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Family Story
KNIGHT Bartis Dale: "Man lives through bee attack near Lawn"
Abilene Reporter-News [Newspaper]
Abilene, Taylor Co, TEXAS
04 August 2009

[editorial comment]
[Posted at]

Man lives through bee attack near lawn
One dog killed, another injured

By Brian Bethel
Posted August 4, 2009 at 9 p.m.

Bartis Knight, 87 [abt 1922], looks pretty good for a man who recently suffered 62 bee stings — to the face.

He said Tuesday he had always had a mental picture about what such an attack might be like, derived from various media reports and other sources.

“But the real thing was altogether different,” he said, something he discovered firsthand Saturday evening while mowing at his daughter’s home near Lawn, not far from his own.

The events are more than somewhat remarkable, a fact not lost on Knight’s family, especially his daughter, Reba Knight, whose lawn he was mowing. Neighbors rallied to help, and the tragic loss of a family pet, border collie-German shepherd Buddy, may have given Knight a break in the bees’ endlessly relentless assault.

There are other things that seem providential.

Reba Knight, for example had gone to Bartis Knight’s home to let her son ride a horse there — a fortunate thing since she is allergic to bees, she said.

It’s likely her son Caleb Coughlin, 19 [abt 1990], might have been driving the mower if her father had not chosen to do the task himself. The grass was too tall, and “that old lawnmower had been losing some power,” Knight said.

“I’m glad it was me instead of him or her,” he said, noting that it was unusual for his daughter and her son to be gone while he was mowing.

Though undeniably saddened by Buddy’s death, Reba Knight sees an undeniable divine hand in the collective story.

“It was a horrible experience,” she said. “But God had his hand on it.”

Both hope that the story will serve as a lesson for people to get educated about bees, especially more aggressive Africanized bees, and how to protect oneself from attack.

Vicious Attack

While Knight was mowing around a small building on the west side of his daughter’s house, four or five bees appeared and Knight slapped them off.

Bees were removed from the property a year ago, but a new, more aggressive hive had apparently moved in during the interim.

By the time he made another circle, the air was thick with the buzzing attackers.

“All of them hit about the same time,” he said, prompting him to throw the lawn mower in neutral and make a run for the home’s door.

He soon realized that there was too many bees on him, and that bringing them inside, where other family members were, wasn’t an option.

He hollered for a pan of water, hoping to drown them. Those inside called an ambulance, but the doors had to remain shut because the number of bees in the air “would have filled the house.”

He grabbed a garden hose, turned the hydrant, then ran around to collect the other end of the hose to shoot water on his head. But other bees kept coming, and weirdly, they seemed to enjoy the water, he said.

“I scraped them off my face with my fingers,” he said. “But as soon as I did, other bees filled the gap. My face was covered, my hair was full of bees, and every one of them was stinging me.”

That’s when he knew things had “gotten kind of serious,” he said. “I wasn’t gaining any ground, and it was getting worse.”

As he came around the house with the hose, a curious, and somewhat tragic, turn of events transpired. Some of the bees turned on his daughter’s two dogs outside.

“He was a big dog, and they took him down,” Reba Knight said of Buddy. “... They zeroed in on him. He could not defeat them.”

Jasmine, a great pyrenees who lives with the family, survived the attack.

Pete Coughlin, Reba Knight’s ex-husband and still a close family friend, was in the house along with her two other children, daughter Kaylee Coughlin, 21 [abt 1988], and son Kevin, 15 [abt 1994]. He grabbed a couple of large bath towels, wetted them, and brought them to Knight, getting stung 30 times himself for his trouble.

Finally, the bees let up enough for Knight to get inside. Grandchildren began using flyswatters to kill bees that got in.

In time, and with the help of several neighbors and emergency personnel, Knight received medical attention in Tuscola and Abilene.

Neighbors Kelly and Ricky Beard came to help take Knight to the hospital. Mike Mayfield and his wife Ginny helped the family’s dogs get medical attention.

“My face was swollen. This left jaw was hanging the next morning, the left eye was closed — still burns and baggy,” Bartis Knight said.

He sees his bout with the insects as a chance to convey important lessons.

“I want to express the fact that it’s important not to take this lightly,” he said.

And he plans to keep his own advice in the future, he said.

“If I had been by myself, it would have been a different story,” he said.

© 2009 Abilene Reporter-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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