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Illinois Valley stingers won't get second chance to attack

My beau, The Englishman, was buzzing earlier this week about how I should come over to his place for a weekender.

Not happening, says I. Not until the dead of winter, anyway.

"You have mean bees over there," I remind him.

True dat, he acknowledges.

"The bugs are bad," T.E. says. "They're even going after me this summer."

It all started a few summers ago when T.E. insisted I join him on his morning walkabout — a brisk three-mile jaunt over hill and down dale in the wilds of the Illinois Valley.

We were about halfway through this forced march, picking our way through a patch of blackberries, when I felt a sharp pain on my right forearm.

Danged thorns. Or so I thought. Until I felt another jab. And another.

"Ouch! What the hell?"

I looked down. Several black and pale-yellow bodies were busy burying their butts in my arms and legs.

"You've disturbed the nest! Run!" yelled The Englishman.

Me? I was following in your footsteps!

"RUN!!!" he hollered again, giving me a shove.

Angry buzzing was coming from up under my hair. My neck was on fire. I bolted out of the woods and ran down the logging road — screaming blue bloody murder. Visions of poor stung-to-death Macaulay Culkin's "My Girl" character played in my mind.

But somewhere mid-scream, I started to wonder why there were no accompanying footsteps. Had The Englishman gone down? Was he thoroughly engulfed in a swarm of toxin-filled needles? If so, he was being awfully quiet about it. Although my beloved had led me straight into the nest of the hornets-from-hell, I stopped and turned around.

T.E. was still at the very top of the path. He was walking along slowly, completely unmolested. Who is this fellow? The Bee Whisperer?

Turns out there was no giant swarm. But a dozen or so kamikaze bees/wasps/hornets (whatever the heck they were) were diligently trying to finish me off. Zing! Zing! Zap!

I kept spinning around, but I couldn't reach the little suckers.

"HELP ME!!" I yelled.

T.E. sped up to a trot and began swatting. My tormenters simply buzzed out of his range. They were after me, and only me.

"You sure made them mad," he said, shaking his head and waving away the last few stragglers. I've had mildly allergic reactions to a single bee sting in the past. By my count I'd been stung about 30 times. And my throat felt kinda funny. Maybe it was all the screaming. Maybe it was the beginning of anaphylactic shock. It seemed a good time to test T.E.'s medical mettle.

"Do you have your pocket knife and a pen?" I asked, with the calm of one preparing to meet her Maker.

Of course. A proper Brit never travels without his Swiss Army or a writing implement.

"And do you know how to do a tracheotomy?" I queried.

That got his attention. T.E. lost all his color while I carefully explained the process of performing the emergency surgery.

"Sit down," he said. "No, come with me."

T.E. frog-marched my forlorn fanny to a nearby farmhouse. The owners weren't home. But their four dogs were. Happily for all, the canines were friendly, and country folk don't lock their doors.

I plopped into a garden chair and T.E. was dialing 9-1-1 when the family returned.

Nice folks. They didn't shoot us or anything. In fact, they gave us a ride back up the hill to his place.

At this point, my thinking was that I'd surely already be toes-up were I truly allergic to the mystery venom. My doc opted to give me an adrenaline-filled EpiPen, for future disasters. But I'm not inclined to give mean bees a second shot at me, and so I reminded T.E. this week.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.