1. Of Bees and Rebates: A Warm Remembrance of Nick Novotne

    AS LONGTIME READERS of this blog know, my father (retired but still going strong at 91!) worked for years as a master beekeeper.

    You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this.

    Well, before he was a master beekeeper, he was, of course, taken on as a beekeeper’s apprentice, or, as it is known in the guild, an apprentice beekeeper (and then later as a journeyman beekeeper). His mentor was the famous Nick Novotne whose name still generates a buzz (sorry!) among both keepers and bees.

    A gentle soul despite a lifetime battling Mother Nature’s most bloodthirsty predator, Nick had a soft voice, a relaxed, ambling gait, and fingers as big around as a man’s penis. When I was a boy, Nick had already retired from the bee game, but many was the Saturday when he’d drop by the house to talk bees with Dad, knock back a few, and compare bee bites (“war wounds,” they’d call them) with my old man.

    The thing about Nick was he’d never show up without a little something for me, and that something was usually a Maxwell House coffee rebate form from the coupon section of the paper and a few proofs-of-purchase. I’d send in the two UPCs from the label along with my name and address on the form and six to eight weeks later, voila, I’d receive, by mail, a check for a crisp one dollar bill.

    If you don’t think that means much then you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a boy. Back then, every red-blooded American boy loved getting mail, and in this particular case I was no exception. The check was beside the point – especially since it was no longer negotiable once I added a bunch of zeros to it with a green Bic Banana. What was important was getting an envelope with my name on it. Suddenly I mattered.  Me. It was me who mattered.  Me. Me.

    Nick’s been gone for years now, probably. I have no idea when he passed away. At some point a boy doesn’t care about getting mail anymore. For me it was probably around the time Star Wars came out, or the four months I spent in the hospital after eating three tubes of Super Elastic Bubble Plastic (It doesn’t taste good per se, but you just can’t stop.). So I guess he died sometime after that; I don’t know. If he was still coming around, I wasn’t paying attention. I could ask Dad, but I want to finish this thing tonight and it’s too late to call and ask. And if I did call I’d have to endure a two-hour rant about Nancy Pelosi.

    But if Nick was around today (and I don’t know that he’s not, but Jesus, he’d be like 109 or something), what he’d be doing is tearing these things out of the coupon section…

    …and giving them to me, regardless that he’d have absolutely no idea what they were for. Because if he was still alive at this point he’d probably be senile. And you can’t redeem these things. (Can you?) So they’re useless to me. (Unless you can redeem them. And has anyone tried using them as postage stamps? Does it work? Is it legal / illegal…? Let me know.)

    Furthermore, I can’t imagine that he’d be able to tear these out as nicely as I have without ripping the actual important part. Remember, he’d be like 109.

    Posted by on June 7, 2011, 9:00 AM.

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