sometimes the beekeeper, sometimes the bee

You want cheese on that flyer? I tagged along with my daughter to the 1960’s. The Southsider is an old fast-food drive-in situated alongside the railroad tracks on the far side of town. When we need comfort, my daughter knows, slipping back in time is a known cure. The burger joint never advertises and so only those who venture across the tracks know what it means to fly anything. You want a flying burger with pickle and onion? A ham and cheese with mustard? The fry cook slips your ingredients between two slices of bread, pops the sandwich into a circular grill and voila! you have a sealed flying saucer served to you in a basket with home-cut fries. $2.50.

Not knowing if I am the beekeeper or the bee.

The night before Jupiter and Venus kept company with a slivered moon for a short while after sunset. Not so many years ago my grandmother would have called to see if I had been outside yet to watch the planets align with this waning moon. She would be 101 this year had she not passed away when she was 88. Or 89? I don’t remember which. I called my mother but instead of asking how old her mother was when she passed away, I asked her had she stepped outside her back door yet. Look up, Mom, look up.

Then I texted my kids. We all know which way the western sky faces each of our homes. Jupiter and Venus are right outside your front door, I texted to both of them. Oh, Mom they probably said, but, Oh, wow, is what they texted back. The little things and the short whiles weave our lives together.

Which is what is on my mind when FishingGuy and I go shopping for salt water fish the next day. He’s promised to teach me how to bake halibut or cod. We drive to the market downtown and study the butcher’s cold cases filled with seafood, fresh cuts of beef, peppered bacon and whole roasting chickens.

What do you do with your chicken feet? I tell him about the planets lining with the moon, and how I miss my Grandma’s random phone calls about the little things in life. She called me once after butchering a chicken because it had occurred to her I might not realize I could boil chicken feet and have the best chicken stock. I didn’t want to tell her not only did I not butcher my own chickens, but the chicken came from stores, skinless and boneless. Standing at the meat counter, looking at whole, raw chickens can be a nostalgia booby-trap.

He smiles at my story, guides me past the counter, and wishes he had known me then. We choose two cod filets and he drives me back home. We need two fresh lemons, a white onion and a sheet of sturdy tin foil.  None of which I have at home, all of which he has at his. He hands me the packet of fish and promises to return in thirty minutes.

One hundred and eighty minutes. One hundred and nintey-nine. He returns with lemon, onion and tin foil and a container of fresh chicken stock and a bag of home style noodles.. Turns out it is a small matter to save chicken backs every time he roasts a chicken. And turns out a person can make a decent chicken stock in one hundred and ninety minutes.

About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

29 responses to “sometimes the beekeeper, sometimes the bee

  1. Karla Linn Merrifield

    Lovely, Sherry. I can smell the chicken stock. Mnmm

  2. “What do you do with your chicken feet?” Something ought to done with them, right? Gone are the days when every morsel of livestock was repurposed for stock, stuffing, crispy snacking chips and who knows what else! I love that your man knows how to use the back of a chicken. That is some impressive, um, animal husbandry? No. Wrong term. But I couldn’t resist. 😉

    Just loved this piece. And “The little things and the short whiles weave our lives together.” 🙂

    • redmitten

      jayne- even as i still just buy one boneless/skinless chicken breast (meal for one), i still campaign for getting back to more organic living. making good use of everything helps us all stay in deeper touch with ma earth. and i love that word: repurpose. animal husbandry! 🙂 instead of “i love long walks along the beach” in a personal ad, how about “i make good stock from chicken feet.” 🙂

      i’m glad this reached you – those short whiles and little things make the difference, huh!

  3. Alignment, yes, last night returning from the petrol station, just got out of my car and I looked up and there they were, something bright and intense in the black horizon blue, and it made me wonder and notice and think et voila, here it is, what are they….and…I mean now, right now, I’m saying HERE it is, the wonder of it all again, and it keeps happening like this. Perhaps my intense lights in the sky were different? Too bright for stars, way too bright, but perhaps not as bright as these words of yours.
    I digress, but what a gift you have. Beautiful crafted words as truthful and honest as the bee…connected to the world of the beekeeper…… connected to the world of…….connections……of chicken feet and FishingGuy….and ….resonance and honey.

    • redmitten

      dear man standing beneath the stars,

      yes, HERE it is. and it keeps happening, that you would look up and take in the wonder. for the longest time i took the stars for granted, not realizing some of them were planets with names in my school book. when we take in the stars, someone else is taking in the stars at the same moment, only we can’t see them. but the stars see us both. such a connection!

  4. What a great account. Also, it made me hungry. I was seeing that moon and those stars, that alignment, when you were…and again in these words. My great grandpa died at 88.

    **pause to realize**

    My dad turns 80 this month.

    • redmitten

      kathleen, it took me awhile to write this post because the pause that came to you came to me. my dad turned 80 last year and my mom moves into her 77th year later this summer. i was never ready to say goodbye to my grandmother, who was so instrumental in showing me the way earth and universe connect, but to be reminded that our folks are nearing that age…. oy.

  5. I also stopped on the way home to witness the moon towing the stars.
    Comfort food isn’t just about the ingredients…it’s about the whole experience…
    As for the chicken feet and backs…I once knew a Chinese man who said “North Americans eat with their eyes. We eat with our tastebuds ready for anything”.

    • redmitten


      it is the whole experience- i love hearing from you. and here in the u s of a we have a fast-food culture when it comes to food.:( it shouldn’t be about eating, but about creating a ritual/event/ceremony/atmosphere with eating. my former mother-in-law’s relatives live in germany and i always loved hearing her account of how they took time each day to have a meal (not: eat). or how they stop during the afternoon and have a cake and coffee. and further to your Chinese man’s thoughts: trust in the cook. (fishing guy’s motto).

  6. Yes, FishingGuy’s a peach; I shall henceforth save all chicken backs. How about crow’s feet? Do they work in stock too?

    That’s a mighty big complex behind the King’s Hat. They have eat-in too? :^)

    As regards the soul, S, aren’t we both bee and beekeeper at all times?

    • redmitten


      well now, crow! do you know what, there is a post i’ve been writing in my head for a few weeks that involves the word, crow. the shoshone indians only have 100 or so elders left who still speak the language and so far every plan to preserve the language has fallen short. the dictionary being created lost all funding at the letter T. i looked through some of the words and fell in love with their word for crow: gah-k. (just the way they sound).

      that complex behind the hat! i think it is a feed plant, but now i am going to make sure. i bet they get king’s hat delivery. 🙂

      and regarding the soul- i like that you tuned to that, but i thought you would. i also feel we are both the bee and the keeper at all times, or hopefully so. as we give, we receive.

  7. Sherry,
    I have long been of the opinion that crows are the reincarnated souls of wise men, magi, shamans, mandarins, kahunas, et. al. When they roost in the trees singing gah-k! and making a mess on the hoods of cars, it is a colloquy of the past’s collected wisdom we no longer comprehend. I wonder, did the Shoshone understand more of the birds’ lost language than we do?

  8. wuffda

    I am a bee with keeper aspirations.

  9. My husband was Chinese…I spent 8 years looking at those chicken feet on the dim sum cart, and I never got up the will to try one. Can’t say that I’m sorry about that. But I desperately want a flyer after reading your post. 😉

    • redmitten

      well c’mon down! i mean: c’mon up! you find the way here and i’ll treat you to a flyer! interesting about your ex and the chicken feet. i was married into a german family that had immigrated from the ukraine, so instead of chicken feet, it was pig’s feet. such a delicacy- but no i never tried them and yes i can say i am not sorry either. 🙂

  10. Rose Hunter

    Halibut!!!! Ah, right, the cod. FTF? No, it sounds good…. 🙂
    The dogs in my alley eat chicken feet. Or they toss them around, or something. There are chicken feet in my alley away. These eerie naked hands lying there. I am boiling eggs so I can eat one…I woke up at 2am and decided to start my day. (Insomnia.) I wish someone would make me a flyer….

    • redmitten

      oh rose! yes, ftf!! i wish you could wake to a flyer instead of those naked hands in the alley. boiled eggs are a fav of mine. do you like them pickled?

      • Rose Hunter

        They are a bit ghoulish. (The feet/hands.)They are yellow too, like all/most of the chicken meat here. I’m sure I would love pickled eggs! But who would pickle them for me…??

      • redmitten

        it’s been on my mind- how to get you pickled eggs. why i thought pickled eggs for you when even pickles are hard to come by there….sheesh!

  11. K

    Slipping back in time to the Southsider … a place of comfort. I have a place like that, just down the street. It’s not a fast food drive-in, though. It’s a sit-in diner where a 65-year-young Italian immigrant cooks traditional fare for the occasional patron like me. I swear the decor hasn’t changed in 30 or 40 years. It’s like a time and place warp. I don’t exactly know where I am when I enter the doors–which is exactly why I step in. I really enjoyed this > you lead such a rich life.

    • redmitten

      oh a sit-in diner from the past! we had that here: the kit-kat. but after clinton came and ate there, they tore it down. i love places like that and when i travel, that is what i hope to come across.

  12. FishingGuy has my vote. Clearly someone who spends minutes wisely and well.

    A lot to be said for Big Sky country and all you who pay attention.

    Growing up, at our home and my grandparents’, we had sandwich makers/irons called Toast-Tites (or Toast-Tights) that made the flying saucer sandwiches over the burner on a gas range, When you locked the handles closed, it pinched off the edges of the bread – no crusts. Thank you for the nostalgia, non-booby trap variety. xo

    • wuffda

      yup, that’s exactly what I was remined of when I read this! I think you can still find those if you look really hard.

    • redmitten

      marylinn- “pay attention”. so many subtle sounds we can’t hear with our ears, things we can’t see with our eyes. yes. you are one grand attention payer. and wow, you had a toast-tite! that is exactly what happens with the edges of the bread. reminds me a little of these cages we used to have when camping as a kid. you put two pieces of bread in the cage, with apples, butter and spices in the middle. fold the cage closed, hold over the coals and tadah! edged apple pie sandwich!

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