Updated: Jul 11
Once when I was a child, my dad Ray Redgen, had gone to the forestry reserve away to the north, to help fight a bushfire that was threatening to invade neighbouring farms. The only water available, was carried in canvas waterbags. One of the neighbours drank from the cap of the bag, and swallowed a bee that had entered in search of water. The bee stung the inside of his throat on the way down.
Panic! If the bitten area swelled, it could block the airways. Fifty miles to the nearest medical assistance. What to do? Answer. Drive like hell. Dad had the most reliable car, so was elected for the job. He insisted on a passenger as well as the patient. Someone handed them a length of rubber hose, and a blunt razor blade, as they drove away. If suffocation seemed imminent, they were to attempt to slit open the windpipe below the swelling. Fortunately, the bite did not swell, and Dad drove like hell to deliver the patient to the hospital. They told us later that trachiotomy would not have worked in this case, the bite was too low down.
Dad was just glad he didn’t have to attempt his first human surgery. My memory was so strong, I had to covert it to a bush ballad.
THE BUSHMAN AND THE BEE
In summer when the fires rage
The forest caught alight.
And farmers came from miles around
All helping in the fight.
For days they battled in the heat
Till all were tired and worn.
Corn beef and bread were all they ate
For they were miles from town.
And water was their only drink
From tepid water bags.
They slept beside their ancient trucks
On smokey hessian bags.
The native birds and insects left
To find a safer site.
The 'roos had fled before the flames
And vanished like the night.
But honey bees were not so smart.
No water was their plight,
They clustered on the water bags
As if it was their right.
The cautious men who came to drink
All used the metal cup.
Foolhardy ones unscrewed the cap
And tipped the bottom up
And poured the water in their mouths
And that is what Smith did.
Bad luck for him. A bee was trapped
And hidden near the lid.
As water sloshed into his mouth,
The bee went in as well.
In vain he tried to spit it out -
That bee was anchored well.
It thrust its stinger in his flesh
And left its poison there.
The men around had quite a laugh
To hear him shout and swear.
But second thoughts were not so light.
"What if he swells?" asked Brown.
"Could stop him breathing, I suppose,"
said Potter with a frown.
"The nearest doctor's miles away,
but that is what he needs."
They looked at all the farming trucks
For what could do high speeds.
The fastest there was Brown's chev car.
They bundled Smith inside
And Brown climbed in the driver's seat
All ready for the ride.
The forest had a first-aid man,
Who had a careless pose.
He handed Brown a razor blade
And narrow rubber hose.
"If Smith should swell, and cease to breathe,
You'll have to slit 'is throat,
'n shove the hose into the cut
T' give the man an 'ope!"
Well Brown, he drove like Stirling Moss
To get poor Smith to town,
And made him gossip all the way,
So air kept going down.
They found the Doc., to Brown's relief,
And Smith was soon OK.
But Brown he kept the blade and hose,
In memory of that day.
And ever after, in the heat,
When looking for a drink,
He always poured the water out
To look for bees, we think!