!”

Well, it so chanced that this time our conversation veered into the subject of words, and their impact on relationships. How, in spite of our best resolutions, wrong words seem to have a fiendish propensity to slip out at the most inopportune moments, and leave heartbreak in their wake.

Which led to this old poem bequeathed to me by my minister-father. The only such case I can ever remember, because it was my elocutionist mother who filled my memory banks with unforgettable poetry. After I quoted some of the most memorable lines to Steve, I promised to send him a photocopy of the complete poem. In doing so, I was impressed to make it the subject of this week’s blog.

Will Carleton (1845-1912), was born in Hudson, Michigan; became an editor and prolific writer of poetry, long and short. This particular poem was included in Carleton’s collection, Farm Festivals (Harper & Brothers, 1881).


I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a life-long battle with my tongue. In the process, I’ve learned that what I’ve said, no matter how sincere my penitence may be, cannot be apologized away. In such cases, prayer doesn’t help much either because God cannot save us from the consequences of our own mistakes and ill-chosen speech.

So, just in case any of our readers suffer from the same malady I do, I’m sharing the essence of this story-poem with you. The essence, because it is a very long story-poem. Too long for a blog.

It is chronicled as though it was a true story, and so I consider it to be. It is told in the first-person by the so-called “First Settler.” An intrepid soul who moved west, into unsettled territory, bringing his lovely girl-bride with him.

But it was such a lonely life!

“Well, neighborhoods meant counties, in those days;
The roads didn’t have accommodating ways;
And maybe weeks would pass before she’d see—
And much less talk with—any one but me. . . .”

And finally I thought that I could trace
A half heart-hunger peering from her face.
Then she would drive it back, and shut the door;
Of course that only made me see it more.
‘Twas hard to see her give her life to mine,
Making a steady effort not to pine;
Twas hard to hear that laugh bloom out each minute,
And recognize the seeds of sorrow in it.”

Time passed, and the stresses resulting from isolation, bad weather, failed crops, poverty, and inadequate most everything, one day precipitated the following:

“One night, I came from work unusual late,
Too hungry and too tired to feel first-rate—
Her supper struck me wrong (though I’ll allow
She hadn’t much to work with, anyhow);
And when I went to milk the cows, and found
They’d wandered from their usual feeding ground,
And maybe left a few long miles behind ‘em,
Which I must copy, if I meant to find ‘em;
Flash-quick the stay-chains of my temper broke,
And in a trice these hot words I had spoke:
‘You ought to’ve kept the animals in view,
And drove ‘em in; you’d nothing else to do.
The heft of all our life on me must fall;
You just lie round, and let me do it all.’

That speech—it hadn’t been gone a half a minute,
Before I saw the cold black poison in it.
And I’d have given all I had, and more,
To’ve only got it back in-door. . . .

She handed back no words, as I could hear;
She didn’t frown—she didn’t shed a tear;
Half proud, half crushed, she stood and looked me o’er,
Like someone she’d never seen before.”

That night, too proud to apologize, he went to bed with the issue unresolved. Next morning,

“So, with a short ‘Good-bye,’ I shut the door,
And left her as I never had before.”

That afternoon, sensing an oncoming storm, he left work early and hurried home.

“Half out of breath, the cabin door I swung,
With tender heart-words trembling on my tongue;
But all looked desolate and bare;
My house had lost its soul—she was not there!
A pencilled note was on the table spread,
And these are something like the words it said:
‘The cows have strayed away again, I fear;
I watched them pretty close; don’t scold me, dear
And where they are, I think I nearly know:
I heard the bell not very long ago
I’ve hunted them all the afternoon;
I’ll try once more—I think I’ll find them soon.
Dear, if a burden I have been to you,
And haven’t helped as I ought to do,
Let old-time memories my forgiveness plead;
I’ve tried to do my best—I have, indeed.
Darling, piece out with love the strength I lack,
and have kind words for me when I get back.’”

Just as he finished reading her note, he heard thunder—and the storm swept in.

“As if the ocean waves had lost its way;
Scarcely a pause the thunder-battle made,
In the bold clamor of its cannonade.
And she, while I was sheltered, dry and warm,
Was somewhere in the clutches of this storm!
She who, when storm-frights found her at her best,
Had always hid her white face on my breast!”

He rushed out, with his dog, frantically searching for her.

All night we dragged the woods without avail;
The ground got drenched—we could not keep the trail.
Three times again my cabin home I found,
Half hoping she might be there, safe and sound;
But each time ‘twas an unavailing care:
My house had lost its soul; she was not there!


When, climbing the wet trees, next morning sun
Laughed at the ruin that the night had done,
Bleeding and drenched—by toil and sorrow bent—
Back to what used to be my home I went.
But, as I neared our little clearing-ground—
Listen!—I heard the cow-bell’s tinkling sound;
The cabin door was just a bit ajar;
It gleamed upon my glad eyes like a star!
‘Brave heart,’ I said, for such a fragile form!
She made them guide her homeward through the storm!’
Such pangs of joy I never felt before.
‘You’ve come!’ I shouted, and rushed through the door.

Yes, she had come—and gone again. She lay
With all her young life crushed and wrenched away—
Lay—the heart-ruins of our home among—
Not far from where I killed her with my tongue.
The rain drops glittered mid her hairs’ long strands,
The forest thorns had torn her feet and hands,
And midst the tears—brave tears—that one could trace
Upon the pale but sweetly resolute face,
I once again the mournful words could read—
‘I’ve tried to do my best—I have indeed!’”

But Will Carleton wasn’t yet quite through with his story-poem. He added six more lines. Six lines that grant him immortality—for untold thousands of readers have written them down, posted them on walls, and learned them by heart. Repeated them over and over until they made them part of their very souls.

Here they are – italicized:

Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds;
You can’t do that when you’re flying words.
‘Careful with fire,’ is good advice, we know:
‘Careful with words,’ is ten times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead;
But God himself can‘t kill them once they’re said.

Book of th Month Club – Gene Stratton Porter’s “Freckles”‘s Freckles

July 17, 2013


During the first half of the twentieth century, three authors ruled America’s Fictional world: Zane Grey, Harold Bell Wright, and Gene Stratton Porter (Zane Grey as numero uno, and Wright and Porter fighting it out for second place).

Their wholesome romances have stood the test of time–just ask any knowledgeable bookseller. So have prices for their books.

Since three of Grey titles have already been chosen as club options, and one of Wright’s, it is high time I introduce you to the third of the triumvirate.

I’ve always loved Porter’s books, re-reading them again and again during my growing-up years. I wrote a 64-page biography of Gene Stratton Porter for the edition of Freckles I created for the Focus on the Family/Tyndale House Great Books Series. Before writing it, I read Porter clear through, a number for the first time. Not surprisingly, the short biography took most of a year to write.

Little Geneva, the youngest of twelve children, was born to Mark and Mary Stratton on August 17, 1863, in Indiana, during America’s Civil War. She was very much a surprise, for Mark was fifty and his wife forty-seven; and neither of them had any desire to start another child through life at that age. Since six years separated Geneva from her closest sibling, she would grow up the center of her parents’ lives.


Her father, a lay minister for the Methodist Episcopal Church, had a prodigious memory, having memorized the entire Bible, except for the begats. Since twice each day, he would read from the Bible to the family, the rhythm of the King James translation became part of the very fiber of each child. “Geneva inherited her father’s worship of beauty–be it in faces, souls, hearts, landscapes, trees, or flowers. His orchard was a tapestry in the spring with apple white in the middle and apricot pink on the edges. His entire farm, from out buildings, barn, and carriage on down, was kept as immaculate as his wife kept the house.” (Wheeler’s Freckles, xx).

As for her mother, perhaps the greatest legacy the mother passed on to her daughter was the magic she had with all growing things. From both parents, the little girl gained her deep love for nature, especially for the then great Limberlost forests, encompassing much of Indiana.

After growing up and marrying, Geneva incorporated this spirituality and love of nature and family into her novels. Five of her books became bestsellers: Freckles (1904), The Girl of the Limberlost (1909), The Harvester (1911), Laddie (1913), and Michael O’Halloran. Children growing up in America’s Golden Age of Print who read, or were read to, from Porter’s books, couldn’t help but incorporate both the values and the love of nature woven into the fabric of each book.


As for Freckles, I quote from the back of my Focus/Tyndale edition:

“Crippled and abandoned at birth, will he ever find someone who loves him as he is?

“Deep into a majestic, untamed forest called the Limberlost wanders an orphaned young man known only as ‘Freckles.’ Arriving at the logging camp of Mr. McLean, he convinces the skeptical Scotsman to hire him to guard the prized lumber–though Freckles has no experience, no family and just one hand.

“Despite harsh conditions and long hours, Freckles grows to love this untouched piece of nature–and the Swamp Angel, a beautiful girl he meets who has everything he lacks. Though she is kind to him, he knows he cannot hope to win her heart. Suddenly, his character is changed by a lumberman plotting to steal from Mr. McLean. Freckles’ honor wins him the love of the people who have now become his family, leading him to discover the answer to his past–and his future. Freckles is an unforgettable story of love, courage and adventure.”

* * * * *

I’m confident that it will take but this one book by Gene Stratton Porter to hook you for life on her story-people. There are many many editions of this book out there available from Amazon, the world-wide web, Bluebird Books in Denver, and other used book stores. Her primary publisher was Doubleday, Page and Company (1904). It is still possible to find first editions in near-fine condition and dust-jacketed reprints. Should you wish a copy of my now out-of-print Freckles (Focus on the Family/Tyndale House, 2000), I still have new copies of our First Edition at $16.00 (plus $5.00 shipping; or $6.00 for priority). Let me know if you’d like me to inscribe the book to you.

You can see the books on our web page: http://www.joewheelerbooks.com.

Send me an email at: mountainauthor@gmail.com.

Happy reading!

Once Again – Trying to Make Sense of Egypt

July 10, 2013

Like the rest of the world, we’ve been riveted by the sight of millions of Egyptians demanding that Morsi resign his presidency. At last, freedom for the Egyptian people!

But then the Military, seeing which way the wind is blowing, steps in, in a semi-coup, and arrests Morsi and key Brotherhood leaders. Freedom at last!

Not so quick: not necessarily—for how do you so cavalierly dispose of 30% of the Egyptian people? For this dispossessed minority howls their indignation that their legally elected president has been removed by force, without due-process of law. No matter that Morsi and the Brotherhood had abused their power and done their utmost to stifle all dissent—which had caused the public outcry in the first place.

The whole world watches, waiting for a counterattack from the leaderless Muslim Brotherhood. It doesn’t take long: in a confrontation, the Military fires on a Brotherhood crowd, resulting in significant casualties.

Meanwhile, there is nobody on first except the Military, for the civilians, Coptics, etc., in the middle seem paralyzed by indecision, unable to marshal behind a democratic leadership team. Sadly, reminiscent of an earlier scenario in imperial Russia when Czar Nicholas II’s soldiers fired on a crowd of protesters. By that act of firing on his own people Nicholas II lost his legitimacy. In the bloody aftermath, the leader of the moderates, Kerensky, dithered around long enough for the ruthless well-organized Bolsheviks, led by the steely-eyed Lenin, to triumph by default. And democracy lost out in Russia. Russia briefly regained that freedom after the fall of the Berlin Wall, only to lose it again to a former KGB operative, Putin.

But back to Egypt. Currently there is a standoff between two roughly equal powers: the Military and the Brotherhood, neither of which appears capable of tolerating a democracy to take center stage. The Brotherhood has been discredited by its Morsi dictatorship and the Military has been discredited by firing on its own people.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian people and the world can only watch helplessly while the stalemate continues. Can a miracle still occur, and democracy emerge?

No one knows. We can only wait—and hope.

Great Circle National Park Series – Conclusion and Index

July 3, 2013

At long last, it is done! The dream that began by Bob and Lucy Earp, and Connie and I, watching two riveting PBS series: Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan’s National Park Series and Christine Barnes’ National Park Lodges Series. So impressed were we by those two series that we decided to visit those parks and stay in those park lodges ourselves. Took us two years to pull it off.

The series was also carried during the last couple of years by The Country Register issues in Colorado, Minnesota, and New Mexico.

But for those of you who haven’t followed along with us from week to week, we have created this index so you can check out the segments you missed.

Suffice it to say, that we consider this Great Circle to be, far and away, the greatest concentration of national park wonders and historic national park lodges on the planet.

Do let us know if you think we ought to reprint these blogs in two books so that you could carry them with you from park to park. Would you buy them if we did?

Here they are, according to date posted:



1. “A Ken Burns Pilgrimage” – Blog #38, Series #1, August 4, 2010
2. “Crater Lake Lodge” – Blog #39, Series #1, August 11, 2010
3. “Oregon Caves Chateau” – Blog #40, Series #1, August 18, 2010
4. “Timberline Lodge” – Blog #41, Series #1, August 25, 2010
5. “Paradise Inn” – Blog #42, Series #1, September 1, 2010
6. “Steheken Landing Resort and Lake Chelan” – Blog # 43, Series #1, September 8, 2010
7. “Enzian Inn and Leavenworth” – Blog #44, Series #1, September 15, 2010
8. “Lake Quinault Lodge” – Blog #45, Series #1, September 22, 2010
9. “Lake Crescent Lodge” – Blog #46, Series #1, September 29, 2010
10. “North Cascade Loop” – Blog #47, Series #1, October 6, 2010
11. “Grand Coulee Dam” – Blog #48, Series #1, October 13, 2010
12. “Old Faithful Inn” – Blog #49, Series #1, October 20, 2010
13. “Lake Yellowstone Lodge” – Blog #50, Series #1, October 27, 2010
14. “Jackson Lake Lodge” – Blog #51, Series #1, November 3, 2010
15. “Glacier National Park Titans” – Blog #56, Series #1, December 15, 2010
16. “Glacier Park Lodge” – Blog #57, Series #1, December 22, 2010
17. “Lake McDonald Lodge” – Blog #58, Series #1, December 29, 2010
18. “Many Glacier Hotel” – Blog #60, Series #1, January 12, 2011
19. “Prince of Wales Hotel” – Blog #61, Series #1, January 19, 2011
20. “People Who Work in National Park Lodges” – Blog #62, Series #1, February 2, 2011
21. “Ranking the NW National Park Lodges” – Blog #63, Series #1, February 9, 2011


Joe - SW Nat Parks - ZG Conf 047

22. “The Southwest National Park Lodges” – Blog #37, Series #2, November 9, 2011
23. “Rocky Mountain National Park and Stanley Hotel” – Blog #38, Series #2, Nov. 16, 2011
24. “Arches and Canyonlands National Parks” – Blog #40, Series #2, November 30″, 2011
25. “Capitol Reef National Park” – Blog #42, Series #2, December 14, 2011
26. “Bryce Canyon National Park” – Blog #2, Series #3, January 11, 2012
27. “Zion National Park” – Blog #3, Series #3, January 18, 2012
28. “Grand Canyon National Park: North Rim” – Blog #6, Series #3, February 8, 2012
29. “Grand Canyon National Park: South Rim” – Blog #7, Series #3, February 15, 2012
30. “Death Valley National Park” – Blog #12, Series #3, March 21, 2012
31. “Sequoia National Park – #1″ – Blog #16, Series #3, April 18, 2012
32. “Sequoia National Park – #2″ – Blog #17, Series #3, April 25, 2012
33. “Kings Canyon National Park” – Blog #24, Series #3, June 13, 2012
34. “Yosemite National Park #1″ – Blog #25, Series #3, June 20, 2012
35. “Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month Club: Burns and Duncan’s The National Parks” – Blog # 26, Series #3, June 27, 2012
36. “Yosemite National Park #2″ – Blog #23. Series #4, June 12, 2013
37. “Yosemite National Park #3″ – Blog #24, Series #4, June 19, 2013
38. “Gold Country, Lake Tahoe, Loneliest Road, Great Basin” – Blog #25, Series #4, June 26, 2013
39. “Great Circle National Park Series” – Conclusion and Index, Blog #26, Series #4, July 3, 2013

And we’re still friends!


Published in: on July 3, 2013 at 5:15 am  Leave a Comment