Monday, December 15, 2008

Strong medicine

When we introduced local beekeeper Leon Murphy yesterday, space constraints prevented us from reporting on a sideline he's developed from his hives on Norwell Street. We were eating pancakes at Saint's Diner in Codman Square when he explained it to me. In his words:

"An old, Haitian woman down on Morton Street heard that I raise bees and she came to me to purchase fifteen of them because her great-granddaughter had the croup. I didn't sell live bees at the time so I asked what she wanted them for and she gave me her recipe for croup cure. She took fifteen live bees and ground them in a mortar and pestle. Then she steeped the mash in boiled rainwater. After eight minutes she strained the tea through a cheesecloth and then squeezed every last bit of juice out of the bees. She said a teaspoon of this bee tea every hour along with rubbing chicken fat on the baby's neck and chest would cure the croup.

"I was skeptical but I sold her the bees, fifteen exactly for $2.50. Soon enough other people with croupy babies were knocking at my door. I figured, heck, I've got enough bees so I started making the tea myself and putting it into old pickle and peanut butter jars to save people the time of having to crush the bees themselves. It's not fun to do. It's worse than putting a lobster in a pot. They crunch. I even bought a mess of chicken fat from a friend I have in Newmarket and wrapped it in little packages of wax paper to go along with the tea. I charge twelve dollars a cure and I've got batches of the stuff in my hall pantry."

I said this sounded like a sound product. Leon Murphy replied, "You know what else? Even if you don't have a croupy baby it's good stuff. It's a love potion. I gave a few jars to my sister, Adelaide. She spiked her boyfriend's vodka and cranberry with it one night, without the chicken fat, of course. He proposed to her the very next day and they've been happily married for thirteen months. He's got eyes for nobody but her. There's power in my bees."

I didn't want to burst Leon Murphy's bubble. I've run into his brother-in-law a few times at Ka-Carlo's on Hancock Street. This chap is a tomcat of the first degree, flirting with the ladies and making time with whoever will answer his mating call. That said, I've also met Adelaide Murphy while she was still known by that name. Any man would love her.

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