Part 1: There are beavers everywhere and no one cares.
The guys called our favorite hang-out spot “the old road.” It was a good name because the spot was literally an old, crumbling road only accessible by foot. When you were on the old road, you could see the faded yellow traffic divider lines in the light gray asphalt. You could trace them like any normal road and follow them on foot like you were in a car until the asphalt started to crumble and eventually broke up into a dirt path.
The old road was positioned right next to the reservoir that provided the main source of recreation in the months it wasn’t too cold to leave your house. I never saw the old road in the day and was so accustomed to going there at night, I probably couldn’t have found the nondescript turn-off near the dam that lead to the old road during waking hours.
After we masterfully found the secret turn-off road in the dark, we’d park on the tiny, two-lane dead-end road and then haul whatever it was we had with us over to the old road (usually alcohol). I think the guys used to go fishing out there sometimes during the day, so they would’ve carried in fishing gear and probably some lunch in a cooler for themselves.
The walk to the old road didn’t take long, probably 10 minutes. There were no streetlights to guide the way and no real path. I don’t know how the guys first found the spot. I’m pretty sure it started in the pursuit of fishing and then somehow turned into a place where we could get wasted without adult interference. I’ll give it to them, the guys were dedicated to fishing when they found the old road. They would’ve been tromping through corn stalks and tall weeds to find their way (which we did every time we made our way through.)
There were cattle on the land around the old road. Not a ton, maybe just a couple. They certainly weren’t there for beef or dairy production – there had to have been a house somewhere close by that kept a couple of cows around as pets. Every now and then you’d hear a random “moo” from the darkness. Knowing there were other gentle, living beings standing out there in the darkness made me feel guarded from whatever boogeymen or errant park rangers were lurking in the night.
One time we saw a beaver in the dark waters of the reservoir as we sat along the old road with a small fire between us. Correction – one of the guys, MJ, saw a beaver.
“There’s a beaver in the water!” MJ screamed at us from the edge of the old road that nearly met the lapping water.
We all busted out laughing cause we were high on weed and alcohol and were used to MJ saying stupid shit. Not necessarily funny shit, just stupid shit.
“Stop laughing, I’m serious!” He yelled back from the water’s edge.
Uh oh. He made the cardinal sin of acknowledging he was being teased and didn’t appreciate it. Now it was on.
We laughed harder.
“MJ, why you so crazy, man?” Charlie asked him.
Charlie was sort of the group leader. All of the guys respected him and he was funny as hell. My friend Ginger dated him for awhile so I guess they were the King and Queen of our little stoner club at one point. Charlie could pretty much get away with saying and doing whatever he wanted and none of us would bat an eye.
MJ walked back towards Charlie.
“Man, I’m serious,” MJ said. “There’s a giant beaver in the water over there. And I saw its teeth. The thing is huge, it stood up on its hind legs!”
“Alright, man,” Charlie said as he clapped MJ on the back harder than necessary. “It’s cool dude, come smoke a joint with us.”
“You believe me, right?” MJ asked Charlie, his dark brown eyes bulging as if he were in pain.
“Nah dog, but it’s cool,” Charlie said with a laugh. Cue all of us laughing again.
“You assholes!” MJ hissed. “There’s a bunch of beavers out here and no one even cares!”
He was right. We didn’t care if there were beavers or not. All we cared about at that moment was making him believe we didn’t believe him. That fucked up logic dominated our teenage minds. You know – the challenging, know-it-all bullshit where you can’t wait to gang up on one of your friends and prove them wrong? It kind of dominated our group and there were certain people who were always the butt of the joke.
Us girls were rarely the target of those games; I never was, I guess. My friend Ginger was a couple of times – especially after she and Charlie broke up.
At some point later that night after MJ gave up on the beaver, my friend Shelly tromped over to the water’s edge all by herself.
“Holy shit you guys!” She yelled. “There’s a giant beaver over here! MJ was right!”
We could tell from her tone that she wasn’t messing around and we ran over to see if she was right.
“Beavers are fuckin’ crazy, man,” Captain said as we ran over to the water (his nickname came from Captain Crunch cereal). “They’ll rip your fuckin’ arm off.”
I shot him a doubtful look and shook my head. Captain said even crazier shit than MJ.
When we got to the edge, we heard a splash in the water but the stars weren’t providing enough light to see clearly.
“I don’t see anything,” I told Shelly. “Where was it?”
“It’s right there you guys,” she said impatiently, pointing to a dark spot in the water.
“I fuckin’ told you guys!” MJ ran up behind us and yelled at the back of our heads.
“Jesus, MJ,” Charlie said. “You’re gonna scare it.”
“You assholes didn’t believe me,” MJ said a bit quieter.
“I got a flashlight,” Bumpy said (his nickname came from God-knows-where), as he pulled a small hand-held light from the pocket of his shorts.
He shone it on the slick black water and slowly moved it from side to side until he saw movement on the glassy surface. He stopped and trained the light on a ripple in the water. And then, out of the water, popped the little brown head of a beaver.
“Woah!” Several of us yelled in unison. (To which the beaver responded by ducking under the water and never coming out again.)
“I fuckin’ told you fuckers!” MJ yelled. “Nobody believed me!”
“MJ, will you shut the fuck up?” Shelly asked him.
That shifted the mood quickly. Once one of us girls got involved to calm the situation, it usually meant it had gone too far. Especially if it was no-nonsense Shelly, who would usually rather fan the flames of conflict than put them out.
MJ dropped his head and walked back to the fire. We mumbled and laughed amongst ourselves as we followed.