Beekeepers lose a friend
The Juncos came back last week, a sure sign that snow is on the way, and it was. We had about 4-inches in two rounds at the end of the week and I took the opportunity to spend a couple of snowy days in the Honey House doing candles. As we approach the holidays the candle orders will come in faster than I can dip them so I have to anticipate and build up the inventory ahead of time.
This was a somber week for many of us long term beekeepers and for some of the newer ones as well, Lynn Teets passed away.
Lynn was born and raised in Ohio. He graduated from Tecumseh High School, Springfield, in 1954 and attended Wilmington College and Cincinnati Bible Seminary. In 1956 he married his high school sweetheart Jean Welch. The two of them worked summers in Yellowstone National Park and then relocated to Boulder where Lynn went to work at the University of Colorado in the Laboratory for Atmosphere and Space Physics.
My connection with Lynn was by way of beekeeping. In October of 1975 he had called a meeting of the area beekeepers to discuss serious bee kills from pesticide spraying in the summer of 1974 and again in the summer of 1975. There couldn’t have been more than 15 beekeepers present. Lynn was the County Bee Inspector then, a position I would inherit from him several years down the road. The outcome of that meeting was to form The Boulder County Beekeeper’s Association.
We had our first formal meeting January 21, 1976 at Lynn’s house on South Cherryvale Road. There were 20 people in attendance. Lynn and I were the only ones remaining from that first meeting, although three others appeared shortly thereafter: Harold Scherbenski of Berthoud, Herman Wehling of Arvada, and Carol Streamer, who has been treasurer for the Boulder County Beekeepers from the beginning.
We decided at that meeting that the best way to deal with the spraying problems was to work with the sprayers, and not long after that met with Chuck Bliss, Boulder County Extension Agent, and two aerial applicators. One of them left in a huff, not about to be inconvenienced by those *!! beekeepers. No name, because I think his son is still in the business. The second, Ray Edmiston, agreed to work with us and that began 30 years of cooperation that has just begun to fall apart in the last few years.
Lynn was the quiet instigator and I was the all too willing young beekeeper. I wound up with the responsibility of the spray program, was president of the Beekeepers Association for 30 years, and took on the role of County Bee Inspector when Lynn stepped down.
Health problems forced Lynn to give up his bees in 1990. He had a beautifully maintained 200 colony operation and it went to a fellow with good intentions who had far more than he could handle. It went downhill rapidly, through a number of hands, until just a few years ago what was left was bulldozed into a pile and burned. Miles was able to save two of Lynn’s branded honey supers from that fate and he has one, me the other.
I was always impressed with Lynn’s beekeeping, I knew full well what it took to manage 200 colonies and Lynn ran a spotless operation and worked full time along with it. He wasn’t a large man, but he and Jean harvested crops that were in the tons and they did the extracting in their basement. Along with all the heavy lifting that any honey harvest entails he and Jean had to move those tons down the basement stairs and all of the empty supers back up again. I always felt lucky to have a honey house and marveled at how Lynn pulled it off every year.
In some ways Lynn was my tie to the past. I fell in love with beekeeping from the onset and tried to pry the history of the craft out of the records. Ted Johnson was the first beekeeper I spoke with and it was the remnants of his operation that I ultimately wound up with. A two hour meeting with Ted and his wife is what launched me into beekeeping. Ted had started keeping bees in Boulder County in 1921 and I left their home with the distinct feeling that the two of them had spent their lives doing something they absolutely loved, and with the phone number of Harlan Henderson. That was the beginning, and here I am 37 years later.
Lynn had preceded me in beekeeping and in Boulder County by several years and he worked with Ted before Ted stopped keeping bees. I had a beeyard on South Boulder Road, perhaps the oldest beeyard in the county at the time, one of Ted’s originals. It was also on Lynn’s route from home to work and one spring morning he stopped on his way to work and hollered across the field “Ted is in the hospital.” Ted was 92 and we all knew that he was failing. I stopped by Community Hospital when I had finished with the bees and talked with Ted for a while. I extended my hand when I got up to leave and Ted took my hand in both of his and said softly, “Tom, I sure do miss the bees.” In another month or two he was gone. Although I was only in my early 30s I could understand the message.
My friend and fellow beekeeper Harold Scherbenski and I stopped by the Teets’ house and had hot chocolate and some conversation with Lynn and Jean in late September after the harvest, and during that conversation Lynn made the same comment Ted had. Although he’d been out of bees for more than 20 years his sentiment was the same “I sure do miss the bees.”
The bees are a magical insect, they bind us together in ways that are clear at times, mysterious at others, an unspoken understanding between us, a view of the world, a view of life itself. Lynn was a good person. From my perspective he always seemed to be doing his best to do his best, a hard worker and a good beekeeper.
In his quiet way Lynn left his mark on the history of local beekeeping and the Beekeepers Association will work with Jean and Lynn’s family to place a memorial at the gravesite which will recognize the role he played for generations to come. We were all better for having known Lynn. ❖