The beavers that dammed up our creek in the lower pasture must be desperate. It’s a small stream, lined with few trees, and–during the planting season–void of the bountiful crops that will fill out the fields in later months. Maybe this dam was built by outcasts from the colony downstream that produces more substantial structures.
To be honest, this dam looks like something my siblings, cousins, and I built back in our 1960s pasture roving days. We used mud, sticks, rocks, and preteen attitude to slow the creek enough to make a pond we could brag about. It was a bit murky–the cattle grazing upstream ignored us and swatted flies with their tails. Our dog Smoky watched us from the shade of a cottonwood tree as our attempts to dog paddle in the shallows turned into water fights and head dunking.
Shoddy dam or not, beavers are cool, so I took my grandsons to see the structure a few weeks ago. James is nearly six years old, and he ran around like Jim Bridger casing out the scene. Before long, he realized the beavers were either in their dens or they’d packed up and moved. The boys live in town, but the farm has been with the family for more than 165 years, and they visit on occasion. I showed them a faded beaver trail, some claw marks, and a gnawed-off sapling. James climbed a small tree and his two-year-old brother, Callan, kept running toward the bank as he if might attempt a six-foot dive into the shallow water.
After leaving the pasture, we explored the haymow of the classic red pole barn built in the 1890s. The few layers of small square bales left in it are rare nowadays, and I explained to them that my brothers and I might have stacked the ones on the bottom and played hide-and-seek there when we were kids. James and Callan were more interested in jumping recklessly from bale to bale, and they only listened closely to me when I warned them to stay away from the raccoon droppings. “Poop—Grandpa said ‘poop.’” I imagine that was the key word repeated that night when they told their parents what we’d been up to.
James ended up in the cab of my brother’s tractor as they planted corn. Kevin let him do enough duties to convince him that the year’s crop would not have been put in right if a five-year-old hadn’t helped. By this time, another grandchild—three-year-old Madison— had arrived, so she joined me in the garden where her hands were just the right size for dropping lettuce and spinach seeds into the rows. She stayed focused for several minutes—much longer than I ever did at that age.
During the rest of the afternoon, Madison took her grandma to the bridge on the lane where throwing rocks into the creek has been a ritual since the days when I fell in while launching a big rock that got the better of me. Callan matched wits with the cats in the yard and eventually moved inside to play with the toy tractors. All three of them ended up snacking on the farm’s classic health food–Great-grandma’s chocolate chip cookies.
Like the beaver dam in our pasture, the activities were a bit scattered and haphazard, but the kids had fun. Little did they know that every fall in the hay, every stone thrown in the creek, and every scratch from climbing a tree brought back memories for their grandpa. I could see us kids doing the same things 50 years ago—and yes, I admit: I also think the word “poop” is funny.
by dan gogerty