It was a beautiful day today, so Stephanie, Nathan, and I went outside. After playing with the dogs, crowding into the hammock, and climbing trees, we walked around the lake in our backyard. Evidence of our newly resident beavers was everywhere, from chewed stumps to gnawed twigs. We explored the area where the spring feeds our lake, thinking they might live in that vicinity, but we found nothing.
“What do they do with all the wood?” asked Stephanie. There were only a few logs and sticks lying around compared with all the trunks of small trees and bushes pointing from abnormally short heighths into the air.
We split up, looking in different directions, Nathan breaking his way through the thick undergrowth and vines in his way. Then Stephanie called us over to where she was stooping near the shore. A worn path in the grass led from the water. The dogs were digging at some roots.
“Look,” Stephanie said pointing at a small hole in the ground, “Beaver sticks.”
We examined them and then continued on around the lake where another path led up to a place under the trees where the ground had been trampled.
By now the dogs were digging furiously, so we went back to see what they had accomplished. The hole where some of the sticks were seemed to go down further than when we looked before. Nathan started scooping out the twigs covered with rotting leaves. It smelled like like earthy musk. We mused that this might be the beavers winter cache of food. As Nathan pulled out the last stick, we looked in astonishment at the cavernous hole that was before us. The opening was actually much wider than we had previously thought, but it had been covered with leaves. We peered into the darkness of the hole that was perhaps two feet in diameter at the opening. Stephanie cautiously stuck her head near the opening.
“Dig marks,” she pointed out. On the side of the hole were claw marks in the clayish dirt.
Nathan stuck his head in. “Joanna!” he exclaimed, “It goes right under you!”
We couldn’t see much in the gloom, so Nathan told Stephanie to go get a flashlight. She agreed but only if she could look in first.
Nathan teased, “I get to.”
We ended up all going up to the house, leaving the dogs to dig furiously at the ground farther up from the lake before coming to join us.
We came back, Stephanie holding her Maglight, Nathan a shovel, and me an ax. Shep, our Australian shepherd (we think) and Buller, our neighbor’s bulldog, were with us, but Buster, our mutt, was nowhere to be seen.
“Is he in the hole?” Nathan asked. Stephanie and I said we thought that he had run off behind us, but he didn’t come when we called him. As we approached the opening, Shep and Buller started sniffing around again. Then Shep yelped and backed away from the cavity. We gathered around, and Stephanie prepared to look in. Suddenly, a brown head popped out. Stephanie yelled as we all jumped. Then Buster brought the rest of his body out of the hole and shook himself as we collapsed into laughter.
“It’s a good thing I didn’t have the flashlight,” Nathan said. “I would have hit him!”
Buster reentered the cavern, and disappeared down a tunnel. Stephanie looked in after him, but couldn’t see him. She did see two tunnels running the short way down to where water lay. In the other direction, the mine continued up underneath where the dogs had been digging, but shallower. Buster crawled back in sight, but stayed in the hole. He seemed to like it in there.