Beaver Boy Goes on a Tear

Beaver Boy was throwing a tantrum. An equinoctial gale was raging along the Cathance, and that suited Beaver Boy’s mood to a T. Wind and rain were lashing the trees and whipping up waves. Beaver Boy was ripping up vegetation and stomping angrily. The downpour streamed off his back.

Beaver Boy had been in a rage for days, gnawing furiously at every tree that dare stand up in front of him. There was scarcely a shrub along his home stretch of river which didn’t show signs of his rampage. Even the pines and cedars were chewed, so it wasn’t a matter of appetite run amok. The taste of softwood sap would send any self-respecting beaver into the willows for a dose of painkiller. But Beaver Boy was beyond caring. He snarled as he slashed about, slapping his tail on anything green. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. This Summer had been full of promise. Beaver Boy had come into his growth in the hot season and was displaying some pretty massive equipment, if he did say so himself. He knew the beaver girls had noticed, and he’d made special efforts to show off his popple-felling skills, his towing-with-the-tide smarts, and his house building know-how. It was only a matter of undergoing the Men’s Lodge Ceremony and he would be a certified adult. And, boy, was he ready.

In fact, adult stuff was all he’d been able to think about all Summer. If you call it thinking. The eligible beaver girls had driven him to distraction with their surreptitious glances, and their giggling, and their tail wiggling. More than once he’d almost brained himself felling a big popple because the scent of some female came wafting by.

But Beaver Boy had known it was just a matter of time and ceremony before he could Do It! Whenever the urge got too strong, he’d dived down to the coolest, deepest hole he could find, and hung onto a drowned snag until he’d chilled. He knew the rules. He’d memorized the catechism. He had no intention of being driven out of the lodge because he couldn’t control himself.

It helped that his buddies were in the same fix. Their rude jokes and rough-housing eased the pain. They’d pulled a few fine pranks in the summer moonlight. Like the night they terrorized those stuck-up muskrats by damning the entrance to their burrow, then slapping their fat tails on the mud over the rats’ sleeping quarters to spook them. What a hoot. And the games of Dunk Your Buddy had gotten just dangerous enough to be good sport. They’d all managed to get out of their gourds chewing crazy-bush, too, and then done wicked wild acrobatics down the old mud slide.

All things considered it had been the ultimate teen summer. Until this happened. And all because he wouldn’t leave well enough alone. Everyone said he always asked too many questions. Now he knew they were right. Now he’d gotten one too many answers.

You see, Beaver Boy always knew he was different from other beavers. It had never made any difference to them, though. All members of the tribe were treated alike. If Beaver Boy was more adept at manipulating sticks and mud, that was to everyone’s advantage. If he could sing the Winter Lodge songs with more elaborate variations, everyone enjoyed the results. If he had to wear an old beaverskin suit to keep warm, and an old beavertail to slap with, nobody paid any mind. And while the other beavers didn’t make fun of his differences, they didn’t puff him up with praise, either. He was just one of the boys. But Beaver Boy had pestered his parents with questions about why he looked and acted so differently.

Secretly Beaver Boy wondered if he was one of those storied beavers in the Lodge tales. The ones whose mother had been mated to a magic being. The Moon disguised as a Silver Loon, or the River Spirit who appeared to the hibernating mother as a beaver made of ice. Beaver Boy shivered with excitement to think he was of such a magical lineage.

All those magic beavers had revealed their special powers when they came of age. Then they’d gone on to perform heroic deeds. Defeated monstrous enemies in mortal combat, and won the gratitude of all beaverdom. And they’d won the love of the fairest beaver damsels. Beaver Boy daydreamed of such exploits. And he was certainly different from the other beavers. If it was time for his true nature to be revealed, he was ready.

He had not been ready for this. His father had taken him aside just a few days ago, and Beaver Boy had wondered if now was the time he would be told the fabulous truth. But it had only been the patent parental lecture on preparing yourself for the Men’s Lodge Ceremony. As if every young tail-beater didn’t know about ritual purity, and the pre-ceremonial diet, and unclean thoughts, and all that tooth-grinding litany.

Beaver Boy had been disappointed. He’d bugged his father with questions like, “But way am I so different,” and “ Shouldn’t you tell me who I really am?”

His father had been very taken aback. He’d finally snapped something about “talk to your mother,” and rushed off shaking his head, grinding his teeth, and mumbling to himself.

Beaver Boy had sought out his mother. It hadn’t been easy to catch her away from the other females. They were all busy preparing the beaver girls for their moments of passage, and it was strictly forbidden for young males to get within scent of all that. As if the guys would be caught dead rolling in flowers, or playing that silly game with sticks and mud balls between their knees. Finally Beaver Boy had spotted his mother, headed downstream for a taste of arrowroot, and he’d approached her.

“Dad says I should ask you why I’m so different,” Beaver Boy announced.

His mother stopped chewing on her snack with a look of shock.

“I am, aren’t I?” Beaver Boy demanded.

Mother Beaver was silent for a long time. She gave him a look of deep sadness.

“Do you really want to know such things?” she asked kindly. “Some knowledge can only make you unhappy.”

Now Beaver Boy knew for sure he was some heroic beaver. One whose real father didn’t swat him with a hard tail when he was too mouthy. Now he would find out his noble lineage and could begin his fabled life.

“I should know who I am,” Beaver Boy said adamantly. “It’s time for me to grow up.”

His mother bowed her head. “Yes, I suppose it’s time.”

She paused again, looking deeply into Beaver Boy’s eyes for a long time. He felt the love in her look, and he almost wanted to call it all off. He didn’t want to hurt her. But he had to know. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

“You must tell me,” he said.

“OK. We didn’t want to hurt you by telling you before,” she said. “But you are a human being.”

“WHAT?!” Shouted Beaver Boy. “WHAT?! How can that be? What are you talking about?” Being human was too disgusting to contemplate. Human? It wasn’t possible. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

“I’m afraid it’s true,” Mother Beaver said sadly. “We found you under the ice, up Molasses Creek, one winter. Your real mother must have had a miscarriage, and thought you were dead. You were very tiny. We heard your little heartbeat, and found you wrapped in a blanket where you’d been pushed through a hole in the ice. We carried you home to the lodge. We fed you and raised you with your brothers and sisters, just like one of us. You are one of us, you know.”

Beaver Boy was dumbstruck. It all made sense. His special gifts were more human than beaver, he realized. With disgust. This was terrible news. He’d wanted to be a beaver hero. Now he was a monster. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

“Aieeee,” he screamed.

His mother tried to reach out to sooth him, but Beaver Boy only screamed louder. Then he dove into the river and swam down and down and down. He grabbed onto a sunken tree in the deepest cold and murky depths and tried to drown himself. But he simply couldn’t do it. He let go and floated up. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.


When he came up to the surface, blubbering and gasping, his mind was reeling. Human?! Arrrrgh. Then he went on the rampage. The other beavers could see he’d gone nuts, and they gave him plenty of room. There were enough cases of Beaver Fever each year, and nobody wanted to catch a dose, if that’s what had happened to Beaver Boy. Then the big autumn storms began, and all the beavers were too busy getting ready for the coming of age ceremonies to worry about one lunatic beaver run amok. The unhinged adolescent stomped through the landscape. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

Beaver Boy was running out of steam, however. He’d been acting out for almost a week. The shock of self-recognition was wearing off. His feet were hurting and his teeth ached. He really wanted nothing more than to be home in the family lodge, where his mother could coddle him, and spoil him with some of her home cooking. None of that was possible now, though – was it? He wasn’t a beaver anymore. And he wasn’t human, either. He lay in the mud on the river bank, and moaned. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

Raven had watched Beaver Boy’s antics with fascination. Raven is drawn to the unusual, and he’d noticed this curious beaver before. The creature had put on a wonderfully comic performance this week. Like a berserker human teen playing beaver, or an adolescent beaver trying to be a young hoodlum. Now Raven was circling in the storm with a couple of his comrades, looking out for victims of the weather. When he spotted Beaver Boy up to something on the river bank, Raven swooped down and perched in the top of a wind-lashed pine to watch. The wild thing was rolling in the mud, pulling its hair, and groaning. Raven burst into laughter.

Cronk. Cronk. Cronk,” Raven hooted.

Beaver Boy stopped thrashing, lifted up his bedaubed face, and stared at Raven. The look on Beaver Boy’s face was too much for the black bird.

“Cronk. Cronk. Cronk. Cronk,” Raven bellowed.

“What’s so funny?” Beaver Boy demanded angrily.

Cronk. Cronk,” Raven sputtered. He tried to catch his breath. “Cronnnk,” he finished up, a mad gleam still in his eye.

“What are you laughing at?” Beaver Boy snapped. “Can’t you see how terrible it is?” Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

“The weather?” Raven croaked, truly curious now. It was a wicked wild storm, for sure, but hardly reason to run riot, or roll in the mud.

“No. Me!” Beaver Boy shouted. “What’s happened to me.” And he started to howl and cry in misery. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

Raven hopped down to a lower branch.

“I can’t see anything wrong with you,” he observed, cocking his head to one side. “You always were a funny-looking beaver. But so what?”

This news floored Beaver Boy. He’d always looked different? Nobody had been freaked out? Maybe no one cared. He burst into tears again. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

“You are a sorry-looking beaver today, though,” Raven observed thoughtfully. “I’d have guessed you’d be getting ready for the Men’s Lodge tonight.”

Tonight! Beaver Boy groaned. He’d looked forward to his coming of age for so long, and now it didn’t mean diddly. He wasn’t even a beaver any more. Beaver Boy ground his teeth.

“I can’t,” he moaned.

“Did someone tell you that?” Raven asked, truly puzzled. Adolescent beavers always went into the Lodge and became adults. Was this strange one going to stay out and keep on being a teenage bedlammer? That would be one for the books.

“No…” Beaver Boy started. He realized that his parents had expected him to go into the Men’s Lodge, even thought they knew he really wasn’t a beaver. “…I just can’t,” he finished lamely.

“Don’t you want to grow up?” Raven asked, interested in such a phenomenon.

“Well. Yes I do,” Beaver Boy said in a calmer voice.

“So why can’t you do it?” Raven asked.

“Because I’m not really a beaver,” Beaver Boy shouted.

“Could have fooled me,” Raven mused aloud. “Beaver is as beaver does, I’d have thought,” he observed.

This was a new idea to Beaver Boy.

“You mean I could still be a beaver?” He wondered aloud.

“You could be whatever you are,” Raven said. Then he noticed his colleagues were circling down on something to the eastward.

“Oop. Gotta go,” Raven croaked, dropping off his perch. “Buck up,” he offered in parting, and he flew off over the trees.

Beaver Boy sat in the mud bemused. Could he still go into the Men’s Lodge. Would they still have him? Would some beaver girl still want him? He didn’t know the answers. But he found himself washing off the mud and making the ritual ablutions in the river. He swam round and round, trying to think straight, and discovered he was following the tide upriver, toward the Men’s Lodge. Beaver Boy realized he didn’t know how to be human. Didn’t want to be human. So maybe he should try and be a beaver.

He arrived at the entrance to the Men’s Lodge just at sunset, the proper time. He had the ritual offering branch in his teeth. His father and the other male elders were there in their ceremonial finery. Beaver Boy stared questioningly at them. Would they let him in? His father smiled. The Lodge Master simply looked him in the eye and asked the prescribed question.


“Are you ready to meet the Moon?”

Beaver Boy gave the formal reply.

“I am ready.”

Which is why Beaver Boy sometimes swims close to the humans, to see what they’re up to. And why you must accept yourself, when the moment of change has come.