A few folks yesterday sent me this column from the Onion in 2006. It made me smile, but I honestly am so DEEP in the story I hardly get the humor. Of course beavers plan their work and some of them overthink. Remember Reed who only built with tule? Even though Dad wanted him to use branches? He had definitely had a firm artistic style all his own.
HUNTSVILLE, ONTARIO—Local beaver Dennis Messner is spending an inordinate amount of time and effort in the planning and construction phases of building his dam, according to neighbors close to the project.
In the past four months, Messner, 4, has visited hundreds of other dams and drawn up detailed and extensive blueprints. He has researched topics ranging from advanced dome acoustics to the near-extinction of the North American beaver in the early 20th century, and plans to incorporate much of his research into his design.
“There are two primary schools of thought on dam building: the instinctive school and the adaptive school,” Messner said, studying the river’s current. “I’m more of an integration-minded postmodernist. I don’t believe that form should follow function, like most of my colleagues do. On the other hand, a dam is a celebration of beaver culture, and that is what it should reflect.”
Never mind that the column features a photo of a groundhog. It’s still a smart bit of writing and makes such perfect sense to me I almost couldn’t laugh.
It reminded me of years ago I showed the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip on the “Duplicator self” to a young patient because they were operating with several personalities at the time and they were getting into all kinds of trouble. I had thought it would help us talk about duality – what happens when, for instance, one self is doing class work and another is scrawling the principals name with a word that rhymes with ‘duck’ in the yard in black marker.
The thoughtful child just read it soberly without the faintest trace of humor, but deep, deep understanding. They weren’t even surprised to read something that so described their life so clearly, but rather, confused why I would be showing them something that in their mind was so obvious. I realized then that like every child in the world they thought everyone lived that way and had absolutely no idea why the comic was funny.
Obviously I felt the same way reading this column. Why is it humorous to imagine beavers thinking about their impact on the ecosystem?
Messner rejected the criticism. “Not everyone in this area cares or is even aware of how dam building alters an ecosystem,” Messner said. “But I am, and, yes, I do wonder what kind of impact my dam will have on the environment. How can I make this the most positive experience possible, while still minimizing adverse impact on the wetlands? What kind of beaver would I be if I didn’t take erosion science into consideration?” To that end, Messner has reached out to the local otter, fish, and waterfowl communities, and has incorporated their input into his design.
Go read the whole thing. It’s definitely worth it. Oh and how did you do on the quiz below? 10/10?