It always seems to work this way: Everything is going wrong, and you're about to throw in the towel and then, pow, something wonderful happens.

My peas are shriveling up on the vine. The ground in the garden is cracking and the broccoli is in dehydrated limbo. The lettuce and spinach are starting to bolt.

And then yesterday morning this guy rolls by my house in his pick-up, and says he's seen my beehives, and he's got a swarm of bees hanging out of his dogwood, and the wife and kids are really afraid, and maybe they're killer bees, and would I like some free bees?

I throw a burlap bag, my bee suit my elbow length leather gloves (only worn for formal occasions) veil, and my smoker in the back of the car. (Smoke tranquilizes bees, for some unexplained reason.) About eight miles down the road I come to the plane and, sure enough, there is a ball of living bees about a foot in diamater hanging off a branch. They're buzzing like crazy, but sticking very close to the ball.

We get a step ladder out of the garage and in the process I meet the owner's father, who is here for the holiday.

"You mean you're, gonna climb up in that tree and put those bees in a sack?" he asks. "Aren't you afraid?"

"Being stung only once in three years of beekeeping."

"Better you than me doing it," he says. "I'd spray 'em."

I take a pruning saw and cut off the branch. In the process, some of the bees drop to the ground and start crawling around. I hold the branch over the ground and they crawl up onto the ball.

"Just like a bee magnet," says the owner.

"Yeah. They want to be near the queen. And swarming bees are very gentle. They gorged themselves on honey before they swarmed, and all they want to do is find a new place to live and set up house."

I cut the ends of the branch off with some pruning shears, stick the branch in the burlap bag and shake the bees off. I close the top and then throw it in the trunk of the car. As I'm pulling out, the bees sound very noisy, so I fire up the smoker and give them a blast. They calm down almost immediately.

Two miles up the road a cop stops me. I'm pulling out, the bees sound very noisy, so I fire up the smokI'm still in my little whit outfit, and as I get out of the car I reach for my smoker.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" the cop asks. "Did you just land, or run away from a looney bin?"

You have to admit that you don't see guys in pith helmets, beeveils and white coveralls driving small foreign cars everyday.

"No, I'm just transporting some bees that swarmed," I tell the cop. I open the trunk, and stick my gloved hand into the burlap bag and pull out a handful. "Will you kindly get the hell out of here," the rather startled cop pleads, jumping away from my car. he offers a police escort to my house, but I say it's unnecessary.

Once home, I take out an old hive body and fill it with beeswaxed frames. I dump the bees in the body and they fly around madly. Two minutes later they have settled down on the outside of the hive, and begin crawling in the entrance.

By the time you read this,they'll already be building comb.