On being a good neighbor

Growing up with my father, the surgeon, we developed a summer ritual I like to call Combating the Beavers.

In the woods behind our house ran a little stream, which led into the Flint river. (Note: This is the same river mentioned as separating the fictional plantations of Tara and Twelve Oaks. In reality, it's just a overblown creek of brownish water.)

A few years into my elementary school career, a family of beavers migrated from Canada or wherever beavers come from and set up shop in our little stream. Actually, they set up shop at the mouth of the little stream, just fifty yards up from where it joined Flint river. This is important because our house (and my father's property line) was a half mile further upstream. However, within a year, this had caused our pretty and placid little stream to flood several dozen acres into marshy wetlands the like of which would make EPA papercrats giggle with glee. The fact that the beavers had built their dam on the edge of a dairy farm which was the property of a man my father knew only slightly, and cared for even less was of no matter. The beavers would have to be stopped.

Once a month or so, my father would take me down to the garage and hand me a hoe or a mattock and we would don high rubber boots and trudge out through the wet, mucky woods to attack the beaver dam. We would always head out early in the morning, and my father would say little as we walked, marching with a determined step as if to combat. And for him, it very much was. He was defending his property from the encroaching flood as resolutely as if the communists had started to eye his suburban Atlanta property as a forward base for their usurpation of all that was capitalist and holy. (That flooded plain at the back of the property also led to a certain pre-teen getting his father's new Chrysler convertible stuck in the mud, mentioned previously, which is a story for another day). We always left before noon again, and usually before the owners of the land on which the beavers had made their home were aware we were even there. Usually we would have broken down the top foot or so of the dam, allowing the water to foam and pour freely, but I always suspected the beavers would have repaired the damage before the next morning. In all that time, however, as much as I hoped to turn over a stick and find one, I never saw a beaver. (I was 8. Give me a break, eh?)

Each spring, we would break out the shovel and pick again in a grim sort of war of attrition. and when the rains were particularly bad, my father would break his determined silence and rail at the backed up waters creeping up into his perfect back yard. After two or three years, my father had had enough, and enterprising man that he is, he brought in a demolitions expert to blow the thing up with dynamite. He cleverly coincided the event to occur on the evening of the Fourth of July that year, just as one more bit of fireworks. And I'm sure, in his mind, as a suitable day to strike back in his battle to defend his rights of property and the pursuit of happiness. I'm not sure how or if he obtained permission from the property owners, but that hardly bothered him, and certainly wasn't going to stop him. I remember the explosion as fantastic (as it would be to a 10 year old), and that was enough for me. Of course, within the month the dam was back, as the beavers no doubt had vacated to safer territory sometime after the Man With Explosives had prepped their home for demolition.

I think I remember some fall out after my father, the surgeon, used dynamite on someone else's property without obtaining their permission. But, not letting the threat of a little legal action deter him, he resorted to wily and clever ways of continuing the battle. He hired a trapper to come in and catch the beavers when they were away from their home, using the property behind our home as a place to catch what looked to me, once I actually saw one, as a giant, flat tailed rat. He must have caught four or five in the space of a couple of weeks. And for a while, it seemed to be doing the trick. I moved away after another year or two, when my mother re-married, but I still think back fondly of the bond my father, the surgeon, and I formed in that prolonged battle. However, when I look at Google satellite of the area, I can still see the big brown area of wetlands, which seems to mean the beaver descendants are still alive and well.

I tell you this story because recently a spider the size of most household cats has decided to take up residence in my home office, between my computer and the filing cabinet. And I believe he's contemplating dynamite to dislodge me.