The Darn.

This story has been ‘G’ rated and is suitable for all most ages.

Monday our daytime temperature hit 60.  It is highly unlikely that we will again see thermometer digits as high as these prior to May 2010. By mutual consent, it was agreed that this would be a good day for Judi and me to take an upstream canoe paddle.

As we launched from our little dock, it was noticed by two of the three canoe passengers that the water level seemed a bit low.  Except for his water bowl, our dog doesn’t give a hoot about water levels. .

We normally paddle about a mile or two up river and turn back.  Once we’ve passed my next door neighbor’s home two minutes upstream, there is no human interference with our river’s landscape other than a small hunting cabin a mile further upstream. The river’s landscape is never boring and frequent canoe outings upriver allow Judi and me to observe small changes to the river’s biotic habitat that might go unnoticed with less regular upriver sojourns.

By this day, most of the winter-wimpy seasonal birds that frequent our river like the Belted Kingfishers, the Ospreys, and the Sand Pipers have joined the area’s equally winter-wimpy gray haired seasonal humans and flown off to condominiums located in warmer climates.  We spotted one exception, a lazy or mentally dull Great Blue Heron who obviously didn’t get the memo that winter is approaching and it’s time get out of town. Of course it’s possible he forgot to reserve his condo-nest before they were all spoken for or maybe he’s one of those obnoxious birds that none of his summer neighbors want living in their winter condo projects. I guess it will remain one of nature’s unsolvable mysteries.

We paddled about one-half mile up river all the while lamenting how this summer’s drought had definitely affected water levels. Our progress was suddenly halted by a Beaver darn spanning the river.  We hadn’t seen any Beaver darns on the lower section of our river in the past six years so this was quite a surprise. We figure it had been constructed in just the last two weeks.

If we had been better acquainted with this particular beaver and his friends, we would have recommended them as contractor replacements for the construction company doing road repair on Hwy 45.  That contractor has been working on one small bridge all summer. Each time we’ve found ourselves lined up waiting for the flag person to wave us through that stretch; we’ve seen three or four guys in hard hats standing in a tight group talking about something. We saw one actually doing any work!  While I’d like to think they’re discussing an important engineering decision, from their expressions it seems more likely these boys were discussing the blond in the convertible stopped ahead of us, some big musky that got away or, and this is most likely, they were betting on how long they can keep the traffic tied up before the first horn honks. From what I’ve seen, I’m reasonable certain that Deerskin Beaver Construction Associates would have completed the hwy 45 bridge project in less than a month. My guide books assure me that beaver don’t gamble and, as they’d be working at night (they’re nocturnal contractors), traffic tie-ups would have been minimal.  I’d take this bet though – the Beaver crew would have easily come in under budget.

Judi and I have always found Beaver to be fascinating animals and let it be said that Judi and I are very sympathetic to the great injustices done to Beavers during the 1700’s when felted beaver hats were all the rage. However, when the flow of the river in front of our home is threatened we feel a need to take corrective action. The darn DNR pointed out that while they are against darning up any river and, in fact, spearheaded the removal of an old logging darn on the Deerskin seven years ago, they had no jurisdiction over this particular darn Beaver darn. Thus rejected by the darn DNR, I persuaded my logger neighbor to join me in a darn removal project. We canoed up to the darn Tuesday.

The Beaver darn seemed small enough that two strapping men – well actually one strapping logger plus another somewhat un-strapped retiree – should have easily been able to remove the Beaver darn in no time at all. Much to our surprise we learned that no time at all would turn out to be all too darn much time and all too darn much work.  My personal educational takeaway from this darn project was that my darn hip boots are two inches too darn short and that trying to climb back into a canoe with at least two gallons of cold water in each boot is not very easy for the physically un-strapped.

The darn Beaver darn was constructed mostly sub-surface; the few inches showing above the water hiding at least three feet of submerged construction.  And these contractors really know how to entwine their sticks. It was like dismantling a giant Chinese puzzle box cemented together with mud. While we never saw the darn Beaver who built this darn, I had this strange feeling that as we worked, we were being watched by tight group of three or four animals betting on how long it would take before we started honking our complaints.