Every so often I digress from writing to share a story.
A few years ago beavers built this huge dam in the creek on our property. We didn’t mind because, after all, we had moved into their backyard. At the same time though, we didn’t want our place flooded. So once a week my father and I would hike to the dam. I would walk out onto the dam itself with a hoe, and pull up the new construction, handing my father sticks and branches and small trees. It was a compromise of sorts. They could have their dam, but we kept it at a height that prevented flooding.
So here I was on the dam, hoe in hand, dipping into water that rushed between my chore boots and over the top of the dam. I scooped into the water and came up with a salmon instead of a branch. Amazingly I hadn’t impaled the salmon, and since I was in the middle of lifting upward, all I ended up doing was scooping the salmon up and over the dam. It splashed away into the beaver pond and my father said ‘that’s a fishing story no one is going to believe’. Catching a Coho salmon on a hoe.
With all that work on the dam, though, I never saw a beaver. I tried. I’d sneak down there late at night, I’d sit by the dam for hours trying to be still. Nothing worked. And then one night the river flooded. I’d been working on running the emergency operation center all day, it was late at night, and my husband came to get me because my car wouldn’t make it through the water. Driving home in the big truck, the headlights picked out a beaver. Swimming across the road with a big branch. Taking advantage of the floodwaters to move construction supplies. All those hours I’d spent hiding by the dam and all I needed to do to see a beaver was drive down the road.
A man I knew did an experiment to see what kind of wood beavers preferred for eating, vs. what kind of wood they preferred for building. Using 2×4 lumber, he built a framework that held branches from multiple species of trees and set it up near a dam. In the morning the branches were all there and the lumber had been taken and incorporated into the dam. The beavers prefer milled lumber when available.
This same guy also tried an experiment for sound. Beavers build because of the sound of running water. The more water flows, the more they reproduce to get help to dam that flowing water. So he took a recording of running water and set the tape recorder by the dam. The same dam with the lumber-loving beavers. He wanted to know if they would continue to build even if there was no actual water physically flowing over the dam. If it was purely sound that made them work.
The next day he found the beavers had dammed his tape recorder, packing mud all around it.