About Apples and Bees|
by Leo Doucet
It was late September and the apples were starting to ripen in the Dalhousie area on New Brunswick’s North Shore. To us it was not a matter of "If" we were going to visit the apple orchard which lay in a deep narrow valley at the southern entrance to the Town, but "When".
The last Saturday of the month turned out to be one of those days when the air is dry, the sky is blue, the sun is gloriously warm and the young think they will live forever. It was in just such a setting that the gang decided it would pay a visit to the apple orchard.
About a dozen of us, all equipped as usual with pillow cases, made up the gang. We gathered down around the wharf that was a favourite hangout, a favourite spot because all kinds of interesting things happened there. You could see people of different ethnic backgrounds and ships that came from and went to ports all over the world. Sometimes you would see seals getting a free ride on the huge rafts of logs and pulp being towed by the Paper Co., tugs. There was some beer drinking there too and we were only too happy to stick around for the empties. Three quart sized bottles would get you a nickel. Six bottles would be enough for a ticket to the Saturday afternoon movie. There were other things that happened down there.
It was in the middle of the afternoon before we got to the the high wooded ridge on our way to the orchard and from this high vantage point we could look down at about a 60 degree angle and see every tree. Nothing was moving so we let ourselves down the very steep hill by hanging on to branches and tree roots and in a few minutes were filling our pillow cases.
Suddenly we spotted a man running towards us led by a large red Irish Setter dog. They were quite a ways away when we started to run back up the hill. We could easily keep the man at the same distance but the dog was eating up ground at an uncomfortable pace. There was a narrow path about half way up and running parallel to the steep hillside and upon gaining this path we got rocks and really pelted the dog, who after a few hits ran back toward his keeper. The man was very angry but the rocks also held him at bay. We did not want to hit the man but the dog had now found a way of coming up through the bushes and we could delay no longer.
A cousin of mine Alphe Arseneault who was the oldest took the lead and we started single file almost straight up the last part of the hillside. We were grabbing hold of every branch and root we could get a handhold on while loose rocks were churning underfoot and rolling down between our feet. The hill was so steep that the dog could not make much headway and was being pushed up each time the man caught up. Most of the gang had dropped their apples by now and everyone was desperately trying to make the top of the hill. The worst was still come.
I was second in line and watched helplessly as my cousin who was ahead of me in his haste grabbed a branch with a large wasp’s nest attached to it. The branch snapped and the nest fell under our feet. I batted everything down the hillside under me. The new enemy was among us. The nest had broken into many pieces and the wasps were doing what they do best when disturbed. The howls of the unfortunates behind and below only served to spur those up front to greater efforts.
The last ten feet were the hardest and on reaching the the crest we turned and began hurling as many rocks downhill as we could get our hands on. This got rid of the man and the dog but not the wasps. One of the boys, Herman Arseneault, had been stung about a dozen times. He had them in his hair and in his cloths. One sting was on his eyelid and that eye was closed. He was crying and while his mouth was open he was stung inside his bottom lip. There were only two of us who were not stung, the first in line and myself. We were also the only two who had not dropped their apples.
Since we all lived within a few houses of each other and indeed were all related, we had to make up a story before we got home. We told everyone that we had been attacked by a swarm of wild bees while playing in the woods, which was not entirely untrue. This brought advice from the parents that we should be more careful around bees nests, and of course from then on we were.