History History Works

JOHN WILKINS

Ozark Bee Hunter and Dealer in Dogs and Guns
Iron County , Missouri

"If a feller is able to do different kinds of work, or has different trades or professions as he goes through life, then he can allers have somethin' to do to get by on, an' make a livin'.

"Now take myself, for instance. I am a bee hunter, an' a dealer in guns an' dogs, an' you know, I've got a iob all the year round.

"I hunt bees in the summertime, an' in the fall I begin takin' my ol' rusty guns down frum the rack, an' clean 'em up, an' go out an' look fer some feller who's got a worthless ol' dog that he wants to trade fer a gun, or a pocketknife or somethin', an' soon I find 'im, an' here's where I'll trade an ol' gun that you couldn't hit the side ov a barn with fer an ol' long-eared pot licker that's too ornery to bark or holler if you stepped on his tail; an' I'll take this ol' dog, an' train 'im up to bark an' run rabbits, tree a few squirrels an' things like that, an' soon some city slicker comes down in the woods to stay a few days an' fish an' hunt, an' the first thing they do is look fer a feller who's got a good dog to sell, an' ov course, I've allers got jist the one they want, 'cause I keep em trained up to do about everything but dig worms an' go fishin' - so here's where I git rid ov my pot licker fer a good price ov anywhere frum fifteen to fifty dollars.

"Then, on the other hand, maybe I'll have an ol' dog that's too blasted lazy to scratch, even when he's got the mange, an' I cain't larn 'im nairy a dad-blamed thing, an' I'll fatten 'im up an' make his hair look glossy, an' brag on 'im a little, an' trade 'im fer a good gun that I sell fer a purty good price. So I trade guns fer dogs, and dogs fer guns, but I allers have at least three dogs on hand to keep. I keep a coon dog, a squirrel dog, an' a hog dog. A hog dog is one that's got nerve enough to catch a wild hog in the woods an' hold 'im till ye get to 'im.

"I start my bee hunt early in the spring, an' keep it up all summer. Ye know, these woods is full ov wild honey bees, an' I've got the trick that gets 'em. I first go way back in the hills to where I find 'em suckin' on wild flowers, or suckin' water at a mountain stream or mud puddle, an' thair's where I set down an' watch 'em till they rise up an' fly away, an' I notice the direction they go, an' I foller up in that same direction for quite a distance an' put out some bait--the kind I make myself by mixin' sweet anis an' honey, an' a lot ov other things together--an' here I set down again an' when they light down on this bait an' suck full ov it an' start away, I watch 'em an' foller up till I find where they live, either in a big oak, or a big pine tree, an' thair's where I cut the tree an' get bees', honey'n all.

"I make purty good money at it,'cause I sell 'em fer one dollar an a half to three dollars a tree, an' I have found as many as two an' three bee trees a day. I have found where they lived in bluffs but I couldn't get 'em out.

"This star you see on my coat is to show that I'm an officer. I am constable ov my township where I live."



Painting and text by Lennis Leonard Broadfoot, copyright © The Harlin Museum, used by permission. History Works is supported by a generous private gift and a cadre of community volunteers. Collaborating groups include the Harlin Museum, the Bryant Watershed Education Project, and the West Plains Council on the Arts.

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