We spotted him--or her--coming up the river, the chocolaty-mess of a river ever since the flood. But that nose created a v against the current you couldn't help notice as he--or she--swam along on the far edge, across from the high bank where we stood. It wasn't hard to spot him--or her.
Once in early spring, I saw one of our beaver neighbors peek out from the ditch when I rode down the gravel road east; otherwise, even though we know they're there--they fell actual trees and make actual dams--they haven't really shown themselves publicly. I've never seen one here before. But last night it was clear as anything that right there across the river one of the whole region's most distinguished indiginous animals, and most historic, was motoring along, powered by that powerful tail, coming up river, minding his own business.
I could almost imagine some French trapper named Pierre sitting up on the bank right where we were, muzzle-loader across his lap, determining where exactly he'd put his trap sets.
Then, suddenly there were two, both of them big as bear cubs, two huge beaver emerging from the river on some stump or shred of island--huge things. I'm serious--big animals.
Now the Floyd River isn't the Missouri, and we weren't all that far away. Even though we were upwind, it seemed amazing that they didn't notice us. But it soon became clear that these two (I'm quite sure one was a he and the other a she) weren't thinking of us at all. They were clearly obsessed with each other. "It's either love or war," I said to Rob, who flew up to the house to get his camera.
It didn't take long for us to realize it wasn't war. They started into cleaning each other up--the river is immensely muddy right now, still carrying tons of silt from the flood. They started into carrying on in a fashion that looked like, humanly speaking, love--or at least some rather touching intimacy. There we stood, just across the river, but they were playing footsie, smooching like a couple of big fat furry love birds. I swear.
For a while, I thought they'd turn the river into a passion pit. I was glad we were with friends and not grandchildren. What would I say? For a while, I thought at least one of them--if not both--had some kind of sweet shoo-be-do-be-do in mind. At least it was perfectly clear that what they were starting wasn't going to end to fisticuffs. Pardon my french, but it looked a lot like foreplay.
At least they both were smiling. (I made that up)
For a while, I thought they were going to do it--"the big it." And it was going to happen right there across the river, right before our eyes.
But maybe the timing was off somehow because, just like that, one of them--I won't guess which--determined that there'd now been quite enough sweet sport for one June night. She likely shook her tail a bit, then politely paddled off. Leaving one of them, sadly bereft. Had to be him.
It's an incredibly muddy river right now, and the two of them emerged from all that dirty water, a couple of ungainly beavers as big as bear cubs, a muddy mess.
But I got to admit, the show we got was just plain beautiful.
And who knows?--maybe when she left, she told him, winking, that she knew of a nice little motel somewhere just up river.