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Life with Pickle

J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

“Look!” Pickle said, pointing. A resounding crack pierced the gentle afternoon breeze, a sound not unlike the report of a rifle.

“It’s a beaver,” Shalayla smiled, as the beaver twitched its nose and gave the humans a fierce look before swatting the water again.

Pickle, Shalayla, and Mac were hiking a Forest Service road to see the fall colors when they came across a stretch of beaver ponds.

Mac ran ahead, laughing. “They’re trying to build a dam,” he said.

Sure enough, the beavers had noted a sharp rise on the pond side of the draw, matched by an equally sharp rise on the opposite side which was across the road, and had marked it as an ideal spot for a substantial damworks.

“They’re funny,” Mac said.

“Look how they build their dam,” Pickle said, poking the damworks on the road with a stick. “You see, first they lay down small sticks, then bigger ones, and the fallen, floating leaves get trapped in between. They’re crafty engineers, these beaver. They don’t stop the water completely, they just slow it down.”

“They probably want to get on with it while the leaves are falling,” Shalayla noted.

Two others splashed into the pond, abandoning their gnawing chores on a pair of young aspen, forming a veritable, if intimidating lodge of beaver, occasionally flapping their broad tails to indicate anxiety over the intruders, and sometimes swimming aggressively toward them to suggest they should be on their way.

“They want to get back to work,” Mac said, nodding.

“No social security, unemployment, or workman’s comp for them,” Pickle said wryly. “For them it’s another day, another dam.”

“This road is going to be traveled by a lot hunters in the next few weeks,” Shalayla whispered. “It’s going to be washed out if they keep it up.”

One of the beaver gave an especially noisome flap and seemed to open its eyes wide. Water streamed down the road ruts, pooling and silting in low spots, making new side channels.

“So who really has the right-of-way here?” Pickle asked, his eyes caught in the deep blue sky and slanted light of a cloudless fall day.

Mac stared at the beaver, squinting. “There’s three of them and three of us. But they were here first.”

A brief draft of warm, pungent pine needle duff drifted by as Pickle put his hand on Mac’s shoulder. “True.”

With that, the family walked away from the lodge of beaver, down a disappearing road with the gentle breeze, wrapped in a shawl of falling leaves ” golden, green, and red.

To read more about Pickle’s life, go to the following Web site: http://www.lifewithpickle.com.


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