It is a strange thing about hobbies, as we come to take a sizable interest in them. One never knows just what your hobby is going to cause you to do. I have had to slam on the brakes of our trusty Chevrolet several times when my husband sights a steam engine in somebody's back yard. After hearing a recent story he told me, perhaps I had better do more of the driving from now on.
As he tells it there was this elderly gentleman cruising down Highway 26, not far from here. Suddenly he sighted an engine. So absorbed was he in his find that he headed right for the ditch, damaging his car considerably. After regaining his composure somewhat he muttered to himself, 'There goes my driver's license for sure.' He wasn't young, and he was worried. I never did hear how he came out but thought I might warn some of you ladies to be on the watch for some reaction such as this.
Because of a hobby of mine (a mild one, I'd say) I am taking all kinds of ribbing. I have begun collecting hornet's nests. I had one small one hanging from the post of our antique organ. Then one day I went to a rummage sale in someone's garage. I wandered around slowly, deciding there was nothing there I wanted. At my age we begin to throw things out or get covered up.
I was about to leave when it happened. I spied the biggest hornet's nest I have ever seen. It was hanging on the wall of the garage in utter loneliness. No one was even considering its value. In fact, it wasn't for sale. I turned to the rummage sale lady quizzically and asked, 'That wouldn't be for sale, would it?' Right there I got the first shocked response. 'Why I don't know,' she answered in a tone of unbelief. 'My husband brought it home from a hunting trip up north about two years ago. It has been hanging there ever since.' She rubbed her cheek as she thought. 'I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll ask my husband and let you know.' She still had that funny look on her face.
A week or more passed and I was pushing my cart around the Super-Market. I felt a touch on my shoulder. Here was my lady of the rummage sale. 'Mrs. Baber,' she began. 'My husband thinks he ought to have $1.50 for that hornet's nest.' Now I rubbed my cheek in thought. But it didn't take long. 'O.K.' I answered pertly. 'I'll take it.' After all, what does one get for $1.50 these days?
When my neighbor heard it she almost flipped! Finally I told her it was my business what I wanted to buy and hang in my house. It was all in fun, of course. She has a pet cat she buys fresh meat for, and has to get up in the night with sometimes. My hornet's nest sleeps, along with me. Our youngest daughter has been trying to get me to tell her what I paid for it for weeks. I told her that when she told me what she paid for her wedding dress, I would tell her what I paid for my hornet's nest. The fact of the matter is that she still doesn't know. No one but you my readers know, and she never reads my column. But the story doesn't end here. One summer evening we took our neighbors with us to see The National Aeronautics Show in Oshkosh. We know Aloys Stadtmueller, a steam man up there and his land borders the airport. We had a ringside seat and could stay right in the car. The Goodyear Blimp was there and floating around slowly and gracefully. Unbelievable stunts were going on for two or more hours. I decided as I watched them that this was surely an exciting and expensive hobby. What was my $1.50 hornet's nest in comparison?
As we left Mr. Stadtmueller's yard we told our neighbors about his Reeves and his 2 Case engines. He seems to have them under cover for I didn't see them. He was busy milking his cows as we left.
As we drove into our neighbor's yard to return them safely home I took a second look into the lilac bushes fringing the driveway. Yes Sir! I was more sure of what I had seen than when we had driven in to pick them up. If my eyes didn't deceive me there was a growing hornet's nest in those bushes. And it looked like a beauty! I would check next day in broad day light. I couldn't believe they hadn't seen it as they went to their mailbox.
There was a light of triumph in my eye next day as I affirmed my discovery. The hornet's were busy as bees can be, building away with determination. 'I have something to show you,' I told my neighbor as she came to the door. Now it was my turn to see an incredulous expression.
'And I have walked past here every day! Funny I didn't get stung.' She inches as close as she dared to get a second look. 'And you saw that by car light?' she said as she viewed it from yet another angle.
'Well It all depends on what you are looking for,' I answered. 'You fret and worry about your cat when you are out walking him; I keep my eyes on the alert for hornet's nests.'
My interest led me into a little research on the habits of hornets. They are also called paper-making wasps. The official name is The White-faced Hornet, Dolichovespula maculata. He is a big burly black wasp with white body markings and also has a whitish face. He uses the wood fibre from old weatherworn fences, unpainted buildings, or dead trees to acquire his material. They start building in spring by a single queen bee and grows to full size by autumn. They are often larger than footballs. The entire colony then dies except for a number of young queens who have mated and will now hibernate in old logs or other shelter. This happens with the first severe frost.
So now I need have no regret about salvaging something which will only deteriorate if left out over winter. A shot of bug killer takes care of the few sluggish bees which may still be alive.
But now do you know what my neighbor has up her sleeve? Now she is ready to bargain. 'O.K. What will you give me for my wasp's nest?' she begins, and I give her a nasty look. I don't know, but I think she is just 'puttin' me on.'
But as the winter sets in I will look again and again at these beautifully crafted creations of ambitious little bees, home builders of great excellence. And I shall be reminded again and again that there is a wonderful God in the heavens no matter how much is wrong on earth. And I shall be comforted.