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Shannon Bardwell: Man against beast


Shannon Bardwell



The beaver didn't come last night. Sam thought that he would. "The beaver can hear the sound of running water; they know when the dam is broken." 


Beaver are damming up the Prairie pond to increase their territory. Sam says if they can cause the water to spread then they can reach the trees while still under cover. The beaver have precious little to dam the pond with so they've squished up mud, like a child making mud patties, and made their own little dam. 


The little dam didn't seem a peril to me, but Sam explained the water would back up into the fields and possibly the cabin; the beaver would kill the nearby trees. Already there were trees with bark missing all around; he said the trees had been "ringed." 


And so, under the light of a full moon, Sam took a shovel and broke the dam, and water gushed forth. It was surprising. I remember how often we prayed for rain to fill the lake during summer droughts and how many rains it took for the lake to rise a quarter-inch. But here, a few rains and this little dam held back enough energy to run a light bulb or two. 


Early mornin' came, and I took the Gater to the dam site. Twelve hours later the water still poured and the beaver had not returned. There's a well-worn trail where beaver traverse between ours and the neighbor's pond. Perhaps they spent the night at the neighbors and will work tonight. Perhaps they prefer to work under the light of a lesser moon. 


We've had beaver before, and Sam called on young hunter Colt Buxton. Colt said he'd be glad to hunt the beaver. He'd been wanting a beaver hat. 


I asked Sam why was it that men liked to kill things and put them on their heads? 


A primal urge, I think. We'd like to think that we've grown beyond our primitive state, but we haven't. Still man against beast. 


The beaver reminds me of C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," where the beaver family was the good guys, complete with kindly anthropomorphic characteristics. It's hard then to think of vanquishing the beaver, but the dictionary describes the beaver in less charming terms: "A large aquatic rodent, having thick brown fur, webbed hind feet, a paddle-like, hairless tail and chisel-like front teeth adapted for gnawing bark and felling trees used to build dams."  


It's not certain yet what will become of the beaver, but I am sure that man will continue to demolish the dam and the water will run free and the Prairie fields will dry and the cabin will not flood and the trees will live and perhaps the beaver will just stay at the neighbor's pond.  


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is [email protected]


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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