Monday, November 15, 2010

Beavers, Winners and Endings

Last week (Nov. 11) marked my blog’s first anniversary.

What an incredible year it has been! I can’t even begin to tell you how it has changed my life – well, I can’t now, anyway. But I will another time! Promise! Nothing I like better than talking about myself!

To celebrate I wrote part of a story called Leave it to Beavers and asked folks to finish it. The winner, I said, would receive a Muskoka prize pack. Well, you know what? I’m not going to pick a winner – everybody who took the time to write an ending is getting a prize! Woo HOO! (Isn’t this just like Oprah’s favourite things show?)

When I asked for endings, I honestly was thinking people might write a few sentences. I certainly wasn’t expecting a thousand words or more! And, in the case of my friend Jason Willis, TWO endings at more than 1,000 words each! Holy doodles!

So, apologies in advance for this post being long. Don’t think of it as time-consuming, though; think of it as learning everything you always wanted to know about the Canadian beaver – and then some!

To everyone who participated, thanks so much! I really appreciate it. And I’ll be sending you something “made in Muskoka” as soon as I can get to the post office!

To start, here’s the piece I wrote, followed by all the endings. Enjoy! 

Leave it to Beavers 

Other things should have occupied the mind of Elizabeth Donaldson but her thoughts always returned to the beavers.

She was worried about them. Worried that the rising water would flood the road.

Elizabeth and her husband Vern lived beside the Red Canoe River in Ontario’s near north. Elizabeth had a stressful job in the city but there was no amount of corporate nonsense that could linger when she sat in a Muskoka chair by the water, listening to chickadees calling to their friends, “look! there’s sunflower seeds in the feeder! come now-dee-dee-dee-dee”; watching pine needles and dessicated maple leaves float downstream in the sleepy current; waiting for a fish to jump, or a flock of honking Canada geese to do a fly-by, or a beaver to surface and swim soundlessly by the dock.

They never had to wait long to see a beaver. There were more than a few of them living on that stretch of the river. All busy, all the time, they moved through the water ignoring Elizabeth and Vern like teenaged girls trying to look busy at a school dance. They always had some place important to go, those girls, as they rushed by boys they were trying to attract, not meeting them in the eye, not acknowledging their existence, but senses acutely attuned to any movement the boys might make. “The beavers are like those girls,” Elizabeth told Vern one day.

“Ayuh,” Vern said, “and you better believe they are keeping an eye on us as they go by.”

“Did you see the road today?” Elizabeth asked.

“Water’s getting close to the road,” Vern said. “I saw.”

“I hope you’re not right,” she said, knowing he was. “Do they stand any chance at all if the township takes out the culvert at this point?”

Vern shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe. Usually beavers have a back-up house. If they do, and they work really hard at stashing more food away, and if the rest of November stays mild and the river doesn’t freeze, they might be okay.”

It was a lot of mights, Elizabeth realized.

“But if the township waits until the end of the month to do something about the culvert, they might as well just kill the beavers outright.”

Elizabeth looked at her husband sadly. “Oh Vern,” was all she said.

They thought maybe they could pull a bit of mud and sticks out of the culvert, leaving enough water to keep the beavers happy but stopping the water from flowing onto the road. But the beavers had done their job too well and the culvert was jam-packed.

On the last Monday of November Elizabeth turned off the highway onto their road and was stopped short by a sign that read “Road closed at bridge.” Her house was on the other side of the bridge but she had a dread feeling in her stomach that this closure had something to do with the beavers.

Up ahead she saw sawhorses with bright signs on them announcing “Road Closed.” She saw Vern’s pick-up truck stopped in front. She pulled in behind him and parked the car. Vern was standing at the edge of a deep pit where the culvert used to be. The old one, still filled with river detritus, lay twisted and tangled at the side of the road. A new one lay ready for morning.

The pond the beavers had spent all summer building was empty. Their lodge was ripped down. A rank musty smell rose from the muck. Elizabeth gagged. “Where are the beavers?” she said, sweater pulled up over her nose.

“They’re in the river,” Vern said. “They’ve been swimming back and forth, here. Looking for the culvert, I bet.”

Elizabeth felt sick.

Dorothy Robb - my mom 

I was so excited when I received this ending from my mom. At that point no one else had sent one and I was afraid I’d wind up with a lot of egg on my face, having the misfortune to hold a contest nobody entered. But my mom, who comes through for me every time – and I mean every time – came through for me again. Thanks Mom! Love ya! You can read more of my mom's stuff at her blog, Molly & Me.

AS VERN AND Elizabeth sat pondering the fate of the beavers, a sudden wind came up ...

The branches of the pine trees began swaying to and fro.

“Listen Vern,” said Elizabeth, “the wind is speaking to us.”

They listened closely. “The beavers will survive – the beavers will survive.”

And just as quickly as the wind came up, it died down. All was quiet once again.

Winter soon settled in and, in a few short months, the sounds and signs of spring returned.

Vern and Elizabeth were busy out in their garden when a very loud “Whack Whack” caught their attention. Running to the river’s edge, there was the beaver family.

What a wonderful sight to behold!

Where or how they survived will remain a mystery.

Vern and Elizabeth will “Leave it to the Beavers!”

Lou Freshwater 

“Happy birthday,” read the e-mail from my friend, Lou, a fellow writer and blogger in the U.S. It’s always a pleasure receiving a note from Lou – even more so when the e-mail contains some of her writing. To me, Lou’s work has a gauzy, relaxed, homespun style, always infused with deep thinking and a kind of sensible whimsy. You can read more Lou at her blog, Baby’s Black Balloon. 

VERN CUPPED HIS hand on the crook of her elbow with unusual tenderness and began to turn her away from the emptiness. She dropped her sweater from her face and took another breath, this time without trying to avoid the smell, but instead breathing it in like she wanted to take it with her, to make it permanent.

“Come on,” Vern said, “Let’s go home.”

She said, “Okay," but not before taking another long look to see if she could just catch sight of one of the beavers. But she didn’t, she couldn’t, so she pulled her arm away and wrapped her thick brown and orange wool sweater jacket tight around her body and said, “Alright then.”

They pulled into the driveway and Elizabeth felt the cold of winter not the chill of fall for the first time that year. They walked up toward the porch and Vern knocked his boots up against the side of the stairs sending bits of dried river onto the ground. Elizabeth just took hers off and sat them on the mat beside the door before going inside. The house was warm but Vern still headed over to the fireplace to get a fire started. He knew she loved having a one going, and it was rare she was home in time to enjoy those first and most radiant moments of the fire when it is just so alive with heat and sound and smell.

“It’s going to be December tomorrow?” she asked him in that way people do when they already know the answer.

“Yep, sure is,” he said as he bullied the logs in the fireplace.

Elizabeth let out a breath. The rot of the river and the afternoon had faded but they were still with her.

She walked over to the phone and picked it up. She dialed work.

“Who ya calling?” Vern asked.

“Work,” she said as she went into the kitchen.

Vern turned away and pursed his lips together. She was calling work.

After a few minutes, Vern had the wood like he wanted it. He lit the kindling and it started to crackle. Elizabeth walked back into the room and sat down in the rocker she liked to call her old lady chair, the one that she did her Sunday crossword puzzles in.

“Everything alright?”

“I suppose so,” she said.

“Suppose so?” he said.

“Yep, I suppose they’re going to be just fine without me.”

Vic Burton 

Vic Burton is, and always will be, kind of special to me and my Dave. She is, after all, the minister-in-training who helped marry us a couple of months ago (omigawd, I can’t believe it’s been that long already!) Vic is also an accomplished writer who is presently finishing a play she wrote during last summer’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. The play received rave reviews from all three of her judges and it’s no wonder – it was full of funny, insightful truths and some wicked good lines. Vic was nervous about showing me this – she thought it was too much like me and Dave. Pfft, I said to her – Elizabeth and Vern ARE me and Dave! Thanks for writing this, Vic! 

AS VERN WATCHED a Star Trek he PVR’ed, Elizabeth surfed the internet.
“Vern, Vern, Google says they make great house pets,” she blurted out enthusiastically.
“What do?” Vern grunted, thinking he must have missed part of a conversation she was having without him.
“Beavers,” she smiled.
“What?” he asked.
“Right here, Vern, she said, pointing at the screen. “ It says they act just like dogs. They will even crawl up on your lap.”
Vern said, “Nothing with those kind of teeth is getting anywhere near my lap.”
Elizabeth gave her best pitiful look and pleaded, “Vern….”.
Vern knew what she could be like, so he headed her off at the pass, “Hon, I love you, but we are not having beavers as pets…
She cut him off, “If you are still the man I married you would be just as worried about those beavers as I am, Vern.”
“Honey, we just can’t. We have the dog and the cats.”
She gave him the pleading look and he knew if he was not careful she would have him cornered, so he drew the only weapon he knew might work. “Bette, we live in a log house and if you think termites would do ‘er in, just think about keeping beavers in here.” He turned and stifled a smile. He had her.
The next night, after work and checking on the swimming beavers that she urged and even yelled at to “Get to work and quit just swimming around” she was busy typing away. Vern worried she was coming up with some idea about keeping them caged. If she did, he did not know what he would do.

He did not have to worry, Elizabeth had Googled and knew beavers did not eat much other than roots and wood and she had not split wood all spring for beavers to eat. She knew if they did not have wood their teeth would grow too large and need ground down by a vet. Just the idea of how much that might cost made her change her mind about pet beavers.

“Bette, what ya’ writin’?” Vern asked from the living room.

“Just e-mailing the neighbour, hon,” she said.

“Oh, you finally made friends with one of the neighbour,” he inquired.

“No, it is business,” she stated, quite clipped.

Followed up, before he could ask, with “not the neighbours neighbours. I am e-mailing Tony Clement.”

“Good,” Vern said, getting political on her. She liked the political side of him. It contrasted with his easy-going side nicely and was rather a turn-on that her man had more than sweet charm, but also had brains and chutzpah. “I do not like that internet voting thing any more than you do,” he continued.

Returning to the conversation at hand, Elizabeth said, “I will mention that later. I don’t want to piss him off before he helps the beavers.”

“WHAT?” her husband said with no less incredulity than he could have mustered if she had just said she was dying her hair green.

She kept typing. Finally, when she spoke, it was professional and matter -of-fact. “I think beavers represent Muskoka and more so the whole of Canada. Who should care? The world should care! The world loves the beaver, Vern! They spent a fortune building a fake lake for the G8 and when I read the news coverage they defended it by saying that the G7 summit had a fake lake. And Vern, it had a beaver in it. Anik and her babies, borrowed from the science centre in Sudbury and guess what, Vern? The international journalists fell in love with them. I think it would be a marvellous use of G8 Legacy Funds to save the beavers already here on a real river. It ties in with the whole environment thing so it sells well with what would be Green Party supporters. It makes the Conservatives seem softer and gentler. He should love the idea, you know how he likes handing out cheques and we all know he adores publicity. If nothing else, maybe they could become mascots for the country. Do you think if I make a national appeal, people would help? I mean, the journalists from all over loved the beavers.”

Vern was left speechless. He loved her and he knew she had given this a lot of thought. She sounded like she could do a telethon or one of those half hours campaigns or make a film with Al Gore. He finally broke the silence, with the only thing he could think of, “Have you lost your mind?”

Her face fell. She started to cry.

He moved to her, “Bette, hon, I did not mean it like that.”

“How did you mean “Are you nuts?” exactly then?”, she wailed before she headed to the bedroom.

Vern muttered the F-word, so quietly even a Klingon could not have heard it.


Elizabeth checked the beavers daily, more than once a day, even. She saw them chewing and crossing the road with trees and swimming with them in tow. She knew they were trucking in the food, but she worried the weather would be their downfall. She worried they would not have enough food. Yes, they were busy, but she worried it would not be enough. She thought of how much food she would need to get through winter and she worried even more. She talked about them to everyone who would listen. She talked about them even when people were not listening, to try to make them listen.

She did not understand how Canadians could be so blasé about their national symbol. Weren’t people patriotic anymore? Beavers are as synonymous with Canada as the maple leaf or hockey or maple syrup or moose or Canadian geese or the common loon or polar bears. “Damn,” she thought, “Why does Canada have so many animals as national symbols?”

One evening she rushed in, yelling, “Vern, Vern..”

He jumped from the tub, almost broke his hip on the darn toilet paper holder, went across the linoleum like a slip and slide and shouted, “What?” like he was sliding into home plate and she was the umpire he was demanding a call from.

“They are gone!” she gasped.

“The boys?” Vern asked with fear bubbling to the surface. This was a beautiful secluded place and secluded places were criminals’ favourite kind of places.

Bette interrupted his Criminal Minds-type profiling on child abductions with, “The beavers, Vern. They are gone! The boys and I stopped on the way home And they are gone!”

“Damn you, Bette,” Vern said, “you scared me. I thought something was wrong.”

“Something IS wrong, Vernon. The beavers are missing!”, she snapped.

“Elizabeth, so they are gone, so what?”, Vern said.

“Vernon Edwin Charles Donaldson, did you shoot the beavers?” she asked in that tone.

Vern reached for her, “Betty, you know I wouldn’t shoot the beavers”.

She pulled away, “You are the one who said it would be more humane to kill them.” She started to sob, “They were doing it and the weather was warm and you killed them!” She started to swing. Vern caught her arm and pulled her close, close enough she could see the tears welling in his eyes. “I did not kill those beavers.”

“You wished them dead, Vern, I know you have. You are jealous of those beavers,” she sobbed.

He held her for a moment and then pushed her back enough that she could look in his eyes. “I am worried about those beavers. They may very well starve this winter, but I am more worried about my wife. I know you are worried and you feel you have to help them, save them, be a superhero, but you do not eat and you do not sleep and Bette, they got along just fine before they met you. I didn’t.”

She melted against him. He was a good man, no, he was a better man. He cared about the beavers like a good man would. A better man, like Vern was, would worry about the beavers but more about his wife.


Time went by. Elizabeth barely seemed to think about the beavers. She did, but she did not let it show often. The morning look Elizabeth stole at the river started to show the effect of colder temperatures. Soon, there was more and more ice on the water. She was resigned, but she still hoped.

Life in Muskoka gets too cold for walking or being outside for long. Residents tend to not do much they do not have to. They dash out for an armload of wood or to get to the car. The most they do is the snow removal. Without a snowfall you may not even notice if a neighbour died the way folks tend to hunker in. That is, except for the idiots who decided to move in the dead of winter. Who decides to do that?

They lived right next to the bridge and for days Vern and Elizabeth would be sitting there waiting for a truck to back out of the driveway taking up the whole of their little, narrow road. Elizabeth sat there, looking at the house while she waited. It was a cute place. She wondered if they were moving because they found winter too hard. She wondered if they were new and underestimated Muskoka winters. Then, she wondered if they might be getting older and less equipped to deal with them. Maybe it was the darn steps, she thought. Bette could not imagine living in a house on stilts and doing all those stairs every day. Why would they build it like that? This is not the ocean and the river never floods. The truck moved and so did Bette.

It was February when the house by the bridge collapsed, they moved out just in time.

It must have had termites.

Sarah Ryeland 

Sarah Ryeland is my new partner in the newspaper business. She’s the Special Publications Editor for Metroland in the Muskoka area and I work with her producing publications like Sideroads and specialty products like Winter Scene. You can’t help but love Sarah – she is a bubbly, happy, charming dynamo who brightens my day every time I talk to her. Easy to work with, she has a surprising temper that she talks about but I have never seen (I think she exaggerates – she’s far too nice to have a temper, even with her ginger hair). When she “blows” she says she becomes The Incredible Hulk. The thought of that makes me laugh – it’s like a tiny wee mouse turning green and blowing out of his clothes. When Sarah wrote me this she included a note that said the story was “upbeat and perky, just like me!” Thanks, Hulkster! 

LITTLE DID SHE know, that sick feeling was a premonition of terrible things to come.

When the road was finally safe to cross, Elizabeth and Vern sunk dejectedly back into their vehicles and pulled up to the house.

“Well, I guess that’s that,” Elizabeth said with a sigh. “I can’t believe that nothing could be done. Those poor little creatures must be so confused. Imagine having to start building your home all over again.”

“Sure,” Vern said with a shrug. “They’re tough little guys though, they’ll figure it out. It can’t be the first time.”

Elizabeth sighed again as she hung up her jacket and purse. The house was dimly lit, but seemed warm and inviting when she thought of the poor little animals swimming out there without a home.

They’re only animals, she said to herself. Vern’s right. I’m sure it’s happened before. And really, why should I be so upset? I guess I just liked watching them work.

Vern gave her a sympathetic look as he slumped onto the couch and grabbed the remote.

“Let’s not think about it anymore,” Elizabeth said. “You know what? Let’s just order in and watch some TV tonight.”

“Sounds good to me,” Vern grunted.


An hour later, when the doorbell finally rang, Elizabeth was a bit put out.

“How long can it take to deliver a pizza?” she muttered under her breath.

Grabbing some cash out of her wallet, she opened the door and started speaking her mind. “You do realize that it’s been well over forty minutes… hello?”

“What’s wrong?” called Vern.

“There’s no one there!” Elizabeth cried. “Hello? Who’s out there? Hello? Well that’s odd,” she said, turning her back to the porch and swinging the door closed behind her. “I could have sworn I heard the doorbell…” and just as the door was about to click shut, she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.

A cold, creeping sense of dread came over her as she turned back around to face the man who was casting a shadow over her doorstep.

“Your pizza, ma’am.”

A blood curdling scream filled the air as Elizabeth came face to face the grotesque figure in front of her. A body, stripped down to its underclothing was lying facedown on the driveway, twitching.

“Who – what are you?” Elizabeth stammered. She looked up into the face of the deliveryman and saw a pair of shining, beady, black eyes. Slowly, two massive front teeth showed themselves, as the creature curled its mouth into a sneer.

“We’ve come to ask for your help,” the creature rasped. “You did say you would help us, didn’t you?”

“Nooooo!” Elizabeth screamed. The creature burst out of its clothing and revealed itself to be an entire colony of beavers, standing on each other’s shoulders.

The rodents launched themselves at the helpless woman, now smeared with pepperoni and mozzarella and trying desperately to escape from the beavers’ deadly grip.

As she felt the vicious slap of tails against her face, she looked over to her husband, already lying lifeless on the floor, smothered by cruel dam-builders. Finally, as a pair of giant teeth sliced her jugular, she became still.

The largest beaver of the pack raised his head, blood dripping from his mouth. He looked around him as he raised himself up onto his hind legs and leapt to the ground in front of his kill.

“Well boys,” he said, “It looks like we’ve found our new home.”

Jason Willis - Ending One 

Jason Willis is another colleague of mine at the Bracebridge Examiner where he, too, is a composing dude – he’s the only guy (except for our boss) in a veritable SEA of middle-aged, grumpy women. He’s like our favourite pet – we’re always teasing him and sending him to buy us food and he always treats us with the greatest of grace and charm. Jason, bless his young heart, reads my blog regularly and always says nice things. To help celebrate my first year blogaversary he wrote not one, but TWO endings to the beaver saga. The first one is all his own doing. The second, he says, is more “Cathy-esque.” Hmmm... I wonder what that means? 

SHE DIDN’T KNOW what to do, she just stood there staring at the beavers swimming back and forth, a knot growing in her stomach at the thought of their impending deaths. She couldn't help but feel somewhat responsible, if only she had acted sooner or raised some kind of ruckus to try and save them; it wouldn't be long now before "The Girls" were gone forever.

Elizabeth then turned and gave Vern “the look.” The, “I have an idea and it's crazy but you have to help me or you'll never hear the end of it,” look. Ignorance of the town be damned, she was gonna do what she could to help those poor beavers.

So Elizabeth and Vern hurried to the back of his truck and opened the cab to see what tools and supplies might be available to them. Being a contractor / handyman, Vern always had bits of materials and a slew of tools he kept stashed in there. Vern wasn't the tidiest fellow and Elizabeth always chastised him for never cleaning up or throwing things out, but tonight she was oh so very thankful that he didn't.

Elizabeth dropped the tail gate, climbed up in truck and started tossing items at Vern; without saying a word and using only knowing glances they set to work building a crudely constructed cage that they hoped could house the beavers.

With some help from Elizabeth, Vern had the cage built in under a half-hour, with the sun setting and the air now cold enough that they could see their breath, Elizabeth and Vern headed down to what was left of the beavers’ pond for what, assuredly, would be the most difficult part of this rescue operation.

Down by the water’s edge, Elizabeth stared into the now dark muddy waters that the beavers were swimming in. Vern edged up behind her dragging the cage and a couple of flashlights. They turned them on and scouted for the beavers. They spotted them quickly – the beavers had made their way close to the far bank , which now was only about 30 feet away.

Hesitating for only a moment, Elizabeth took a deep breath, gritted her teeth and plunged into the waist-deep water. The cold hit her like a punch to the gut, nearly knocking the wind from her, cutting into her legs and thighs like thousands of tiny knives slicing at her with every step she took. Almost numb, she continued undeterred, edging farther into the pond.

Vern splashed in right behind her, handing her a rope as they both pulled the cage behind them through the freezing murky water towards the beavers. Elizabeth had no idea how she was going to corral them into the cage, she just knew she had to try; but, as they neared the middle of the pond, to her amazement, the beavers left the shore and were actually swimming towards them. Having no idea how aggressive or territorial beavers were, Elizabeth and Vern stood as still as two flesh-coloured granite statues, watching the critters approach.

But nothing happened. The beavers swam up and around them, no angry noises, no slapping tails. Elizabeth reached out slowly with one hand and stroked the cool, wet body of one of the beavers as it swam by; it didn't even flinch. She realized at that point the beavers must recognize them; all those times swimming buy pretending not to notice them, they had been watching, and thought of them not as a threat, but almost like family.

Taking this as a good sign, Elizabeth and Vern pushed the half-submerged cage all the way under the water and gently guided the beavers into it before closing the lid and heading back to shore. Shivering but elated to be back on shore, Elizabeth cold not believe how smoothly that had gone. However, her jubilation was rudely interrupted, as one of the beavers began to thrash in the cage and started making the most horrendous noise.

Elizabeth freaked out, not knowing what was happening. Everything had gone so well until now. She noticed the frantic animal was staring across the pond; she took her flashlight and shone it over to the far bank scanning looking for possible signs of danger that could have set the beaver into its mad frenzy.

Scanning back and forth she at first saw nothing, but somehow, in between the howls of the one beaver she heard a quiet but constant peeping noise. She scanned the banks again, and this time saw the cause of the noise – two baby beavers, maybe weeks old, were stranded on the far side of the pond. Their "Girls" were, in fact a mother and father, and they were freaking out because they didn't want to be separated from their babies.

Elizabeth wasted no time; she tossed Vern her light and plunged back into the freezing water – she had to get to the baby beavers before they scurried off into the bush. It was dark now and they would be impossible to spot in the woods. Vern stayed with the cage and watched, keeping one light on Elizabeth and one light on the babies. As quickly as she could, Elizabeth trudged and half-swam across the pond, reached the beavers, scooped them up, one under each arm, and and plowed back across. Vern opened the cage as she got to the shore. She dropped them in with their parents and collapsed to her hands knees on the bank beside them, breathing hot, tired, steaming breath into the cool night air... they had done it! Drained but elated, she couldn't believe they had done it.

The next spring, after the snow had melted and the flowers were up, Elizabeth drove the 73.6 km up a winding dirt path of a road towards a small clearing, gravel clinking and clanking off the bottom of her car as she went. She pulled up and parked the car and popped the trunk. She went to the back and pulled out her folding chair, grabbed her book and a picnic basket with small lunch and walked down to the pond, there she spent the day and many a days after that, reading, enjoying the sun and watching her "extended family" swim and play and grow in their new home.

Jason Willis - Ending Two 

HOWEVER SHE KNEW there wasn't much that could be done for them tonight, so Elizabeth and Vern got into their vehicles and took the long winding detour home. On the drive Elizabeth thought long and hard about the beavers and tried to think of something that could be done to help them. She was too tired though, and came up with nothing.

For the next two weeks after the culvert was fixed and the road was opened again, Elizabeth drove by every day on her way to work looking out to see if she could see the beavers, and every night on the way home she would pull over and try to spot them, hoping to god they would be gone, moved on to that back up home that Vern said they might have.

She was standing shivering on the side of the road, about an inch of show now blanketing everything in sight, looking hard for little beaver heads swimming in the river. She hadn't seen them for three days now and truly hoped they had moved on.

Then she heard a light splash up the river bank and looked to see what had made the noise.

"Ahhh, shit!" she said..

It was indeed a beaver, just swimming along a small stick in its mouth. She felt an anger flare up inside her. "You stupid rodents!" she said to the beaver as it swam towards the culvert. "You need to get out of here! You're going to starve if you don't move on!"

She was practically shouting at the beaver now, emotions flaring even more as she realized what they did not – that they were going to die slowly of starvation if they didn't find a new home and soon.

She was angered at the beavers for not moving on, and partially angered at herself for not doing more to help them. She was so angered in fact, she bent down, grabbed a handful of loose gravel and started throwing stones at the beaver, shouting at it and calling it names, telling it leave, all in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to get them to move on.

As she was tossing rocks at the beaver, her feet slipped on the snow-covered bank, and went out from under her, she landed hard on here butt, and skidded out of control down the steep embankment towards the frigid waters.

With a loud noisy splash she hit the waters and was instantly up to her waist. She screamed and scrambled up the shore and back to her idling car, where she cranked the heat and drove the short distance home even more enraged, cussing a blue streak that would make a sailor blush.

Elizabeth roared into the driveway and skidded to a stop, just inches from the front porch. Slamming the car into park, she turned off the engine and stormed into the house still cursing as she slammed the door and tromped and clumped here way upstairs, dripping water and leaving soggy foot prints as she went to the bedroom to change.

Vern was just sitting in his worn out lazyboy watching the sports channel count down the top 10 most outrageous outburst by coaches, and smiled as he found a little irony that his wife would be in the middle of one of her famous outbursts, while he was watching that particular segment; he knew however that the guys on TV had nothing on his wife when it came to outburst. When she got in a mood, it was best to just stay out of the way and let her cool down. Usually she would stomp around, curse, slam some doors, do some cleaning, come and complain to him about what the problem was and eventually settle down. The medication she was taking was certainly making the outbursts less frequent, but no less outrageous when they did happen.

However this time after she had finished changing, Elizabeth went straight down to the basement, which was odd even for her; she hardly ever went down there. The only stuff they kept in the basement was Christmas stuff, some boxes of old junk they never got around to throwing out and Vern's hunting gear. Vern heard her rummaging around for a few minutes then stomped back up the stairs; he had already muted the TV waiting for Elizabeth to come and vent to him. But she didn't make the turn down the short hallway to living room like he thought she would; instead she went straight out the front door. When that happened, Vern realized it was the TSN turning point – and he needed to find out what she was up to.

He got up from his chair, tuned off the TV and went and got his coat; he was lacing up his boots when her heard the first shot. He quickly tied his boots and as he hurried out the door. A second shot rang out. He was running now, out the driveway and down the road to the bridge.

A third shot…

Vern, huffing and now wheezing in the cool winter air, got to the bridge in time to see Elizabeth loading up the next round in the rifle. He surveyed the area and something furry floating in the river below, then he followed her line of sight and saw a limping bleeding beaver desperately trying to get up the bank on the far side of the river.


Elizabeth turned and looked at him, visibly upset, tears streaming down her face.

"It's the only way Vern...." she said softly, almost as if saying it to herself.

"It's the... only… way..." she mumbled again. "They are just going to starve to death Vern, and I can't sit and watch that happen."

She gripped the gun tightly in her hands, deep troubling sobs peppered with short hot breaths that seemed to fuel this inner anger that neither doctors, Vern, or even she understood.

"I should have done something sooner to help them. This is my fault, my mess, and I'm going to clean it up." she said; the anger and edge returning to her voice.

"It's my goddamn MESS! You hear ME! YOU STUPID RODENTS! Why did you have to be so STUPID?"

Elizabeth was shouting at the beavers, shaking with a rage that Vern had not seen in a long time; he wondered if maybe she forgot to take her medication. Or maybe she had just finally lost it.

He watched as Elizabeth raised the gun again to take aim at the wounded beaver on the far bank. Vern calmly tried to talk to her, to talk her out of the rage and into lowering the firearm.

“Just calm down Elizabeth… just take a slow deep breath, and everything will be ok. I need you to put the gun down, baby. I need you put the gun down…”

But Elizabeth was having no part of it, she was too focused on her target: The stupid, retched, fowl little water rat that was now getting away!

Vern was getting audibly louder as he continued talking to Elizabeth, trying to reach her, trying to get her to listen to him… to listen to reason.

Still intent on her target, Elizabeth raised her finger to the trigger, ready to take out the beaver for good. Just before she shot, Vern yelled her name as loud as he could to get her attention.


It worked!

She snapped out of her rage-filled shooting spree and flung her head in Vern’s direction. The loss of focus however, coupled with the quick shifting of her weight, made Elizabeth lose her footing, and on the same spot she had fallen earlier, she slipped again, her arms flailed to the sides as her feet went right out from under her, sending her down the embankment once again.

The only difference between this time and the last was the rifle she was now holding in her hands; loaded, finger on the trigger, squeezing it as she fell.

The shot rang out!

Elizabeth splashed into the frigid icy waters!

A second large splash happened only seconds behind her own….


Elizabeth's body was found three days later.

A friend had stopped by to ask Vern about borrowing his truck – he needed to move some wood he had chopped earlier in the week. With both vehicles in the driveway and no one answering the door, the friend checked to see if everything was ok. The door was unlocked, so he let himself in. It was then that he found Elizabeth; her body, slumped over the kitchen table caked in blood, the pistol still in her hand; she was laying there surrounded by hundreds of pieces of note paper that had been ripped from the note book that had now fallen on the floor beside her.

On each piece of paper the same message was scribbled on the front and back: "Stupid Rodents!"

Two weeks later while clearing out the new culver that had become plugged again, they found the bodies of two dead beavers… and Vern.


  1. I loved this contest idea, and I equally love the endings. You know some creative people. Birds of a feather, I guess. Leave it to the proud and noble beaver to inspire such storytelling.

  2. Let me see if I've got this: Jason sits near you and knows you better than I do. He says his second ending is more "Cathyesque."

    Hmmm.... think I'll stay up my end of the building!

    (They're all great, by the way. I can see why you didn't want to pick a single winner.)

  3. These are all fantastic, it's always so amazing to me how many ideas can be generated form one source, just as unique as each person. I love the notion of a "Catheyesque" ending! BUt I must say your mom's ending struck me in its simple yet profound wisdom - beavers have been looking after themselves successfully for many many centuries, they have learned to be resilient and versatile and I loved the mystery ending. We humans forget that the planet is not ours alone and that there are other forms of intelligence in our own world, let alone the universe. Some say the "evolution" of humans is just an odd blip in earth's lifetime.

    My ending involved Vern's bobcat, the rototiller and an armed standoff.

    You are so generous Cathy, you are a good person. This was very cool.
    Lots of love

  4. Hi Cath - Congratulation to all those who wrote an ending to your story.. enjoyed everyone of them and all so different. Kudos to you for having the contest. I feel very humble to think I'm included in such a talented circle of writers. Lets do it again some time!!! Love, Mom

  5. Loved the endings! Wish I could have had time to write one myself! Particularly loved all the pictures of the beavers! Makes you wonder how anyone could wish them any harm! I'm with Mom! Let's do it again!

  6. These are wonderful! I enjoyed every single story, especially Jason's double-whammies! I started composing an ending, but life simply got ahold of me and wouldn't shake me loose.

    But most of all -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUR BLOGGO! Peace...

  7. Beaver-mani.OMG have to come back and savor in the Beaverness of it all.

  8. Oh and congrats on the anniverssairre!

  9. What great tributes to a wonderful year of blogging. Jason Willis wins hands down – the second entry. The only one with gunfire which is the only proper way to end a story about beavers. Not sure Vern had to die, but then again he wasn't man enough to shoot them himself (in Jason's version. It's no comment on Dave) Thanks for the contest

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