Midnight tales of beaver battles

By Helen Row Toews

April 12, 2017 1:57 PM

WE HEAR YOU GNAWING, BUT YOU CAN'T COME IN Remember that time your daughter got into a tug of war with a persistent beaver? Us either, but Helen does.

Some of my best friends have been beavers.
If you’re now shaking your head in bewilderment at this bizarre revelation, I’m not surprised.
It’s a strange admission to make, but I’ve always had quite a soft spot for the furry rodent.
As a kid I’d perch on a huge log that had fallen across one end of their pond west of the house, and I’d read or write in the good company of a few ducks, a muskrat or two and the hidden beavers.
Leaning my back against an old black poplar, I’d dangle my feet over the water and while away the hours.
They weren’t out during the daylight hours of course, but I knew they were there; waiting for twilight.
I watched them go about their work a lot back then, and they grew used to me, after a fashion; only casting me the occasional mistrustful glance as they came ashore for food.
My warm fuzzy feelings towards them have been sorely tried however.
During the last 15 years we’ve seen several young beavers move into the neighbourhood.
They have some crazed notion they can turn a shallow creek bed into a thriving waterhole, and raise a happy family 20-ft from my back door.
I would have no objection to their close proximity except they plug the culverts and build complicated dams causing the creek to back up and flood.
Two years in a row the water rose so high our bridge parted company from its moorings and floated off downstream.
Crossing over it required a long pole to navigate, rubber boots, and gumption.
It’s a bit unsettling to clamber onto a bridge that immediately drifts away from shore towards the open sea (slight exaggeration for effect).
To reach the other side of the water it was necessary to take a hard run at the bridge, leap aboard, and shoot across while balancing as though riding an enormous surfboard.
While fun for kids, and those of us with an adventurous spirit, the laughs wore thin—fast.
Another year, when my daughter Becky still lived at home, the busy rodents again made terrible pests of themselves.
In order to construct bigger and better dams, they began to select choice young saplings from my yard.
How maddening is that?
Constructing a dam at the edge of my property was bad enough, but to use my own trees for the job—inexcusable!
One night Becky lay in bed listening to frogs croaking outside her window.
It was a warm summer evening and a fresh breeze wafted across her pillow as she slowly drifted off to sleep.
Suddenly, a strange noise broke into her slumber.
It sounded for all the world like—gnawing.
Leaping up, she peered out her window into the darkness, straining her eyes to see what was happening on the lawn.  It was close, just a few yards away, and Becky listened as a resounding crash filled the air.
“Oh no you don’t!” she muttered grimly as she slid on her boots and stole out the side door.
Moonlight spilled through a plum tree close to the creek and once her eyes adjusted, she could see the toothy little culprit dragging his spoils towards the water’s edge.
Sprinting across the lawn she laid hold of the opposite end, fumbling for something sturdy to hang on to in the thin branches at the top.
The critter had to have known she was there, but wasn’t about to give up his prize.
Throwing a shoulder under it, claws gripping the soft ground at water’s edge, he bore down and began slowly making headway.
What a sight it must have been!
A determined, buck-toothed beaver straining with all his might at one end of the tree, and an equally determined girl in a flowery nightgown and Wellingtons digging in on the other.
Resting peacefully in my bed at the other end of the house, I had no idea my young daughter was battling a brawny beaver in the backyard.
Yes, we’ve had some battles with them here on the farm, but I like beavers nevertheless.

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