Sunday, May 21, 2006

Laymond Hardy - Beekeeper and...

I met Laymond in 1973 through some mutual friends who were trying to track down the fabled Florida skunk ape, a sort of tropical version of the abominable snowman of the Himalyas. Supposedly there had been some sightings recently in the Port Charlotte area and they wanted to find out if it was for real or just an old Indian legend. In the Creek dialect spoken by the Seminole people the creature was called Iwashaki, which means "man who is not a man".

Laymond was along to lend scientific legitimacy to the search. He was a high school science teacher and had written a few articles for National Geographic. The rest of our crew consisted of a photographer (myself), a couple of jet airplane mechanics, and the owner of a gun shop. We did find what seemed like tracks in a few places, but nothing conclusive.

Laymond is the one who introduced me to Bobby Tiger and his family, who in turn introduced me to a bunch of other Miccosukee and Seminole Indians. He also raised a lot of strange and exotic tropical fruits and vegetables in his back yard, and he had at least half a dozen beehives. I was intrigued by the bees, and he invited me over to take some photos the next time he "robbed the hives" for honey.

I was expecting that we'd be wearing gloves and head nets but he assured me that his bees were used to being around people, and that "smoking" them would calm them even more. He stuffed his smoker with dried banana plant leaves, got them smoldering, and started blowing smoke into the first hive. You could hear the bees calm down as the incessant buzzing emanating from the hive got quieter and quieter.I was wearing a long sleeved shirt, but Laymond went about the task shirtless. An occasional bee would briefly land on our bare skin but neither one of us got stung during the hour or so we spent getting the honey out of the combs in the wooden frames that were inside the hives.

We tried to leave as much as possible of the wax honeycombs in the frames intact. We didn't need the wax, and Laymond said that the less that the bees had to rebuild, the faster they'd go back to collecting nectar from flowers and making more honey. I went home with 4 quart jars full of the best honey I've ever tasted, before or since. Like so many other people I've known over the years I lost track of Laymond. He was 54 when these photos were taken back in 1973, so it's likely he's no longer alive now.

The slides were shot with a Leica M4 and M2-R using 35 and 50mm Leitz Summicrons on Kodachrome II film.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I met Laymond when I was stationed here and we have kept in contact. Last I heard (about a year ago) he lived in Felda, Fl PO box 444

5:53 PM  
Blogger Al Kaplan said...

A few months after this was posted I got an Email from Laymond's sister. I called her and found out that Laymond was still alive. Shortly after that Laymond himself called me. He's still living in Florida but not in the Miami area.

1:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Hardy is still alive living in a town in North Fla.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw Laymond regularly over the last 30 years and spoke with him about 2 years ago. He is living in Noth Florida. He visited with me at my home in the Florida Keys, quite often and stocked my pond with Talapia fish in 1977...and they still proliferate. My pond was the test site for the farms. I have very fond memories of Laymond

12:41 PM  
Anonymous John Crowder said...

I last spoke with Laymond by telephone a couple of years ago. He seemed the same old Laymond, talkative and knowledgeable. More recently I heard that he had throat cancer but was in treatment. Laymond is remarkable in that he has for many years been a one-man consulting firm in a variety of biological subject matter. For example, he helped the government of the Bahamas establish kiwi fruit culture there. He developed a cold-tolerant orchid by hybridizing a Colombian species with one from the state of Georgia. I hope he is still alive and well, but I suppose he must be in his nineties by now.

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My uncle Laymond Hardy passed away. I would love to hear from anyone who knew him. I am compiling stories and photos to create a memorial journal. Thank you, EL

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Gay Hardy-Mikell. Laymond was my uncle. He passed away and we miss him terribly. He lived a great and long life. He got to do things that most of us only dream about. He traveled the world and lived by his own timetable. He was a student of life. I appreciate any comments made about him.

7:36 PM  

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