"Time to get a gun, that's what I been thinkin'
I could afford one if I did just a little less drinkin'"
- Fred Eaglesmith
I haven't actually been thinkin' about getting a gun. Okay, that's not entirely true. I have been thinking about it, at least in terms of wishing one were handy. But even in the absence of the long-gun registration, I have no idea what would be involved in legally acquiring one. I'm pretty sure it would be enough to put me way more on the radar of assorted Canadian law enforcement bodies than I really want to be. And then there's the fact I have no idea where they even sell guns in Canada, unlike the U.S. where they sell them everywhere. The local Wal-Mart stocks a larger arsenal than the Canadian Forces.
Why, you might ask, do I want to get a gun? Well, this is a little embarrassing. While I wouldn't want to do anything to put my Canadian citizen in good standing status at risk, there are a couple of beavers I'd like to... to... you know, kill is an unseemly word and in my defense I'd like to say if I could just make them disappear that would be entirely satisfactory but barring sudden magical powers, kill will have to do.
Yes, I want to kill Canada's national emblem.
Now before you start sending me more hate mail than usual, let me remind you the beaver has only been Canada's national emblem since 1975. And even that honour was more an act of contrition — some would say a joke by Prime Minister Trudeau, whose mischievous grin bore a striking resemblance to a beaver — than a real honour. After all, it was Canadians and their predecessors who nearly hunted the rodent to extinction by the early part of the last century.
So why, you might also ask, do I want to kill beavers? Let me start by saying I don't want to kill all beavers. Not even kill beavers randomly. There is, however, a family of beavers with whom, well, it's become personal.
Strife has visited the usually placid waters of Sulphuric Lake. For years it was a beaver-free sanctuary. The last beavers on the lake were trapped out long before I arrived and for the past 10 summers life has been idyllic. Oh sure, there was the occasional rogue muskrat chewing the floatation out of my neighbour Chainsaw Al's dock but with the exception of gophers in the garden — caught humanely in a Havahart catch-and-release trap, don't ask about the release part — and deer munching on raspberry shoots, the local fauna and I enjoyed a live and let live relationship.
No longer. Two years ago the beavers arrived. At first they built a smallish lodge several hundred metres down the lake. I thought it was an uncalled for intrusion on their part given the fact that human habitation on Sulphuric Lake only occupies perhaps 20 per cent of its miles and miles of shoreline, the rest being Crown land wilderness. But they were clearly squatters with no respect for private property.
Their little lodge is now approximately the size of one of the staff housing buildings. Several of its walls are built from the aspen trees that used to grow lakeside in front of Smilin' Dog Manor. I didn't begrudge them the aspen. Leaf miner had infested them some years ago, turning their leaves a dull silver instead of a blinding yellow in the fall. Besides, aspen bear no fruit.
Not so the saskatoons. The high point of fall at SDM is the fly-through of migrating birds. Every year hundreds, possibly thousands of them, swam in the saskatoons, gorging themselves on ripe berries for the flight south. While not a birder myself, it is a birder's paradise and I felt it my duty to nourish and husband the saskatoons lest there be a skimpy harvest.
I felt violated when I returned after a week away earlier this month to find the f@#king beavers had mowed down 90 per cent of the saskatoons. Worse, like unconscionable white buffalo hunters, they simply left their kill laying about, in at least one case felled against the house.
Crushed by the weight of the impending death of so many birds, I began to have murderous thoughts about our national emblem. Now it was personal.
And while I know the idea of killing beaver might not sit well with many, I'd just like to point a few things out. For starters, the beaver isn't really that important. I mean yes, the country was founded on beaver trapping and true, the only thing that saved beavers from extinction was the fickle fashion trend away from beaver skin top hats to silk top hats. But consider this — the beavers' salvation came at the high expense of the exploitation of silkworms.
Beavers were without conscience when it came to dooming successive generations of silkworms to slavery, factory farming, being boiled alive and forced to breed in some Orwellian nightmare world. This is not the act of an enlightened animal. This is exploitation.
If the beaver is so important, why do we have a loon on our one-dollar coin and the beaver on nickels? Now that we've gotten rid of pennies it's only a matter of time before nickels disappear. The beaver is clearly a devalued animal.
And while beavers have appeared on Canadian postage stamps seven times over the years, they have never been honoured with a stamp worth more than a mere quarter, twenty-five cents. It would take almost four of the most valuable beaver stamps to get a letter from your home to Muni hall. And do you have any idea how many more Loonies are minted than beaver stamps produced? Me either... but lots.
Even the mythology of beavers is way overblown. The tasty snack, Beavertails, is really just squashed donuts. They'll make you fat and a recent peer-reviewed article in the
Journal of Junk Food found eating a diet of nothing but Beavertails for 30 days will kill you.
How many young Canadian boys, age five to seven years old, have been scarred for life because they longed to become Boy Scouts but found out after joining they were going to be Beavers, meet in a group called a colony and work in a subgroup called a lodge? Many never lived down the embarrassment and went on to become bankers and insurance salesmen.
So cry not for the beavers of Sulphuric Lake for they are the white trash of beavers. I half expect to return later this fall to find no trees at all buffering SDM from the lake and a collection of rusting cars in their place.
Perhaps if I can successfully spread the rumour that their tails, dried and powdered, are powerful aphrodisiacs?
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