A Beaver’s Tale

by Van Eden


“Ruth line two.”

Ruth and her two sons are leasing my house while I’m off doing other things. That’s the good news; the bad news is Ruth never calls with good news.

“There’s a big ol’ beaver in the creek,” says Ruth. “She’s huge. The boys are excited.”

I think about how excited the boys will be when a big ol’ tree crushes their house in the middle of the night. The house has been smashed to pieces before by an industrious beaver. I live in midtown, precariously on an elbow of the North Fork of Crow Creek. I’ve lived here twenty-five years. In the blink of an eye a beaver can take down a tree so big it’ll slice through your world like it was butter. Every morning I wonder what it’s going to be that goes wrong today. If you don’t wake up with these thoughts, you don’t live in midtown. A beaver attack was not on my morning’s threat estimation list.

“Tell the boys to keep an eye on it and I’ll be right there.”

I hang up and begin manically leafing through the yellow pages. Nothing under Beaver Extraction. Nothing under Gnawing. Dang. Finally, under pest control of all places, I spot an ad emphasizing humane wildlife control. Did you know there are as many advertisements for pest control companies as there are for lawyers; I’ll bet there’s even a pest control company for lawyers, since there are pests as fleas that are easy to get rid off, using solutions to get rid of fleas which you can find online. I call the humane guy, get a machine–dang–leave a muddled message, then begin riffling around for someone less humane to call. Times have changed when it comes to people and wildlife. Back when, the accepted way to scupper a beaver was simply to shoot it. Bang, problem solved. Now, probably thanks to the Obama administration and the liberal democrats in Congress, the process is trickier.

Then miracle of miracles, Ned Bruha returns my call.

“We’ve been after this beaver,” Ned tells me.

I immediately liked Ned’s basso profundo voice, his safari-like swagger. Later, I learned Ned came to his calling in life naturally. Before heading off for the Middle East to defend our country against weapons of mass destruction, Ned had grown up on a farm in Wisconsin with parents who wouldn’t let him watch TV–hard to believe anyone’s parents could be this benighted—so, as a result, he spent his deprived childhood outdoors learning the ways of all kinds of critters and varmints.

“She’s been terrorizing this neighborhood, causing folks all kinds of trouble,” Ned adds. Every chimerical monster is a she for some reason.

While Ned is explaining my options, I begin to think about my situation. What does all this mean to
me? A property owner harboring in his backyard the most wanted beaver in town. What I didn’t yet know was that this beaver was about to become–and soon–the most famous beaver on the planet.

The walk down my sandstone driveway is a long, bumpy one. People are always falling down on it. I lost a girlfriend once this way; wasn’t sympathetic enough, and once, a friend sprained his ankle on it but was kind enough not to sue. When I reach the bridge, the cell rings. I’m giving this guy his own ringtone; probably the William Tell Overture.

“Mr. Eden? It’s Ned Bruha.”

“Ned, please call me Van. Hey, I’m on the bridge looking at the creek but don’t see any–Whoa, my euonymus is gone!” It wasn’t literally gone; it had just been reduced to a pile of giant toothpicks.

“Ruth tells me she [not Ruth] was swimming back and forth across the creek a few minutes ago and then disappeared into the creek bank.”

Ned says, “I’d like to get an Animal Planet film crew over there.”

“Hey, what an idea, Ned,” I reply. I was not expecting the Olathe pest control guy to be so funny. “Animal Planet is my favorite channel, but I never watch it.”

It takes some talking, but Ned finally convinces me this was not a joke, that he has a series coming out on Animal Planet, that he’s known as the Skunk Whisperer, and that with my consent he can bring a film crew to Tulsa to film the capture of my beaver. If Ned whispers to skunks, god knows what he does to beavers. A few minutes after this conversation, while still in a state of disbelief, staring at the creek, the phone rings again. It was Wendy from Animal Planet, calling from her office in Soho.

“Ned tells me we’re on our way to Tulsa, that you’ve got a famous beaver in your creek that we need to shoot?

“Shoot? No, no.”

“Film. We’ll need releases, you and your tenant. Problem?”

“Uh. Not a problem. No problems on this end, Wendy.”

The weekend flies by, like always. Other than a couple of emails from Ruth, diplomatically communicating her growing sense of nervousness about the situation, nothing much happens on the beaver front. Now it’s Tuesday. I’ve moved on to other crises and have pretty much kept this story to myself, as none of my friends have anything resembling what you would think of as listening skills. If you can’t say what you have to say in ten seconds, forget it, no one cares. They simply would not be capable of registering the hugeness of an Animal Planet film crew showing up in my backyard. I figure I’ll just wait until I can say, “I called a pest control company and a couple of days later a crew from Animal Planet showed up.”

“Mr. Eden. Ned Bruha. Can you meet me over at your creek in about thirty minutes? I want to discuss your extraction options.”

As I drive up I see a spectacle of cars and trucks in front of my house, and groups of people milling around with cameras and strange pieces of equipment. I meet Ned. He’s wearing Bermuda shorts, with black tennis shoes, black socks, and a big straw cowboy hat pulled down to his ears. The over-all impression is Ace Ventura meets Daniel Boone. I meet Wendy. Wendy’s last name should be Wow, Winsome Wendy Wow. I meet everybody. We walk down the driveway, cameras rolling, and Ned explains my options. Basically, there’s the humane expensive plan, the less humane expensive plan, and the least humane expensive plan.

Ned walks right into the creek, shoes and socks and all, with all the ease of someone walking across the street; waders, I guess, would be bad TV. Ned explains to the camera and the wild-eyed children who had gathered around that an angry beaver with young to protect can quickly chomp your hand off. Ruth winces. Wielding a camera specially designed to film sleeping beavers, Ned begins exploring the burrows.

Ned’s expression is intense. Without taking his eyes off the viewer, “Whew, judging by the size of these burrows, what we have here,” he tells the camera, “are two large families of beaver. At this time of day they’ll be holed up way back in there”

If you’re waiting for Ned to put a headlock on an angry beaver you’re going to be disappointed with this ending. That may happen eventually, but not before the deadline of this piece. After a great deal of soul-searching, I choose option two, the less humane expensive plan. We’ll dig some holes to open up some skylights in their burrows, put some bio-friendly chemicals around, paint some trees, all designed to shoo the beavers up or down the creek, so my neighbors can get to know Mr. Bruha. Where are all these beavers going to go after they’ve humanely been given the bums out of all our hollers and swales, Burger King?

Ned reaches into the water and pulls out a handful of sticks that look suspiciously like pieces of my euonymus. He taps the pointed ends with his finger, and with a big grin tells the camera,

“These are for snacking.”

Photo by Dennis Leech