Sunday, March 7, 2010

Eat Shit and Live - Beaver

As my high school English teacher, Mr. Simpson used to say, the F-Word is for those who are too lazy to say what they really mean. It's inarticulate. Perhaps that is why "Eat shit and die!" is one of my favorite* epithets. To be used sparingly, uttered only when truly meant. In which case, of course, it should be spat.

I was not thinking of cussing as I crossed the ice to examine a beaver lodge recently, but I was ready to shriek if the ice gave way. I couldn't help but imagine the watery grave awaiting me below the ice, despite the fact that it was more than a foot thick and could probably hold a 2 ton truck. The lodge was a magnificent heap of mud and sticks jutting out of the snow covered ice. Up close it towered several feet overhead.

I never thought much about beavers until I went bog-dipping. Being thigh deep in beaver bog calls for light profanity such as, "god beaver damned-it!" Previously the word "beaver" was more likely to bring to mind a boy named Beaver from next town over when I was in high school. Neither the animal nor the ridiculously attractive boy were really a part of my world.

Currently northern beavers are being freed by the spring thaw from their ice-locked lodges. They don't hibernate, they've been awake all winter subsisting on bark and shit. I kid you not. They have special bacteria in their stomachs to help digest cellulose, but even still, getting enough nutrients out of bark isn't easy. So they eat it twice.

My new knowledge of the beaver's plight has diminished the derogatory value my favorite epithet. With such a noble, intelligent and important creature eating shit for winter survival, well, it just takes the bite out of the words. Don't worry, I'll come up with something. I'm no stranger to inventing expletives.

Beavers are important. Lots of species depend on the beavers to create bogs for their habitat, such as bull frogs, painted turtles, mallards, dragonflies, willow flycatchers, sunfish, kingfishers, mink & muskrats. Never mind that I've never heard of half these critters before. Dragonflies alone are marvel enough to outweigh the occasional inconvenience of a bog crossing (or dunking as the case may be). I'll just have to come up with a better phrase. My shit may stink, but the beaver's might be dinner. Bon appetit, eat shit and live!

I'm still working on finding that new phrase. Any suggestions?

[*I can't actually remember ever having said, "Eat shit and die!" but I've imagined doing so plenty of times and as such I claim it as a favorite. Beaver facts presented above were gleaned from "Winter World: the ingenuity of animal survival" by Bernd Heinrich published in 2003 by HarperCollins, a most excellent and highly recommended read.]


  1. Hey Annie,
    Where was this massive, momentous beaver McMansion anyway?

  2. Did I miss one or two of the 6 W's? Ooops. OK here is the where: Moores Pond in Warwick MA just below the beautiful Mt. Grace. Thanks for asking! As a bonus I'll throw in the when. The photo was taken Monday February 22nd 2010!

  3. Just found your blog. And Love it. Beavers and all. is mine. Less fun, but just wait until my cornwall and or scottish hike this summer...

  4. Lovely blog, Agnesl! Cornwall or Scottish hike?!?! I'm jealous already.

  5. That is truly a mammoth beaver lodge. Huge!

  6. Being that I'd never seen a beaver lodge up close before I had no idea it was a particularly big one, how cool!