Bee stings create close call

This column first appeared in the Tribune on Nov. 12, 2007.

When we bought a farm 12 miles east of Columbia, it was on a mud road where the only repair was some big rocks in the worst mud holes. That was more than 55 years ago; Nancy was almost 3, and Walt was learning to walk.

The country mud road would be improved and the telephone line extended to our place if we cleared small trees from the north side of the road.

My father, O.D. Meyers, advised, loaned money and worked from dawn till dusk to help Chub bring this neglected farm back into production.

We fell in love with our 160 acres. Many friends, relatives and neighbors helped Chub build our home. In time we had a gravel road, and the school bus picked up Nancy and Walt, but the Columbia telephone line had not yet reached us.

Nancy enjoyed helping Chub work with the bees, but he went alone on this pleasant Sunday afternoon. Suddenly Chub came to the house mumbling, "... Stung ... bad ... get cold rags." He headed for the back bedroom trying to unbutton his shirt. I drew cold water, grabbed washcloths and followed him to the bed. "I'd better go call Dr. Baker," I said.

"... Be too late," Chub mumbled.

I told Nancy to bring cold water and washcloths and whispered to Walt, "Take off Chub's shoes and socks."

We three rubbed and watched silently as red hives slowly appeared on Chub's back and sides. His tongue was huge and darker colored, and he could hardly speak. I put pillows around his back and kept him sitting upright to improve his breathing.

"Rub," I said to the kids as we saw red hives appearing on his sides and a few on his front.

"Rub!" Chub begged as I bathed his back and chest. Neither child spoke a word. Nancy was bathing one foot and leg, and Walt worked with the other.

At that moment, I wasn't at all sure that Chub would survive. He was very ill, and we were two miles from a telephone and 12 miles from the doctor.

I couldn't forget that Chub's Uncle Archie, age 80, had said, "Honeybees can kill a horse."

I have no idea how long the children and I worked with Chub that Sunday afternoon. Nancy and Walt knew how serious this was and that they had been extremely important in what finally seemed to be the beginning of Chub's recovery, but neither youngster said a word. Finally I said, "You've both been great helpers today! Stay in the house, and I'll call you if we need you again."

Speechless, they tiptoed out of the room.

Chub squirmed a little and tried to talk but couldn't. Instead, he forced his tongue out of his mouth to show me its deep tooth marks on both the top and the bottom. By that I knew that the tongue's swelling was starting to go down and that we were on the right track with his care.

Nothing was certain.

His eyes looked better, and I felt, for the first time that afternoon, that this was not a fatal attack.

James Baker saw Chub early Monday morning. He gave him antibiotics -- nine to take immediately in case of a sting from any bee, wasp, etc., and said, "Buy several of these cards -- one for home, work, truck, etc., and follow directions, for the sting of any bee, wasp, hornet, etc."

Chub took them only one other time, for a wasp sting.

We never knew of another reaction like Chub's -- or a horse's!

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