Last week we quit at a moment when, at just 12 years old, I had crawled into a low path under some brush to get to a beech tree I wanted to climb, but the doggone path had petered out. Disappointed, I had started to turn around, when I heard a loud buzzing just a few feet behind me.
As I slowly rolled over onto my back my heart almost stopped. There, just a few feet back down the path hung a hornet’s nest. Evidently I had shaken the brush and the nest as I crawled by, and those hornets were swarming out — as mad as hell! Luckily for me, however, they were headed back down the path instead of toward me; but how long that incredibly good luck was going to last was anybody’s guess.
Then began one of the great learning experiences of my life.
It didn’t take much brains for my first correct decision, which was to stay absolutely still. So lying there, face up, not even daring to blink for fear of attracting that swarm of hornets, I began to really think. Slowly, very slowly, my brain began to pick away at the problem, and the first thing that dawned on me was the unhappy truth that there was only one way out of my situation — back down the path along which the angry hornets were buzzing.
“Oh, boy!” I asked myself. “How am I going to perform that miracle?”
I didn’t have a clue, and no matter how long I thought about it, no bright ideas popped into my head. Not a thing. Zip! Zilch!
I had crawled into that path just after a late supper, and after about two hours of trying to puzzle out how I was going to get back out, I noticed that the light was getting dimmer. My first reaction to that was to start worrying about having to crawl out of there in the dark. However, it was that thought which finally switched on my brain.
“Hey!” I said to myself, “When it gets dark maybe the hornets won’t be able to see me!”
Yeah, I know. Not particularly clever; but one thought, however simple, may lead to another, and thinking about that fact as night was coming on fast, I realized that it was April and the nights were still quite cold.
“If I wait,” I asked myself, “will it get too cold for the hornets to fly?”
“You bet it will!” I thought, smiling as I remembered that I had seen a lot of dead hornets lying under a nest early the winter before. “They can’t take the cold.”
So, shivering in a fairly thin shirt, I closed my eyes, ready for what might be a very long wait. However, it then occurred to me to use my ears too. Sure enough, I could still hear an occasional hornet buzzing back and forth, but there were nowhere near as many as earlier.
Shivering with cold, I waited for it to either get pitch black, or for the buzzing to stop completely. Finally, both happened and I slowly turned my young body around. Feeling as stiff as a board, I began a low crawl under a now invisible nest.
At last I reached the opening, stumbled home on two cold stiffened legs, got yelled at because it was so late, but told my story, got fussed over, ate a piece of pie, had a hot bath, and flopped — totally exhausted — into bed.
And, no. I never did climb that beech tree.