Yesterday was BUSY as a you know what. It truly felt like beaver central around here. I heard from the author of the Salt Lake Tribune story that Joe Wheaton had testified before his trip to Europe already. He wanted information about flow devices and who installed ours. I spent the afternoon writing a letter to the court for the Draper wetland and ended the day with a phone call from Kelly McAdams himself.
We talked about how crazy busy things were right now for him (ahh memories!), how the media is beating down his door, and how to use that momentum for it’s advantage. They mayor was originally in his camp but recently waffled into opposition. In fact most of the officials privately offer their support but won’t disagree publicly with Flood Control. Sierra Club won’t return his calls. The McAdams are planning a field trip to show the public the wetlands and let them see how special it is. I suggested adding some children’s groups and having them draw the wildlife they saw. (Because we all know how effective that is). Maybe a ‘library night’ to teach about beavers and the wetlands they maintain. I also suggested making friends with the local Audubon and Ducks Unlimited and making sure they understood how important beaver habitat was to their interests. Mitch the famed attorney who represented the friends of Lake Skinner case sent some ideas about arguing “Inverse Condemnation“
since the debris allegedly constituting the violation is naturally occurring and has produced a beneficial effect for the property, removal would be detrimental and reduce the value of the property.
which I made sure Kelly knew about so his probono attorney could connect with Mitch if he wanted to. There are no new stories this morning, so I’m sure the couple is having a well-deserved restful day.
And me too.
Right after I finish a short interview with San Francisco State student Sarahbeth Maney who is doing her third year photojournalism project on Martinez residents with a passionate interest (ha!) and contacted me after the times article.
How did you hear about this story and what got you interested in it?
One day my tween daughter casually mentioned that after World War II, leftover parachutes were used to airdrop beavers into the wilderness, that she’d seen it on TV. I didn’t think that could possibly be true, that maybe she’d misunderstood what she’d seen. But she insisted that it really happened. So I Googled it—and was totally blown away (no pun intended). Skydiving beavers was really a thing! More research ensued, and when I learned about Geronimo, the beaver used to test prototypes of the self-opening parachute box—that he seemed to actually enjoy the skydives—I just knew this would make a great children’s book. Fortunately, Sleeping Bear Press, which publishes many nature-related children’s titles, thought so too. Beavers are such amazing animals, and I’m excited to help make people more aware of them!
Your book does a nice job of introducing us to Elmo Heter, did you get to meet him? Is he still living?
Unfortunately, Elmo Heter, the Idaho Fish and Game warden who dreamed up this unusual wildlife-relocation idea in 1948, died in 1967. But the book’s illustrator, Gisbert “Nick” van Frankenhuyzen, was in touch with Elmo’s son, and also with Idaho Fish and Game’s historian, to get all the details he could. Elmo was only with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for a few years; in 1952 he moved to Alaska, where he taught arctic survival skills at Ladd Air Force Base.
I was surprised to see Martinez in the author’s notes section. How did you hear about our story?
As I was researching Elmo’s tale, I discovered he’d actually penned an article about it in a 1950 issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management. For a nonfiction writer, a primary source like that is gold! I Googled around looking for the article, and there it was, on your website. Then I read about the Martinez beavers and thought it was great information to include in the book, how people have now learned to work with beaver populations—for the benefit of the wildlife, the environment, and the community. No more airdrops, as inventive as the idea was at the time. You kindly allowed me to share on www.SkydivingBeavers.com some of your links for educators’ resources, and I’m most grateful. There are articles, activities, and recently discovered film footage of the 1948 beaver airdrop at the book’s site, as well.
I appreciated the illustrations. Had you worked with the illustrator before?
No, I wasn’t familiar with Nick’s work. But when the editor at Sleeping Bear sent me one of the other (of so many!) books he’s illustrated, The Legend of the Beaver’s Tail, it was obvious he was perfect for this project with his prior beaver-painting experience! Nick is known for his wildlife artwork. And he walks the walk—he and his wife took forty acres of Michigan farmland and turned it into a wildlife habitat. You can check it out at www.hazelridgefarm.com. Nick’s also a naturalist with an active school-visit program, teaching kids about wildlife and conservation. He traveled to most of the locations in The Skydiving Beavers—his paintings of the Idaho landscape and animals are just gorgeous.