Date: Sat, 12 Oct 1996
From: Andy Nachbaur
Organization: WILD BEE’S BBS (209) 826-8107 LOS BANOS, CA
Subject: Mad BeeMan Memo
Reflections of a MAD BEE MAN from the OLd Drone
Not so many years ago that I have forgotten my bees were being killed by some of my good farm neighbors controlling perceived pests in their cotton fields. They had read about them and the end of the world in the farm papers and had received a free report on their own fields from the friendly university trained farm agent and chemical sales person.
Beekeepers were going out of business because they could not replace their bees as fast as the crop dusters could kill them. I was spending everything I made from my own bees and all I could borrow to replace them every year. I also was waging my own small political campaign to protect my honeybees from pesticides at the local and state level. I was running around like a chicken with his head cut off and going broke like so many other beekeepers.
“Conditions were changing for the better”, I was told over and over but I could not measure the difference in my bee yards, the bees were still getting killed. I was at the end of my own rope, then I read of some crazy old Russian beekeeper in a ajoining farm town who had been arrested on suspicion of torching a plane parked across the road from his home and honey farm. But he had to be released because anyone could buy a 5 gallon honey can and fill it with petrol and place it in the
cockpit of the crop dusters aeroplane. He later was again picked up and released after a good long free rest and medical check up in the local mental warehouse for shooting at a crop duster that flew over his bees and home, no holes could be found in the duster or his crop dusting machine. At another location a tall heavy beehive had also been placed on a crop dusters air strip in a place that the duster could not miss
hitting it causing damage to his plane, and it did. The hive turned out to have been stolen from a nearby apiary and no arrests were ever made.
This old man whom I did not know was wrong but I could not help but admire his determination to make a statement as I knew first hand his disappointment from working with the system as he knew well that the burned crop duster would be replaced by a bigger and newer one, and that when a dusty crashes which happens quite regularly around here another one will take his place and the war to kill all honeybees continues to this day. I was sad for him but strangely proud to be a beekeeper when all my farm neighbors would bring his actions up at our local coffee shop and at farm center meetings. I was at the end of my own rope, frustrated in my efforts to make a living keeping bees or see changes made to make others responsibility for their actions that were killing my bees and tired of the shallow strokes I was getting from those who could have made a difference at every level of government from the University President to the Governor himself. I had then the “gonads” and was naive enough to meet and talk with them all and assumed the strokes I received meant that change was on the way. I enjoyed the FREE perks paid for mostly by the big spending chemical industry and other big tax payers but I still had to return home to the real life silence of thousands of my own bee hives overflowing my storage barns.
And then one day after checking another yard of stinking dieing bees and with a empty head void of thoughts and without a plan or any idea as to what I could do next I was driving down one of our back roads and ahead I could see a crop duster preparing to take off using the black top as his runway. This was a common practice and saved lots of money in constructing special landing fields for crop dusters. I knew it violated many local, state, and federal laws but was overlooked by the same
people who overlooked the honeybees that were being killed.
Something snapped in me that day, I was mad as hell and could not take it anymore, I was defeated and could not see any end to what was happening to other’s and my own bees, my future was dieing with my bees. Instead of yielding the right of way to the on coming crop duster, loaded down with another cargo of death for someone’s bees, and pulling over into the brier ditch along the side of the road as all had done before me, I continued on a course that could have ended in disaster, and was I ever relieved when to my amazement the massive crop duster at the last moment beat me to the ditch on the left side of the road and I did not have to alter my course for the same on the right. I never had realized what a heavy mass of machinery these old crop dusters were as from the ground when they are flying over my home and bee yards they don’t look so big as they are from the seat of your pick up looking straight into the dirty massive engine and spinning propeller all stuck tight in the soft soil off the black top.
The crop duster was not at all damaged although it was a bit unsettling to see it stuck in such a awkward position, but a very angry owner/pilot rushed over to me as I stood by the side of my truck and made some gestures that were not friendly in nature and some very nasty remarks about my own heritage that includes two presidents on my mother’s side, which I don’t remember and won’t repeat. But he also said he knew who I was and that I was a beekeeper and he would get even with me. I accepted his challenge and I gave him my business card so he would know how to get in touch with me and left the scene of my madness with a strange feeling of enlightenment or great relief. Like I had met the enemy in mortal face to face combat and survived. The experience for me was like a rebirth or the first night of two innocents on honeymoon. I will never forget my madness and from that day I became a real BEEMAN and a better advocate for all beekeepers and believe it or not I generated more respect from our local dusty’s and others on the farm then all the efforts I put in playing by their bible called the Agricultural Code in California; dinning with the State Director of Agriculture, or the president of the University of California, Chemical Company Presidents, so called beekeeping research scientists or the would bee next President of the United States, RR, not Abe.
I never worried about any crop duster getting me from then on as I had already been gotten and this one did try to have me cited for blocking his use of the county road as a runway and the results of his attempts were that was the last flight of any crop duster from any county road in my county as from that day to this they were required to use their own special landing strips that can be monitored for pesticide contamination and once en a great while they are.
Since then the tire marks from the landing planes have worn off the pavements and the rains have washed away the spills and dumps into our drinking water that occur everyday when loading a crop duster. I am a lot older and still not sure about my sanity or beekeeping skills and I count few crop dusters as my friends. I have seen and learned much on the law from being on both sides of the table that regulates what I and they do and have learned how to make part of their life a little less
pleasant but never will come close to what they have done to me and my bees. Life is not that long, and someday I will be gone but no one will be able to say I did what I did at the expense of others which can not be said for those who pride themselves as being part of the agricultural chemical community who all will find a special warm place waiting for them on their way to heaven and at least two beekeepers will be waiting with his 5 gallon honey cans, full of fuel for the fires of hell.
ttul, OLd Drone
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