“We Seceded Where Others Failed”

No, I’m not off my rocker nor have I forgone turning pages on my calendar!

April 23rd is independence day for the Conch Republic, some will recognize this as the chain of islands currently leading to the southernmost point of the united states. Back in 1982 the u.s. border patrol setup a checkpoint (wow, aren’t those so common today in the southwest states) at the bottleneck leading from mainland Florida into the chain of islands under the auspice of preventing drugs flowing into the country. In response to interruption of tourists, aka money, to the lifeblood of businesses in Monroe County the mayor of Key West declared independence on April 23rd. After all – if there is a border checkpoint then you must be in a separate and sovereign country, right?

In a typical Mouse that Roared fashion the Conch Republic immediately surrendered and applied for $1B in foreign aid. But primarily the blockage of sun worshipers and rum drinkers was the main charge.

Being harassed to travel within state borders is shamefully more common today but in 1982 it was really really out of place. I love the spirit they took with the Conch Republic and maybe one day the autonomy will be even more real. Today I would like to share a most entertaining anecdote regarding this border war.

I sat barside eating my dinner, it was a business trip so at the end of the day I’m on my own for a meal and entertainment. Overhearing some chat from the guy just around the corner of the bar about his business I struck up a conversation after his pal left. Seems he was in the professional bee business and I was really curious to know more about that and we both had beer left in our glasses so talk flowed like mead and more rounds were ordered.

After a bit on how many thousands of bees in each hive and how he shipped hundreds of hives around to pollinate crops in California or Iowa or where-ever he told me about once bringing them “home”. Home was Florida but more precisely the warm clime of the southern keys where bees can thrive in the winter without attrition. Seems he was a small time operator with only enough bee hives to fill three trailer trucks. Dear reader – at ten thousand per hive times a hundred per truck that is several million pollen and honey making bees for this small time apiary.

He told me how they barricaded them in dunes against hurricanes and how he’d floated them on barges in the mangroves but found drug runners or vandals shooting and destroying them. But the most fabulous story was the one about the “border” crossing.

Ah yes, in 1982 the powers that be were fighting drugs (glad that war is long over now, oops I guess there are a few minor battles left but surely we’ll be safe from drugs any day now) and here is Mr Beekeeper coming home after pollinating up in the “Northern Territories” aka 48 mainland states and he encounters a traffic stand still.

Moving bees is serious business and moving them is a timely matter. You see if you want to move hives you need to roll at night while they are settled in and resting. Imagine somewhere hours away you have three rigs loaded up with millions of bees that provide your livelihood by pollinating crops and producing honey. You are almost home when there is some obscure traffic jam and the sun will be up in an hour and your charges will need to forage, cool their wooden condominiums and do what bees generally need to do. Bees do not sit around patiently in traffic.

He approaches the military/border officer and asks what is going on, the usual “drugs are bad, the traffic jam is necessary and your countrymen blah blah” story is rattled off. He explains that he has an urgent need only to be shut down in that police “it’s just my job” fashion. He pleads; my business is going to suffer… the heat will kill … It falls on deaf ears. Just following orders you know.

With very little choice he walks back to his trucks. Within sight of the border patrol he unstraps the fine nets on the first truck.

Officer I-just-follow-orders: Looks around and says Hey, What are you doing?
Beekeeper: If I don’t let these bees go free they’ll all die from heat very soon and you have all these cars blocking the road.
He intends to let them loose and hopefully collect back up those who return at the end of the day.
Officer: You’re just going to let all them go, thousands of them?
Beekkeeper: No, millions of them.
Officer: Um, hey let me see if we can’t wave you though somehow.

LOL – You see the sanctity of securing the nation from drugs, or what ever, goes out the window when the lowest rung on the ladder is afraid of some honey bees buzzing about looking for food. Just remember that – no matter how serious the threat is there is one guy with a personal interest who will toss it all out the window. Security is an illusion and the weakest link is fear. That can be your fear or the other guys fear. Know how to play your cards. 😉