The Ladies Page

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.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment