Not too long ago, a woman I didn’t know walked up to me at the local grocery store, a grin on her face. “You write for the paper,” she said. “That’s you, isn’t it?”
Since she was smiling (you can’t be too careful about this kind of thing), I admitted that she’d identified me correctly, even though the Bangor Daily News insists on using a circa-1999 column photo along with my regular dispatches. Not that I’ve changed too much over the past 20-odd years, of course.
Then the conversation took a turn toward the ugly.
“How are your beavers doing?” she asked.
In case you have not been reading this space regularly, let me bring you up to speed: Earlier this year, unbeknownst to me (until my trees started toppling), I was invaded by a gang of the buck-toothed varmints. I am not a fan, no matter how much I try to tell myself that they didn’t arrive in my backyard with any real ill intent, and were just trying to get by, gnawing away so that their constantly growing teeth didn’t get out of hand and start poking out through their upper lips. (I think that’s a possibility.)
Still, I chuckled along with the woman, who told me all about the various non-beaver varmints that have been plaguing her and her husband at their own (equally semi-rural) abode. We parted as nearly kindred spirits, it seemed, each with our own crosses (or beavers) to bear.
Then the beavers returned, and gnawed down a second large tree. Wrote about that incident, too, as you may recall.
And that, I thought, was that. There was no way I’d ever have a reason to write a third column about one family of beavers. No matter what. Right?
I mean, what else could they do?
Since you’ve read this far, you already realize that my problem has spread. To my neighbors. Or, since we’re living in rural Maine, we might as well skip the formalities and admit that my “neighbor” is actually my brother.
And it seems that he has a bit of a beaver problem. (Go figure.)
On Saturday night, I received a message from him, with a photo. The pic showed a large tree (even larger than the ones the beavers chewed down beside my house) that was well on its way to the same fate.
The toothy critters had turned it into their own version of Purina Beaver Chow, and it seemed to be hanging on by a thread.
As you may have guessed, my brother — usually a pretty mellow fellow — sounded ready to launch all-out war against the destructive hoard of beavers that are now camped out in his own backyard, about a hundred yards upstream from my home.
Ah. The “upstream” part. Yes, we both live on a brook. And yes, we both are lucky to be able to enjoy all kinds of wildlife sightings because of that fact.
Unfortunately, we’ve discovered, not all of that wildlife is willing to simply visit. Like the snapping turtle that lays eggs each spring. Or like the geese that honk at us if we walk down along the brook. Or the wild turkeys, or the occasional deer. No, some critters set up serious housekeeping, and chew down trees. Lots of trees. Big trees.
And my brother? Well, as I mentioned, he’s not happy.
Me? Well, there’s no bringing my own trees back. I’ve come to terms with the situation. More or less. If you don’t include the fact that I’m writing about beavers again.
But my brother? I fear he might be getting ready to take matters into his own hands. Not with firearms, or anything. But he’s a tenacious guy. The kind of guy who runs marathons for fun, and who says that the resulting pain of marathon-running is enjoyable.
That kind of guy.
The kind of guy who might just set a lawn chair down by his (nearly) fallen tree, and sit, waiting for Bucky and the gang to come back. The kind of guy who might welcome those beavers by leaping up and scaring their tails off.
The kind of guy who refers to this recent plague as my fault. As in, “Your beavers have been chewing down my trees.”
And he’s the kind of guy who won’t take any of this lying down.
At least, that’s the way I see it.
Of course, I’m just the treeless guy who lives a hundred yards downstream. The guy who has already been defeated by this destructive mob.
I’ll let you know how it all turns out.
John Holyoke is the former outdoors editor of the BDN, an aspiring novelist and a future high school English teacher. His first book, “EVERGREENS,” can be found wherever you buy books. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org