The waters of Knowles Creek snaked down the western slopes of Roman Nose Mountain. Its sparkling water fed into the placid pond before it spilled over the beaver dam’s parapet and pranced south down the mountain toward Smith River. Recent floods washed away part of the dam’s bulwark threatening to wash it out completely. That was a frightening thought to the colony of beavers that had made the pond their home ever since most could remember. The crumbling of the dam lowered the water level exposing the entrance to their lodges making the beavers vulnerable to wolves and other enemies. Through the exposed entrances intruders could crawl up the tunnels, attack and devour the defenseless animals.
Beavers are nocturnal animals. It made sense that they would work nights repairing the dam but their natural enemies also were likely to be out hunting at night. Since sunrise was only two hours away, the industrious beaver crew would have to retreat to the safety of their lodges.
Every beaver that made Comfort Pond its home was helping to repair the dam. The lady beavers worked along side the huskier males dropping rocks and tree limbs in the powerful creek’s spillway. Even the young ones were doing their part to get repair materials into place. Everyone worked with a sense of urgency. They all knew that it was a race between the rushing water churning over the break in the dam and the coming of sunlight.
Everyone knew what had to be done. Chet Beaver articulated the concern of all.
“More mud! More rocks! More branches! Hurry!” he yelled. “We’ve got to raise the water enough to cover our entryways!”
No one expected a young crippled beaver like Bonny to help much.
“Clean the lodges!” her mother said, patting Bonny on the head before returning to dam building.
Sadly, Bonny made her way into the beaver caves where she began picking up debris, carrying it out of the lodges and dropping it into the water where it sank to the pond floor.
“The others can’t rest,” Bonny Beaver said to herself as she scooted back down the narrow tunnels and out and into the water, “I’ve got to help too.”
She decided to try and join the serpentine of young beavers gathering materials for the repair. She swam to the edge of the pond and scrambled upstream in the rushing creek to a spot where the young beavers were gathering river rocks. She placed a rock between her front paws and waddled back to the pond.
“You’re just in the way!” Sam Beaver said pushing Bonny aside.
Sam’s verbal blow wasn’t new to Bonny. Over the years she’d grown used to unkind words from others including her own brothers.
“Get out of the way, stupid! Can’t you keep up, slow poke? You look funny, three legs!” were some of the expressions she had heard many times during her short life.
Now, the lives of everyone in her community were in danger. And so, disregarding the unkind comments, she was determined to do her part.
“I will… no matter what they say!” she said gripping the rock tighter. She recovered her balance, moved into the water and started swimming toward the damaged area. She tried, but she couldn’t carry the rock and swim too. “I will, I will!” she repeated trying once more to swim clutching the heavy load between her paws. But sadly, she managed only to swirl in a circle and swallow a gulp of water. She dropped the rock and moved out of the way of the line of young beavers carrying repair materials to the adults.
Bonny sees a way
Although saddened that she couldn’t help with the repair because of her lame leg, Bonny Beaver determined there was something she could do. She knew that when the colony of beavers quit for the night they would be very hungry.
“I can gather food,” she said. While the rest of her beaver clan was scurrying to get the dam repaired, she swam to the matted lily pads at the edge of the pond.
Through the night, she carried bundle after bundle of vegetation up the narrow passageways and into the living rooms of the many dwelling places in the pond. Each load took time and was hard work. Ordinarily, she would spend time in the drying chamber drying off before going into the living quarters, but tonight every moment counted.
As she inched her way through the narrow passageway, she dumped her load of lily stalks in the corner where food was kept and sat down for moment to catch her breath and massage her crippled limb, fatigue dragging at every muscle. Then, once more she struggled through the passageway from the lodge, into the water and to the food source for another load.
The water rises
Bonny was surprised that the water in the pond had risen enough at least to cover the entrance to Darrell and Wanda Beaver’s cave. She swam to the opposite edge of the pond from the dam and struggled up the bank where she could see all entryways at once. The water was nearly there … it needed only a few more minutes.
A red glow in the eastern sky was increasing and becoming brighter. The glow of the sun hurt Bonny’s eyes. Soon it would hit the pond directly. It was time for the beavers to quit their work on the dam and retreat to what they hoped was the safety of their under ground lodges. But, the water needed to rise just a little more.
“More rocks! More Mud! More branches!” Chet barked. Bonny wondered when he would give the signal to quit working and get the work crews to safety.
Bonny saves the day
Bonny was about to reenter the water for another load of lily leaves when she noticed movement in the darkness in the trees south of the pond. It was a wolf … No several wolves creeping quietly through the underbrush toward the unsuspecting colony of beavers.
Bonny raised her head and cried at the top of her lungs, “Wolves!”
The others were startled. For a moment they couldn’t move. Heads turned in all directions looking for the danger.
“To your dens!” Chet shouted.
The young beavers dropped their loads and scampered into the pond. The adults tossed repair materials into the spillway and plunged into the water.
“Bonny!” Bonny heard her mother say, “Dive under!”
Bonny looked again in the direction of the wolves. By now they were galloping full speed through the underbrush toward their prey. Bonny jumped off the bank into the water and began swimming toward the closest den opening. The other beavers moved into the openings throughout the pond and out of sight.
Bonny took a deep breath before submerging beneath the pond’s surface. Her stiff leg dragged her down. It was almost as if she could feel the hot breath of the fastest wolf snipping at her lame leg and tail. In a panic, she swam desperately wishing she were whole like the other beavers. They had all disappeared from view, leaving only Bonny vulnerable to the wolves’ attack. She swam as hard as her three legs would take her, thinking that at any moment a wolf would have her leg between his teeth and it would all be over for her.
Finally, she entered the underwater den entrance and scrambled up the passageway into the drying room. It was crowded. Several beavers had chosen that den for their escape from the pursuing wolves. The living room of that den was also full.
For a minute or so it was quiet in the drying room. While the pond water had risen enough to cover the den entrance, the beavers weren’t certain that this time wolves wouldn’t follow them into the dens and do their worse.
As time passed, it became clear to Bonny and the others that the wolves had given up the pursuit.
Yes, it was crowded, but at least they were safe.
The beavers remained in the dens throughout the day. Most were able to get some sleep and all were able to enjoy the stash of food Bonny had collected and placed in each living room.
When night came and it was safe for them to come out, the beavers returned to work completing the repair of the dam.
When they were finished, Chet called them together on the bank of the pond.
“We’re lucky to be alive. And we are all thankful to Bonny Beaver for sounding the early warning,” he said.
There were cheers from all… even from Sam.
“And,” Chet continued, “we can also thank Bonny that we had food … food to give us energy so we could finish repairing the dam … Thanks Bonny!”
More cheers. And from then on, Bonny didn’t have to worry about laughter from anyone.