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The Beaver War
Lisa Criss Griffin
The faint aroma of blooming honeysuckle flavored the evening air wafting through the secluded valley. Steve and Lori breathed in the delightful fragrance from the comfortable wooden bench overlooking the lake by their home. Their gravel drive glistened brightly in the light as it crossed the top of the newly refurbished dam. The couple had spent all their extra savings on the dam repair last year, having almost lost the only road to their house from unprecedented flooding the previous autumn.
It was now spring, and the new dam had survived the latest challenge of the worst flooding experienced in their area in recent history. Regional newscasters on the radio and TV issued urgent warnings for people living in flood prone areas to seek higher ground immediately, only hours before the storm arrived.
The roar of the water from the drainage tubes the night of the torrential storm was deafening, and caused Lori to investigate after the bulk of the storm passed by their home. She watched the water screaming straight out of the tubes, disappearing into the darkness beyond the reach of her flashlight that night. The incredible power behind the propelled water would not be evident until the sun came up the next morning. Fortunately, the only damage to their property was the impressive erosion of a forested bank, forty feet beyond the massive drainage tubes extending from the backside of the dam.
Lori sighed with delight, enjoying the white blooms of clover blanketing the sloping banks of the emerald green lake. She had spent many hours fortifying the banks of the dam with gravel, dirt and seeding it with the clover last fall. Her project had turned out beautifully, and she was thankful they both could finally relax and enjoy their private lake at the end of their workday.
The clouds turned pink, hinting of the approaching sunset. The light banter between the couple abruptly stopped as a large furry head with teddy bear ears glided past them in the water, unconcerned by their presence. The audacious rodent paraded back and forth in front of them, unafraid, as if it was proclaiming ownership of the lake. Steve and Lori watched it swim by them slowly in disbelief.
“What IS that thing, Steve?”
“Hmmmm, it is either a beaver or a huge muskrat.”
“Are you serious? Those things will destroy the banks of the lake!”
“Yep. They are destructive creatures.”
“Eeeeew. Beavers pollute the water with giardia parasites too, which infect people with a nasty diarrhea. That varmint is kind of cute…but Lordy, it has to go!”
“I don’t think we have just one, Lori.”
Another brown head popped up out of the water, carrying a small branch with leaves farther down the lake.
“Oh no! And it is spring. Everything is reproducing right now…including beavers. We have to call a trapper!”
Steve leaned back on the bench, studying the lake.
“Or I can shoot them.”
“Yeah, you could certainly do that until we can get a trapper out here. We can’t afford to wait very long though, Steve. I know you are an expert shot, but who knows how many of those creatures are in there?”
“More than we can see, most likely. I’ll try to locate a trapper tomorrow. In the meantime, I can start picking them off. But, it is getting too dark to hunt tonight. I can start this weekend.”
“Oh Steve, I hate this so much, but we do have to get rid of them! They carry a serious disease and will destroy the new dam.”
“Yeah, baby. They have to go…one way or another.”
The big beaver slid silently through the water by the couple once again, eyeing the drain pipes with more than a passing interest. There was no turning back. The beaver war had begun.
Two days later, any sympathy Lori had for the beavers disappeared. She was weed eating the small, flat peninsula adjacent to the drainage tubes when something unusual caught her eye. She clicked the machine off, laying it in the freshly cut clover. Something was caught in the drainage tubes.
The larger tube had an assortment of tree limbs wedged in the front entrance. Water was still flowing through the tube, but barely. In addition, there was a sturdy wall of branches, leaves and mud built halfway up the entrance of the second, smaller tube. More tree limbs were visible in the low light of the smaller tube, behind the mud dam.
Lori muttered some choice expletives to herself as she realized the lake level was at least a foot higher than it had been the other day. To make things worse, the forecast was calling for rain later that night. She trekked up the hill to put away the weed eater. Grabbing her work gloves, a rake and a shovel, she made her way back down to the drainage tubes of the lake, still muttering her displeasure out loud.
A large beaver met her disapproving glare before quickly ducking below the smooth surface of the water. If looks could kill, the beaver would have been instantly incinerated. Lori wished she could vaporize the intruding varmint with a single glance. It would have been quite gratifying.
She began the removal of the limbs from the larger drainage tube. The ends of several of the larger limbs were freshly gnawed. Lori realized they were actually small trees, recently felled by big, naughty beaver teeth. She dragged them all, one at a time, up the side of the dam and thrust them into the gaping maw of the eroded bank forty feet beyond the dam. The dratted rodents had also shoved a significant amount of mud into the waterway leading to the larger tube. Lori raked the dark, rich mud from the channel, filling in uneven spots in the small peninsula by the drainage tubes. It was hard work, but thankfully shade from nearby trees overlooking the lake had crept into her work area.
She stopped, satisfied the larger tube was clear. Leaning against her rake, Lori watched in relief as the rush of water flowed freely through the long length of the construction-grade black plastic tube, spilling onto the concrete pad and down the huge rocks on the far side of the dam. The sound of the re-established waterfall behind the dam was a delight to her ears, and a balm to her soul.
It was now late afternoon, and clouds were beginning to cover the sky. Lori realized she wouldn’t have time to unplug the smaller drainage pipe before dark, so she climbed up the side of the dam and leaned her tools against the large trunk of a cedar tree close to the road. She walked to where the bench overlooked the lake, loath to sit down on it since she was covered in mud and gunk. Her gaze ran across the surface of the lake, immediately locating her nemesis gliding through the water. She glared at it in frustration as it passed her on its way to the other bank. Lori put her hands on her hips defiantly. She had worked too long and too hard on this project to hand it over to a bunch of destructive rodents who had suddenly moved in. The dratted squatters. They had gone too far! This was now a war for their lake. The beavers must die!
And that was how Steve found his bride of many years…hands on her hips, covered in mud and softly chanting something about beavers dying. He smiled to himself, knowing he was about to grant her fervent wish. He knew she didn’t mind getting dirty while working outside, but she sure was a sight this evening. His curiosity stoked, he probed gently for answers.
“Hey, babe. Whatcha doing?”
“Trying to incinerate beavers with a single glance.”
“Oh? Something happen to incur such wrath from my favorite…erm…mud covered Mama?”
“The danged beavers plugged up our drainage tubes, Steve! I spent the last couple of hours unplugging the largest tube. Those varmints stuffed small trees in there, tangling them all together. The beavers actually cut down small trees around our lake somewhere, and floated them down here to clog up our big pipe! I also had to dig out the channel to the big tube since they filled it up with mud. The smaller drainage tube is still completely blocked off with branches, leaves, sticks and mud. I don’t have time to try and clear it before the rain moves in tonight. This is war, Steve! They have got to go!”
The large beaver nonchalantly swam by the couple, unimpressed by Lori’s tirade against his clan’s handiwork. Lori’s eyes narrowed, getting the impression the blasted rodent was mocking her. Another beaver crossed the lake beyond the large rodent, silently dragging a limb with green leaves through the water.
Lori whirled towards Steve in frustration, stopping short when she saw what he was carrying. Steve smiled at his highly disheveled wife, delighted to join forces with her. He carefully leaned his rifle against the wooden bench and pulled some highly capable looking bullets from his pocket.
“Why don’t you go in, change clothes and get something to drink while I pick off a few destructive varmints for you, my sweet?”
“Oh, thank you, babe! Thank you!”
“No problem. Happy to be of service.”
Steve loaded his gun, checked the safety and put in his hearing protection. Lori wasn’t even to the front door when he dispatched the big beaver. BOOM! He took a second shot to be sure it died quickly. BOOM! The other beaver ducked under the water, leaving the branch floating in the lake. He sat still, watching for the other beaver. It didn’t reappear that evening.
Lori returned with a couple of drinks, having changed into clean work clothes.
“Did you get one, Steve? I heard a couple of shots before I could get to the house!”
“Sure did. It is over there by the bank.”
“Oh. I’ve never seen a real beaver up close before. And we probably shouldn’t leave it in the lake if we can get it out. It will just get gross, stinky and plain nasty.”
“I’m done shooting tonight anyway. If you can get it out of the water, I’ll put it in the back of the farm truck and take it up to the Man Field. The coyotes will have a treat tonight. Or something sure will.”
Lori smiled as she retrieved her rake from the cedar tree. The Man Field was her husband’s version of his Man Cave. He did almost all his hunting there. It was surrounded by forest on two sides, and all kinds of wildlife frequented the area. Including major predators.
The big beaver was floating in the water next to the bank. Lori slid the hefty tines of the metal rake under the body and slid it onto the bank. She was surprised at how heavy the rodent felt as she lifted it into the clover with the rake.
It had huge, elongated teeth, and short front legs with claws. The back feet were tapered and appeared to be webbed…perfect for swimming. What really interested her was the tail. It was fairly flat, oblong and about a third of the length of the entire rodent. She knew beaver fur was prized, but she didn’t have the skills or the interest to skin and tan the beaver hide. Especially tonight.
Thunder rumbled in the distance as Steve pulled the farm truck down the roadway crossing the dam. He grabbed the beaver by a back leg, carried it up the bank and hefted it into the truck bed. He removed his work gloves, gazing at Lori as she continued to peruse their adversary.
“That thing is huge, Steve.”
“Yeah, I’d say about forty pounds of naughty rodent is going for a ride. I still haven’t heard back from the trapper, so I suppose I’ll come back out here tomorrow if the weather cooperates. Want to join me?”
“Absolutely. I will need to deconstruct that dam across the smaller drainage tube tomorrow in case we have more bad storms.”
Another rumble of thunder sent Lori to the house and Steve on a quick trip to the Man Field. The overnight rain was gentle, and merely washed the pollen from the surface of the lake. Lori spent most of the following afternoon clearing the smaller drainage tube of the beaver build. It was something she didn’t ever want to have to redo. After her shower that evening, she rejoined Steve on the bench, her earplugs and binoculars clasped in her hand. It was less than an hour before Steve was able to dispatch another varmint.
Their evenings on the bench became a standing date. A trapper promised to come the previous week, but never showed up. The enemy had gotten wise to where the bullets were coming from, and had moved down the lake, away from the dam. Lori was still having to remove branches and mud from the drainpipes.
Steve decided to erect a blind and began hunting the varmints at the break of dawn. That was successful for a while. He then decided to move to a site farther down the lake, while Lori scouted for swimming rodents from the bench. He was able to take out a couple more from his new site. The amount of material placed by the surviving rodents in the tubing was dwindling significantly.
The couple sat on their bench, watching for any further signs of the aquatic beasts. It had been several days since Lori had to clear a drainpipe. They were hoping the beaver war was finally over. The sun was beginning to set when Steve spied a rodent head cutting through the water at the far end of the lake.
“I’m going to sneak down there and see if I can get him. Stay here so I know where you are if I fire my gun.”
Lori watched Steve stealthily make his way up the road, crossing the dam and into the forest by the lake. She eventually lost sight of him. She could see the beaver cruising through the water in her binoculars. Dratted things. She hoped the varmints hadn’t caused a lot of damage to the forested lake banks with their burrows. She couldn’t imagine having to deal with a large floating tree in the water from a collapsed bank.
BOOM! The beaver she was watching through the binoculars jerked and flew up out of the water as the liquid around it sprayed in grandiose waves from the power of the bullet. It immediately sank, never to be seen again. Steve picked off one more varmint the following evening.
The water level of the emerald-hued lake finally stabilized. Any noticeable attempts to plug up the drainage tubes ended. Steve and Lori still keep their regular rendezvous on the wooden bench overlooking their beautiful lake, listening to the soothing sound of the small waterfall beyond the dam. Interestingly, since the beginning of the beaver war, nobody stops by to visit the couple…unannounced. Soon, and hopefully, very soon, Steve and Lori will be able to officially declare the beaver war over. For this year, anyway.
Copyright ©️ 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin
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