So let us go back to Hopatcong one more time; another summer long ago. Mom’s sister, our Aunt Filomena (I have written about her before) lived with us until she got married to who would become our Uncle Jim (there will probably be a post dedicated to him sometime in the future). So when we went to spend the summer at the house in Lake Hopatcong, Fil would come as well. She did have a job at the Post Office (where she would meet Jim) so she couldn’t stay the entire time, but she did spend her vacation days there.
And those summers were as we have both stated quite idyllic; everything a kid from the city could ask for.
Now, Aunt Fil was a golfer; had her own set of clubs and all, and would enjoy going to a nearby range to hit some balls, when she wasn’t playing tennis with Mom.
Ok, so you see I am setting the stage here…..
Add to that simple fact the other custom we had of taking long nature walks through the woods, down to the lake, and over the open fields that surrounded us, this being way before many houses were built there.
Ok, get it so far? Simple right? But wait…now add this: Aunt Fil for some reason gave Don a pair of her old golf shoes, as she wore a man’s shoe and had purchased a new pair for the season.
A golf shoe.
You know the ones with the cleats? And I am not talking about a pair of golf shoes you would purchase today, with those nice soft rubber cleats on the soles. No, back in the early sixties, these things had metal cleats, much like you would find on football shoes at the time.
So now put it all together: Don wearing an old pair of golfing shoes with cleats, and us taking long walks through the countryside. What could go wrong right?
The day comes. Mom, Aunt Fil, Don and I set out on one of our long hikes after breakfast. It is a beautiful summer day in late July, the sun is shining, the air feels warm on your skin, all is as it should be. We set out first through the nearby field, make our way into the woods, come out at the lake, then backtrack and head for home. All the while Don wearing his “new” golf shoes. Now why he decided to wear those shoes instead of his usual sneakers, well that was anyone’s guess, but you know, you get something new, you want to wear it (even if it is used). And indeed when walking on the blacktop or the macadam roads, those cleats did make a pretty cool sound so I understood. I was probably a little jealous truth be told.
On with the story: so remember it is late July; summertime; naturally there are quite a few insects of all kinds around, both the flying and the crawling kind, and the kind that did both. We would always be swatting at them as they flew around our heads and tried to crawl up our legs. At the time, all cool boys were heavy users of hair tonics, the greasier the better so we could try to look like one of our favorite characters on TV, usually a spy like Napoleon Solo, who definitely used something on his hair because it hardly moved even while he was having a fight with a member of Thrush. Brylcreem or Vitalis was the preferred products for up and coming wannabe spies like us. And those flying bugs just loved the stuff as well for some reason, so we would be swatting and flailing our arms for most all the time we were on these walks; God forbid we would re-think coming out with slick greasy hair. One had to look cool you know.
The point is we were used to be buzzed and dive bombed by flying insects, some of them bees and wasps. But this one time, as we were heading back to the house, it just seemed there was an inordinate amount of the little buggers, and especially bees. It wasn’t too much of a concern at first, as they usually got the hint when they came into contact with your hand. But not this time. This time they kept coming, constantly circling our heads, attempting to land on us anywhere they could. What the heck was going on?
Mom and Aunt Fil started to get a little concerned; the house was in view, and they decided we should pick up the pace a bit. For a little kid like me, that meant running to keep up with those with longer legs, but everyone was double-timing it by this point, baffled and a little scared by what was happening; so very unusual.
We had reached the house, Don was leading the way; the front stairs awaited; Hopefully, they wouldn’t follow us inside! Then a piercing scream from Mom: “Donneeee!!” I didn’t know what was wrong! Had she gotten stung?! Don from his expression didn’t know what was happening either. Then Aunt Fil: “Oh My God!”
What?! What?! What was wrong?
And then I saw it. I saw what Mom had seen first, and Fil had seen a moment later. There on the bottom of one of Don’s golf shoes was a huge bees nest, held firmly in place by those metal cleats. No wonder the poor things were following us! We had their home for God Sakes, and we were taking it with us, and probably doing irreparable damage with each step.
Don still didn’t get it. Then almost in unison, Mom, Fil and I shout: “Your shoe! Your shoe!”
A moment of hesitation, a slightly bewildered look, and then slowly Don looked down. And saw it. And then did what most people would; he ran, taking the damn thing with him; he couldn’t outrun the bees because he was taking them along for the ride!
Aunt Fil: “The shoe –take it off – throw it – throw it!!”
Don stopped running; saw there was no other way, shut his eyes, reached down and yanked the shoe off his foot, a cloud of activity swirling around it the whole time. Miraculously he didn’t get stung and he made good use of that powerful throwing arm of his and he hauled off and sent the shoe and its nest shooting through the air into the nearby woods.
The bees followed their home. Hopefully, with a little hard work, they could rebuild. Imagine their horror when they were just minding their own business this fine summer day, and this huge fanged creature comes and impales their nest!
Don hopped up the stairs, Aunt Fil suppressed a smile, and Mom shook her head:
“You had to wear those shoes huh? Just had to wear them today??”
Of course, he did.
It’s the kind of thing you do when you are in the memory making business.