Down a hill but visible from our back deck is a retention pond. Ever since we moved here a few years ago, my now four-year-old son and I have routinely taken the path that encircles what is only a few feet deep and muddy and populated by mostly turtles and frogs.
This fall we noticed a new occupant. There were suddenly sharp stubs of trees lining the path and the water began to rise, at first unnoticeable but then it began to overwhelm our creek and flood its banks. When I noticed a large mound of mud and branches on the other side of the pond I finally put it all together. Beavers had moved in.
B was thrilled and I thought it was pretty cool, too. I’d routinely ask him if he wanted to go see what the beaver was up to and we’d walk down the path and look at the recently chopped trees or the den they lived in. At a certain point, though, I started to take not of just how much havoc the beavers were wreaking. An alarming amount of trees were disappearing and the water was getting really high.
I guess I wasn’t the only one to pick up on this because at some point a metal grate was installed over and around the drain at the south end of the pond. As I found out later, our homeowners association had to hire someone or two to put on scuba diving gear and clear the drain of the mud and sticks the beavers had packed around it. Then B and I watched a documentary on Netflix about beavers that showed how they routinely change a dry forest into a completely different ecosystem. Other than humans, it said, beavers have the greatest affect on their environment.
Over the winter, spring, and early summer we continued to follow the beavers’ progress. Despite the cage over the drain they had managed to still stop it up so that the pond was at least a few feet higher than it should be. I found myself rooting for the beavers, they were inventive and creative and capable of foiling the humans trying to stop them.
Then a couple of weeks ago the water in the pond began to drain and even drop precipitously. I began to fear the worst. In Virginia, beavers are classified as a nuisance and as a result can not be captured and released elsewhere. They must simply be eradicated. When I ran into a member of the HOA a week ago, I asked and he whispered out of the hearing of B, “I had him killed.” I grimaced and shrugged. Somewhere inside I knew this day was coming but as I thought about it I started to get mad. The beavers are just doing what they are supposed to do. It almost seems hypocritical for humans to kill beavers. Shouldn’t we be able to co-exist?
For some reason, I told B and he took it well, just asking me why. I gave him the standard answer, that the beavers were killing too many trees and stopping up the drain. Since then we’ve had a few conversations about it. “We like the beavers, right daddy?” Yeah, we loved them. “They’ll come back, right?” Yeah, I assure him. I don’t tell him it might be another ten years. I’m sure my son will forget about it soon enough anyway, but I don’t know about me.
On August 2, C-VILLE Weekly of Charlottesville, VA published Play: A parent’s guide to local play spots, an article by me about some of my favorite places to take my son B to play. It’s a good introduction to this site (or as good as any), because it touches on a lot of aspects that I’ll explore further: the isolation of staying home with your child, especially if you’re a father; the great times that happen, though, when put in the position of having to entertain your child by yourself; and, although I only briefly mention it, the enormous difference in being a stay-at-home dad versus the moms who occupy a similar position. There’s also the war on “digital childhood,” as my editor suggested I put it, and plenty of smaller observations (some that got cut out of the final article) that I’m sure I’ll get to at some point. In the meantime…