Bee Keeper to B-movie Writer
They say nothing ever happened in Coronation, but that’s only because I’ve kept some secrets.
The Bee Story is one such tale. Mr. Adcock, a beekeeper, lived just a block from our home in Coronation (population 990), nestled in the heart of the Alberta plains.
At 14, I decided to venture into beekeeping. I bought a few books and sought advice from Mr. Adcock, then about 75. The year was 1956.
Each spring, Mr. Adcock would purchase bundles of bees, each with an Italian queen, and gently introduce them into his hives.
Come fall, he would harvest their honey and, regrettably, end their lives. In Canada, bees have about a six-month season to produce enough honey to survive the impending winter, even though they had just arrived from Europe. A pound of bees with an Italian queen cost seven dollars.
You also needed unassembled supers (the boxes stacked to form the hive) and racks with wax sheets, where the bees would deposit the honey.
My best year saw a harvest of a thousand pounds of honey, sold at 25 cents per pound.
After accounting for my time, the use of my father’s car, Mr. Adcock’s machinery, and a vet visit for my dog after a near-fatal bee sting, I nearly broke even.
However, the experience taught me valuable lessons:
1. Bee stings can be beneficial. Mr. Adcock had palsy, and bee stings would temporarily alleviate his shaking.
2. The secret to great honey lies not in the bee type but in the variety of flowers and grasses from which they gather nectar. The best honey came from Mrs. Selfors’ farm, rich in wildflowers and clover. Mrs. Selfors was also my high school English teacher.
3. Avoid Mrs. Selfors’ place after dark during a new moon, especially with fresh snow.
One evening, after euthanizing my bees with cyanide and during an early snowfall, I was delivering honey to Mrs. Selfors. I felt guilty for taking the bees’ hard-earned honey and feared they might be haunting me.
Under the new moon’s light, as I approached her house, a figure emerged from the bushes, startling me.
It wasn’t a bee spirit but a naked, crazed man lunging at me, only to be yanked back by a chain attached to a dog collar around his neck.
Mrs. Selfors rushed out and chased him away with a broom. She urged me to keep this incident secret.
I suspected the man was a mentally ill relative, given that families often cared for such individuals at home during that era, as asylums in Alberta were dreadful.
I promised to keep the secret, though I was tempted to share the story of the ‘wild man’ with my friends.
Mr. Adcock, upon hearing this, advised against using bee stings on him and encouraged me to focus on writing instead of beekeeping.
Years later, in Hollywood writing screenplays, I encountered a different breed of ‘wild men and women’ known as producers.
Unlike the man in Mrs. Selfors’ bushes, they lack restraints and are far more unpredictable, making the world of B movies quite an adventure.”