The Wasp Nest


Wasps on their nest.
Wasps on their nest.

We were barning Burley tobacco on William Shelton’s farm near Walnut, 26 miles northwest of Asheville, N.C., when Herb Porter spotted a wasp nest hanging from the roof of the tobacco barn, a big nest, big as a man’s hand.

This isn't Herb Porter, but this is the way you hang Burley tobacco.
This isn’t Herb Porter, or me, but this is the way you hang Burley tobacco.

Herb was standing spread eagle on two rows of logs, one boot on one log, one boot on the other. The logs were about three feet apart, wide enough to accommodate the sticks of tobacco stalks we were hanging.

He was way up there, at the top of barn.  Fall from there and you’re going to get hurt real bad.

I was standing spread eagle on logs further down, taking sticks of tobacco from Herb’s brother-in-law, Alfie Shelton, who was standing in the bed of the truck, and handing them on up to Herb. When I heard Herb say “wasp nest,” I scrambled down fast as I could. I went over the barn door, ready to run. But Herb just stood there, spread eagle, not three feet from a nest covered with those black and yellow devils.

Pat and Mark Stith, L to R, and Herbie and Herb Porter
Pat and Mark Stith, L to R, and Herbie and Herb Porter, on the wasp weekend.

“Alfie,” he said, “get me a cup of No. 2 fuel oil.”

Herb stayed right where he was while Alfie pumped No. 2 fuel oil out of a drum stored in the barn. They had done this before. When Alphie had enough he climbed up two or three tiers of logs, and handed the cup to Herb.

Without hesitating Herb threw the fuel oil all over that nest and wasps began raining down onto the barn’s dirt floor, dead.  He killed them all.

And then Herb dropped the empty cup and told me to hand him another stick of tobacco. Time to get back to work.

Coming Monday: It’s A Good Life

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