by Max Elliot Anderson -
Benny heard stories from his friends about the dangers his beaver colony had escaped before he was born. He wasn’t supposed to, but one day he heard it for himself. The elders were talking about a pack of wolves that chased the colony from its home years ago.
While playing tag with one of his friends, Benny hid behind a large boulder. That’s when he heard the older beavers talking. They sat in a circle. Whenever they met like this, it was called the council. Young beavers, like Benny, were not allowed to be anywhere near the council.
And that’s when he heard an old rabbit say, “One of our scouts reported seeing wolves at the top of a ridge on the other side of our valley.”
The other beavers gasped at the thought.
“What does this mean?” one of them asked.
The oldest member of the council took a deep breath. All of the others turned to listen to his wisdom. He remained silent for several seconds before taking another deep breath. Then he looked up. “It means we must prepare.”
“Prepare? Prepare what?” they asked.
“As long as we’ve lived in this valley, there have been no enemies here. Now…things have changed. We must move quickly.”
Benny’s little heart beat so loud and so fast, he was sure the others would hear him.
“We’ll hold council again tomorrow when the sun is in the middle of the sky. Each of you must bring your suggestions then. But remember, ever since the big mud slide, our stream is too low to reach our houses. We must find a way to fix that, or the wolves will find us for sure this time.”
After making sure none of the elders could see him, Benny crawled quietly away from that rock until he came into a clearing.
“Gotcha!” a voice squealed.
Now Benny was sure his heart had just stopped. He grabbed his chest to catch his beaver breath.
“Don’t ever do that again, Ralph.”
Benny waved one paw. “Never mind. We gotta get outta here.”
“I don’t get it,” Ralph said.
“Just follow me. I’ll tell you later.”
Benny and Ralph climbed up to the top of the nearest ridge, sat down, and looked out at the valley. Both sides sloped gently to the bottom where a slow shallow stream flowed by. Benny and his friends often played and splashed in the stream because his house sat only a few feet from the edge of the water.
Trees, young and old, grew well in the valley because it often rained there. And the ground was covered with a soft carpet of lush green grass and lots of beautiful flowers. Benny and his friends liked to play hide and seek in the tall grass.
After looking out over the valley for several minutes, Ralph finally asked, “So what were you gonna tell me about?”
First, Benny gulped. “If I tell you something, you gotta promise not to tell anyone else, promise?”
Ralph nodded, then he gulped, too.
“Our colony is in trouble” Benny began. “Did you ever wonder why our houses were all built on the bank of the stream and not in the water?”
Ralph thought for a moment, then shook his head. “Uh...no.”
“Well, I think the water used to be higher. It must have gone down a long time ago, and nobody did anything about it because wolves don’t live around here.”
Ralph’s little beaver body began to tremble. When he opened his mouth to speak, his voice trembled, too. “Did you say wo...wol...wol...wolves?”
“I’ve heard my dad talk about them to the neighbors, and they sound very scary.”
“They are scary,” Benny said. “We have to do something. The beaver council is too old to save us.”
Ralph reached over and grabbed Benny with his paw. “We are never to speak about the council.”
“I know, but this time is different.”
That night, Benny found his father sitting by the water’s edge. “Dad,” he began, “why did you teach me to cut down trees with my teeth?”
His father smiled. “Because. A beaver’s teeth keep growing. If you don’t use them, they can become very dangerous. A beaver must always wear down the ends of his teeth.”
“And why did you teach me to hold my breath under water? I can hardly get under the water it’s so shallow.”
“It wasn’t always like this,” his father said as he looked out over the stream. “It concerns me the elders haven’t done anything about this.”
Without even thinking, Benny blurted out, “They plan to.”
A look of shock spread across his father’s face as he turned to Benny. “What do you know of the council?”
Benny turned away, but his father reached under his chin and turned his little head back toward him. “Well, I heard them talking by accident.”
“Um, I was hiding by a rock, but I heard them talking. They said there are wolves in the area.”
His father leaped to his feet. “Wolves?” With that he turned and ran into the forest.
“Now I’ve done it,” Benny muttered. He was still picking at his fur when Ralph walked up behind him.
“Hey!” Ralph said in a loud voice.
Benny jumped straight into the air and landed on his back in the stream. “What’d you do that for?”
“Sorry,” Ralph said. “You wanna do anything?”
“We need to get our friends together and cut down as many trees as we can as fast as we can.”