Where Are The Killer Bees?!?

In the 1970s, the fear was real.

If you were alive then, you know it’s true. You likely had some fear of killer bees, quicksand, and UFOs. Thanks to movies and TV, we heard about them all the time.

UFOs are featured on an episode of The Brady Bunch…Peter and Bobby think they see a UFO, only to find out it’s a hoax carried out by oldest brother, Greg. See a clip here from the episode titled Out of This World. We saw quicksand on Gilligan’s Island and lots of other shows. See a clip from a quicksand episode of Gilligan’s Island called Man With a Net  here. And killer bees? Movies about killer bees were rampant in the 1970s…The Savage Bees, The Swarm...we were scared.

When I was seven, I attended a high school bonfire with a neighborhood friend and her family. She had older siblings, so she got to go to all the cool stuff. I remember the excitement around it. I thought the bonfire was amazing…right up until panic set in. It seemed like everyone got scared, but it might have just been the little kids. Somehow, we thought a UFO was in the area. I think someone saw a helicopter and thought it was an alien spaceship. Kids started running in all directions. We ran to my friend’s mother’s car…and we talked about it at school for weeks. I don’t know how likely it was that an alien spaceship wanted to investigate kids and teenagers in Brewton, Alabama, but my 7-year-old self was convinced they wanted me. Our fears were fed by movies like Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Escape to Witch Mountain (which starred a young Kim Richards of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills). Call me crazy, but I still think aliens from far away lands might be watching us. I’m always watching for flying saucers in the sky. If there is ever a UFO in my area…and if I’m awake…I’m going to be the one who sees it.

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I spent my entire childhood worrying about quicksand. Like I said, it was featured in cartoons and television shows. I remember seeing it on Gilligan’s Island; Johnny Quest; Scooby Doo; Batman; Fantasy Island; The Six Million Dollar Man; Tarzan; The Dukes of Hazard; and more. It was everywhere on television, and we watched a lot of television as kids. That was our screen time. We saw quicksand so often on television that we thought it must be everywhere. In Alabama, back then, we still had woods where we could roam. I didn’t roam as much as my brother did, but when I did, if I found myself stepping into thick mud, I was immediately convinced it was quicksand. My friend, Mary Ann, says she used to poke the ground with a big stick in front of her to make sure it wasn’t quicksand. It seemed that any time quicksand was featured on TV, the victim sank completely, drowning in it or they sank up to his/her neck…except for one dead arm sticking out. For years, I thought that anyone who died in quicksand left one arm sticking up out of it. Yet, I’ve never seen quicksand. I’ve seen a warning sign for it near the Battleship USS Alabama, in Mobile, but I don’t know if it’s still there. So where did all the quicksand go?!?! Why don’t we hear about it anymore?

As for killer bees…well, that fear was absolutely real. They were on every kid’s mind in the south. Heck, we already had fire ants before everyone else, and those were scary enough. But killer bees?!?!? Those were like flying fire ants! I remember watching a made-for-TV movie called The Savage Bees in 1976. It was about a ship that arrived in New Orleans with a dead crew….killer bees. That television movie just made it more real for me. New Orleans was just a couple of hours way from where I lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama! What if killer bees came in on a ship from another country? It was almost enough to make a kid afraid to go outside, because if killer bees were in the area, there was no escaping them, according to the TV movie. If they wanted you, they would get you…through cracks under doors and vents to get into your house. I don’t remember all the details, but I know a lady drove an “airtight” VW Beetle into the Superdome with a swarm of bees all over it. She drove onto the field, and when the temperature reached a certain point (49 degrees?), the bees died…saving the city of New Orleans and the rest of the US from the savage bees.

Movies and TV loved trying to scare us in the 1970s. Maybe you remember Skylab falling. Remember Jaws? Weren’t we all afraid to go into the water? Heck…I’m still afraid! Or who remembers Squirm? It was released in 1976. It was a movie about worms attacking people. I was in fourth grade when it was released. I didn’t get to see it, because it was rated R, but my friend, Greg Wilson, got to see it. I remember when he came to school talking about it, and we all gathered around to hear about it. He’s fearless now, and I guess his parents knew he was fearless then.

Anytime I mention quicksand, UFOs, or killer bees to a friend or family member who was alive in the 1970s, we laugh…it becomes a funny conversation. And then, we always talk about how we never hear about those things anymore.

Maybe I should be reminding folks to be careful…watch for quicksand under your feet; watch for UFOs in the sky; and drive an airtight VW Beetle to avoid the killer bees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rookie Gardener

I’ve said before that I am no gardener. A few years ago, I had some pretty good luck with gardening in my backyard, but then I developed a fear of snakes and became afraid. Every time I thought about sticking my hands into or near the dirt, I was terrified I would pick up a copperhead.

In Mecklenburg County, the only venomous snake species we have is the copperhead, but it seems there are lots of them. Growing up in Alabama, we had six species of venomous snakes, including three different types of rattlesnakes, which are highly dangerous to humans. I’ve seen more than my fair share of rattlesnakes and copperheads. In fact, I came dangerously close to stepping on a big diamondback rattlesnake when I was 18. To learn more about the venomous snakes of Alabama, including the copperhead, click here. Be forewarned: just like Jaws made us all afraid to go back into the water, seeing the pictures of these snakes may make you afraid to go back outside altogether.

Back to gardening. For years, I did nothing, till this year, and I’m not doing a lot, but I am doing a little. I have more than one inspiration. I want to have some sunflowers in memory of my parents this summer, and posts by my friend, Michelle, owner of Corner Copia Gardens and Gifts in Fairhope, Alabama, would make anyone want to try their hand at gardening. To see her Facebook page for inspiration, click here.

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Photo from Corner Copia Gardens in Fairhope, Alabama

While I want sunflowers in my backyard, I’m not planting any other types of flowers. We have some beautiful knockout roses that continue to bloom, so I don’t feel like I need to add much to those. I’m adding a few vegetables.

One thing I’ve always loved is a good homegrown vine-ripened tomato. When my friend, Wendy, lived here in Charlotte, she had a neighbor who grew some of the best tomatoes I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve had a lot of tomatoes. Growing up, I didn’t care for tomatoes. I think a lot of kids are turned off by the slightly acidic taste of tomatoes. When I was in college, I went to the lake with a friend, and her mother had some homegrown tomatoes for us. Not wanting to be rude, I ate the slices she gave me, and I never looked back.

If you are a tomato person, you know store-bought tomatoes are deceiving. Every year, I make the mistake of picking up some beautiful tomatoes in the grocery store with hopes they are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Then, I get home and slice into them, only to find they are hard and ugly on the inside. A good, homegrown tomato is just as red on the inside as it is on the outside.

Throughout my life, I had seen my daddy eat tomato sandwiches. He loved a good tomato sandwich, and apparently, my mother knew the perfect way to make them. It’s not difficult, but if you don’t make them just right, you can mess them up. My daddy liked his tomatoes peeled. Weird, I know, but that’s what he liked. Sometimes, I peel mine too. But the main thing is to use white bread…not whole wheat, not whole grain, not pumpernickel or rye…white bread. On the white bread slices, slather your favorite mayonnaise. Daddy preferred Hellman’s, but I prefer Duke’s. Yes, you can use the reduced fat versions, but because good tomatoes are hard to find, I don’t want to mess them up with the reduced fat stuff. Add tomato slices to the mayo-slathered bread and top it with a little salt and pepper to taste. I can almost taste it now. ***It’s difficult to find Duke’s Mayonnaise in some parts of the country. If you’ve never had it, you should try it. You can order it from Amazon here.***

Obviously, I’m trying to grow my own tomatoes this summer. My husband and I picked up a few small plants, and he put them in the ground. We purchased Bonnie Plants brand Big Boy tomato plants and Better Boy tomato plants at a local store. To see the Bonnie Plants website for tomato information, click here. It’s not too late to do your own. I’ve been tending ours. That means I’ve been calling my brother to get tips on growing good tomatoes. I’ve also been checking online for information. So far, I haven’t killed them yet, and we even have a few small tomatoes showing up on our plants. I looked online to see how long it takes tomatoes to ripen on the vine, and on average, for the types we are growing, it takes about 75 days after germination. That seems like a long time. I’m counting down the days and hoping I don’t kill them before then.

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I’ve also planted a few other vegetables. We’ll see how that works out before I go into any detail.

My friend, Leah, in memory of my parents, gave me a Sunflower Grow Kit earlier this year, and I was so excited to get that started, and so far, they’re growing! The kit included potting soil, seeds, plant food, and a bag in which to grow them. You can see various grow kits here. I also planted some Burpee brand sunflower seeds, which you can find at your local home stores. I purchased mine at Home Depot, but they have them in Lowe’s too. If you live in or near Wetumpka, Alabama, you can visit the Lowe’s there and see my handsome nephew, Brennen.

My sunflowers have been a little slow-growing, but in the past few days they seem to be getting some traction. I have hope. Sunflowers aren’t difficult to grow, and I had huge success with them 16 years ago, growing some of the biggest, most beautiful sunflowers I’ve ever seen. I planted mine a little later than before, but with sunflowers, I think that’s OK.

For planting this year, since I still haven’t overcome my fear of snakes, I wore gardening gloves and used a gardening trowel. I don’t know how much protection that offers from snakes, but it made me feel better. I found myself scanning all around me while I dug, though. I won’t even walk out onto the patio without checking out the steps before opening the back door.

As the summer progresses, I’ll keep you posted on my gardening. Hoping for tall sunflowers with big heads and some juicy tomatoes soon.

Go play in the dirt!

***If you enjoy Kelly Mattei’s Favorite Things, please invite friends to like the facebook page.***