As much as I love animals, there is one that has stymied me for years. This creature is hard-working, tenacious, and capable. In most circles, if this animal were a corporate employee, it would be fast-tracked up the corporate ladder.
I first encountered “the beaver” in 1967 when Paula and I purchased an 82-acre tract of land just west of Craighurst. Yes, this is the place I’ve written out in previous posts (On Duff’s Pond, The Night Bandit to name two). It was the boonies in 1967 – nothing near by. No humans to slow the growth of the beautiful maple forests or the old oaks. Nothing to obstuct Mother Nature except God himself – God…. and the beavers.
There was a beautiful stream that ran through the property – it was spring fed. Those waters were crystal clear and mighty cold. This stream was a perfect habitat for minnows, frogs, and the summer supply of water cress. The beavers loved this stream too and when Paula and I explored into the back 40, we found that they loved the stream so much, they had build and established quite an extensive dam. The dam must have been more than 40 feet long with two overflow channels. It incorporated several trees and flooded an area that was navigitable (and we did build a raft for the kids to ride on) by vessel.
At first blush, anyone would have thought, “Gee, this pond is beautiful.” The kids would often sit in the shade of the wild cherry tree that stretched its branches over the waters of the pond and do their best at fishing. I have to admit, it seemed like a real oasis. The sound of the water trickling over the spillway of the dam was quite calming.
When one walked upstream, however, one could observe quite quickly that this beautiful little oasis came at a price.
I guess the beavers had a good life there with all the nice soft trees so close at hand – and no humans around. They propegated and their family grew. With a growing family comes a growing appetite and the beavers needed to make the dam bigger to host the larger family. They knew the current dam was at its limits so, instead, they went upstream and began the construction of the “granny suite”. Of course, the second dam flooded a great deal of land where beautiful trees were growing. If the trees remained flooded for too long they too would die.
I knew I was in for a fight.
I recruited some help from my cousins and early one morning we headed upstream to dam # 2. To deconstruct a beaver dam by hand takes a great deal of strength and time. The branches are so interwoven into the structure and glued together by mud! It was tough work. Eventually we were able to get a hole large enough to create a slip-stream for the backed up water and we let the water pressure behind the dam take care of the rest. The water gushed through the dam. Soon, well, in about an hour or two, the water was back to normal and I could hear the trees saying, “thanks”.
We headed home – tired and quite pleased with our work. We had left the branches and twigs and such beside the dam with the intention of taking them away to clean up the next day. I had a great sleep that night and was anxious to get back to cleaning up the next morning.
After a fantastic farmer’s breakfast, my cousins and I headed back to the dam.
Well, the beavers had not slept that night – they had been, in fact, very busy. The water level of the pond was right back where it had been the day before! I must admit I was a little stunned. How on earth they had managed to stop the water and re-build I’ll never know – beavers are quite the engineers. My cousins and I decided that the only thing to do was to rip the dam apart a second time. “Surely that will discourage them”, I said. So – away we went to work again. This time we removed the wood at once.
Tired, and dirty and mosquito bit, we headed back for Paula’s culinary delights. Once again, we anxiously awaited the next morning to see what would happen.
I saw it in the distance this time – I knew this meant war. I had under-estimated my opponent. The dam was re-built – this time better and stronger than ever.
From that time on, I had a new respect for this wonder of nature. I always imagined the beavers watching us struggle to dis-assemble their engineered interlocking wood – and laughing.
The fight was won… but the battle was far from over!