Custer's Bees

Posted by Thomas Tucker on

Below is a delightful band director story written by Robert Storms.  Mr Storms is a composer and many of his works are available on PDF Band Music.  His background includes many years of teaching music in the western Washington area of the United States. This post and many other short stories by Robert Storms are available on Lulu Press.  The title of his book is "School Stories."

The week before school started in 1962, the principal informed me, “You have your choice of any of five empty classrooms.” That was because Custer had just changed to a middle school format from being a junior high, and on top of that the enrollment was projected to be down in the coming school year. I told him that I wanted the largest room, as the band simply takes more space per pupil. He then showed me the science room, touting its spaciousness, built-in storage cabinets, and the fact that it was a good distance from the bees’ nest.
“Bees’ nest?”
“Yes, bees’ nest. It’s a big nest in the corner of the old gymnasium and it’s not a problem, except for an occasional bee in the classroom,” he said. I told him that I liked the room and I was glad he told me about the bees as I was afraid of the critters. I moved into the new band room feeling safe from the bees at the other side of the building. Things went well for a good part of the fall term and I enjoyed the small-school atmosphere of Custer Middle School and its seventeen-piece band.
But on one bright and sunny morning, as I directed the band through some training exercises in the band book, I noticed my young trombone player in the back row, pumping his slide skyward and around him from side to side. Curious behavior, even for a trombone player. So, I stopped the music and asked the lad what he was doing with the extra-curricular movements with his slide. He told me there was a bee in the classroom and it had been circling his head so he decided to poke at it with his slide to fend it off.
You know, there are times in life when you say the right thing, but everything suddenly goes wrong, as if in response to your statement. This was one of those times.
My sage advice to the young man was, “If you just leave the bee alone, it won’t bother you. Don’t try to poke at it or hit it. Just remain still and it will go away.” The words had no sooner passed my lips when the bee came directly at me! I froze. I mean, I was petrified. I stood there, still holding my directing baton and poised to start the music, as the class watched in stunned silence.
It seemed to me that the bee was trying to teach me a lesson: “So you’re supposed to remain still eh? Let’s see how you like me going around your head, smart guy.”
As the insect circled, I had visions of the little darling (someone’s honey) deciding to explore one of my ear canals. He hovered and then buzzed one chosen ear while the class held its breath. Was he going in? If he did, what should I do? Oh yeah, take my own advice. Me and my big mouth.
The little honeybee did its best to scare me into some defensive action, like swatting, shaking my head, or running like a madman for the door. I’m sure I disappointed the little bugger by my inaction.
Then it did something rather unexpected. The bee lit on the tip of my baton and proceeded to slowly walk down toward the handle. The giant, sucking sound that accompanied that move was the class gasping in unison. The bee went down my hand and into the cuff of my sweat-soaked
shirt. All I had to do was squeeze the shirt and the problem would be solved. But in so doing, I would be demonstrating what I told the students not to do, so I stood still, waiting for the sting that seemed
sure to follow. Instead, the bee emerged and trekked up to the tip of the baton and flew off toward the windows. An obliging student opened a window and the episode ended as the bee escaped unharmed.When I began to say something to the class, the students interrupted me by clapping. I guess it was a good lesson for all, as I have not been afraid of bees since that day.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.