The Columbian Squires, the official youth organization of the Knights of Columbus, is a leadership and character development program for Catholic young men, 10-18 years old. My husband, Bob, was the Chief Counselor in charge of the St. Pius X Knights of Columbus Squires Circle in Forestville, MD.
It was late summer 1978, when Bob and then Knights of Columbus Grand Knight, John Glenn, took a few of the Squires on a 3-day camping trip. They drove about one-half hour to Cedarville State Forest on Bee Oak Road in Brandywine, MD. Accompanying them were their sons Bobby, Jeff, and Billy. Bobby, Bob’s oldest, was 12. He was known for his deep thoughts. Jeff, Bob’s second son, was 10 and known for his go-getter, dare-devil persona. John Glenn’s son, Billy, was also 12 and usually walked around with his head in the clouds. None of them had ever really gone fishing before with their dads. This trip was about introducing them as relatively new Squires to a new experience through tent camping in the 3,700 acres of wooded forest and fishing in the four-acre pond that was stocked with bluegill, catfish, sunfish and bass.
While the dads were cooking lunch, the boys decided they would go to the pond and give this fishing thing a try. So, in their tee shirts, shorts, and Jeff in his bare feet, trekked about one-half mile from their campsite through the woods to the banks of the pond. They fumbled their way through baiting the hooks with worms and small frogs and dropped their lines into the water. About one hour into their fishing game Billy’s pole started vibrating. Billy had baited his line with a small frog and he was the only lucky one of us three that day. After a mild game of tug of war with the fish on his line, Billy managed to catch a bass that was about 12 inches long.
All of a sudden Bobby and Billy exchanged panicked glances. We were all hearing the buzzing of bees. The buzzing continued to get louder and louder and without a word spoken, Bobby and Billy took off on a run back toward the woods like a shot! It seemed it was every man for himself, except for fearless Jeff, who was stumbling along the bank alone trying to retrieve Bobby and Billy’s poles. It was then that the swarm of hundreds of very aggressive yellow jacket bees came from out of nowhere and started viciously attacking him. The hostile bees aimed for every bit of Jeff’s unprotected skin they could find. By now, Jeff had removed his outer shirt and had it wrapped around one hand while clinging to the poles in his other, using them as weapons as best he could to beat back all those bees that were attacking him.
Meanwhile, Bobby and Billy made it back to camp where they alerted their dads as to Jeff’s predicament. Immediately, Bob told Bobby to hop in his 1970s station wagon to help guide him to the site. When Jeff saw his dad’s boat-sized car approaching, he came on a run. Exhausted and still barefoot, Jeff jumped in the back seat window and yelled “Dad, let’s get out of here!”
Bob and John checked Jeff all over to see how severely he had been stung. It seems Jeff did an amazing job of fighting off the enemy bees. He had a few red and swollen places on his face and arms, but nothing serious enough to require medical attention.
It was K of C Grand Knight John who seized the teachable moment to ask the boys to repeat the purpose of Knights of Columbus Squires organization. With some prodding and assistance all the boys repeated their purpose was to conduct themselves as boys of “good character;” i.e., to act, think, and feel in a way that matches some commonly accepted “good” traits, like being honest, respectful, responsible, caring, fair; and, to have fun together; to share their faith; to help people in need; and to enjoy the company of friends in social, family, athletic, cultural, civic and spiritual activities. After what seemed like nearly an eternity for the offending boys who abandoned their brother and friend, John closed his lesson time.
But, the boys moods had plummeted and their desire for camping and fishing had demolished. Bob and John were disappointed in the two boys who thought only of themselves and had unthinkingly left Jeff behind. Jeff was both hurt and angry with the other boys who bolted off without him. And, despite the excellent teachable moment for these young guys, John, too, was disappointed with the way their adventure played out. With all in agreement, everyone helped pack up their campsite and they headed back to safety and home, sweet, home, and as far as they could get from Cedarville Forests’ “Bee Oak Road.”
P.S. We later learned that Yellow Jacket bees are attracted to the sugar in the sap of Oak Trees and/or the sugar in the honeydew excretions of aphids or scale insects that also nest in them. Hence, I guess the name of Cedarville Forest’s “Bee Oak Road.”