Archive for the ‘History’ Category

My father ’tis of thee

Posted by heidi08 On September - 5 - 2017Comments Off on My father ’tis of thee


Ian medalsAs most of you know, this wonderful creation was the painstaking product of then 12 year old Ian Timothy [Boone] and finished in 2008.  The joyful banjo music in the background was written and performed by his father an accomplished musician, Joel Timothy. Ian went on to win 6 scholastic medals and graduate with honors.  We became friends for obvious reasons and when he applied to the Disney school of animation I wrote him a letter of recommendation. He was one of only 15 students to be accepted.

I met them all in Martinez when the family made a stop on their way to a film festival. Both parents seemed happy and appropriately proud of their son. But you never really knoKentucky meets Californiaw what the inside of people’s lives are like.  After Ian went to college his parents divorced and his mother, Karen Boone (a gifted graphic artist in her own right) wrote to tell me that Joel was a struggling alcoholic who she couldn’t stay with anymore. She thought maybe it had been hard on her son who had focused on the stop motion filmaking as a way to cope.

(I was shocked, and remember that I couldn’t help thinking like a therapist that maybe his father hadn’t been able to sustain sobriety by taking things one day at a time, so Ian took things one moment at a time.)

IMG_6536After the divorce, Ian cut ties with his father and took his mother’s name, so he’s now Ian Boone.  Ian never spoke about the divorce or the drinking with me. But we remained friends. He came to our festival last year and told me that he had left college early and started working for Bix Pix in Hollywood, working on the Tumble leaf series. He had not resumed contact with his father. And he had been learning to play the banjo.

Yesterday he posted on Facebook that his father had died over the weekend. I hope he doesn’t mind that I’m sharing it here. It really touched me and I thought it should be shared.

I just wanted to let everyone know, especially people in Louisville, that my dad, Joel Timothy died early Saturday morning, in Chestertown, Maryland. He had been sick for a while and in June was diagnosed with colon cancer that was expected to be treatable. But between the chemo, radiation, and already being very weak, he took a turn for the worse last week. He was hospitalized in intensive care. By the time I got there he was on oxygen and mostly unresponsive.

Our relationship for the last several years was not good. There were a lot of different sides to him, he struggled with alcoholism and he did and said a lot of horrible things. But there are still a lot of good memories, he was an immensely talented musician and creative mind, as a storyteller and performer. He had a short stature but big personality and always a way to make people laugh. I wouldn’t have had the same start in animation without his help with Beaver Creek, and I think he tried to support me in the best ways that he knew how.

Fathers are complicated and somehow keep being so even after they die. My heart goes out to Ian who was emotionally courageous to speak of this publicly and  revisit the man who had given him his childhood and at the same time partly taken it away. In reading the countless comments by his fellow musicians it is clear that Joel was a gifted, fulsome, troubled soul. Even though his life is over, I’m sure Ian’s journey with him is just beginning.  I am constantly surprised by how much my own father has continued changing after his death, at least in my own heart where it matters most to me.

R.I.P. Beaver Creek.

Owls and Champions

Posted by heidi08 On August - 19 - 2017Comments Off on Owls and Champions

Jon met a stranger on his hike in Franklin hills yesterday and they had friendly dogs so they chatted for a while. The two men talked about the trail, and talked about nature, and eventually got to the subject of Alhambra Creeks. The man brought up the beavers, which he had never seen. He thought he had heard that they had some kind of ‘Champion’ that lived in town, but he didn’t know who? Someone Perryman?

Heh heh heh. Beaver champion! I like it. Sometimes I feel like a champion. But definitely not the first or the foremost. One of the most famous beaver champions of all times  is Grey Owl, (or Archie Bellamy). Who in addition to standing up for beavers made all of Canada feel foolish by convincing them he was was Apache, which he clearly was not. They haven’t recovered from the injury quite yet, but if you ask me they have no one to blame but themselves.

One look at the long frame and roman nose should have been enough to dispel any myths!

Grey Owl’s Cabin

On Ajawaan Lake in Canada’s Prince Albert National Park, a conservationist who called himself Grey Owl lived in a cabin with beavers from 1931 to 1938. He faked a First Nations identity; the former trapper was actually an Englishman named Archie Belaney, though these details didn’t emerge until after his death.  

After working as a fur trapper, wilderness guide, and forest ranger, he eventually dove into the world of conservation. His third wife (he’d already had two overlapping, failed marriages by the age of 37), a Mohawk Iroquois woman named Anahereo, helped convince him to make the switch from trapping beavers to advocating on their behalf.

Anahereo had accompanied him one day as he set up a trap to catch a mother beaver. The cries of the kits (baby beavers), which supposedly resembled the wails of a human child, caused her to beg him to release the mother. Though Grey Owl failed to heed to her requests because the pelt would earn them much-needed income, he did go back and locate the abandoned kits the next day. He and his wife raised them in their cabin.

Grey Owl went on to write several books about nature conservation, focused largely around a central theme of the negative effects of the commodification of the natural world. Grey Owl and Anahereo were featured in documentaries about their environmental work and became fairly well known among 20th-century conservationists within the United States and Canada. After Grey Owl died of pneumonia in 1938, the details of his fabricated First Nations identity came to light and tarnished his reputation.

Tarnished reputation! He was a polygamist too, don’t forget to mention that. Of course what he said was true and insightful regardless of his parentage. The truly funny part of this is that Grey Owl, who was arguably the most famous beaver advocate in history, and certainly the only one during the end of the fur trade, lived in Saskatchewan, which is now won of the MOST famous beaver-killing provinces in the world.

Here’s a video I made using his speech in the movie by Richard Attenborough. I’m actually quite proud of how the 90 seconds came together, even slipping a little Beethoven in the background.

But maybe you are more old school, and want to see the real thing (er reel thing). Here’s the original 1936 documentary produced with National Parks Canada. As beaver Champions go, he really set the standard. I am sorry every day my living room doesn’t have a beaver pond in it. I can’t speak for Jon, though.

Beaver Creation Myth

Posted by heidi08 On August - 17 - 2017Comments Off on Beaver Creation Myth

Jules Howard is a freelance zoologist and author from the UK. His article in the guardian introduces a whimsical creation myth about beavers that is near and dear to my heart. It also answers the common question ‘why do beavers build dams?’. Get your coffee cup and settle in because the article is so good I’m posting it all.

Why do beavers build dams? You asked Google – here’s the answer

Here is a beaver-based creation myth. It begins thus. God so loved the world that He seeded it with diligent rodents able to do the hard work of habitat creation – damming streams and creating ponds and lakes in which amphibian larvae thrived, providing food for water beetles and dragonfly nymphs and a host of other invertebrates which fed the fish that early humans consumed. God gave us beavers to make the landscapes upon which we depended – that’s the myth I want you to imagine for the sake of this piece.

Ohhh! Was that a marriage proposal? If it was you had me at ‘habitat creation’. Sigh.

It goes on. My creation myth believes that the wetlands that these early creatures created washed away and purified humanity’s poisons. And that these holy creatures, The Beavers, saved us from Biblical floods by slowing the flow rate of sudden aggregations of water. Again and again, The Beavers saved us, but in time, predictably, things changed. We humans came to turn our backs on them. We forgot about Beavers, and God was not pleased about humankind’s insolence.

Like all good creation myths, this one features a gruesome twist. Like the rosy apple that hung from the tree in the Garden of Eden, in my creation myth God put things on beavers to tempt those first people into sinning. He covered them with thick fur that they would desire as clothing. He put their testicles on the inside, rather than the outside, and gave these mystical and elusive gonads properties that may (or may not) have provided medicinal properties. And, lastly, there beneath their tails, God hung a pair of anal glands that produced a smelly substance that the early humans found irresistible. Those early humans made a choice. They couldn’t help themselves. They committed original sin.

Upon discovering their unusual glands and delightfully thick fur we humans slaughtered them in their millions to make top hats and well-known perfumes that still sell today courtesy of a deft hint of anal glands that makes them more appealing than the competition. (Also ice-cream flavouring, but that’s another story). The rest, as they say, is history.

In less than 200 years, the North American beaver went from 90 million to between 10-15 million. In Europe and Asia, just 1,200 beavers remained by 1900. The beavers died, almost totally exterminated. In time, we forgot that they had ever been here.

How much are you loving Mr. Howard’s creation myth? I’m having a tingly feeling and smoking a cigarette. Wait, wasn’t he going to answer a question at some point?

The simple answer is that beavers build dams to deepen watercourses, so that they can create “lodges” that can be better defended from modern predators including bears, wildcats, otters and other mammalian forebears with whom the beavers shared prehistory. It seems that deep water is particularly important to beavers. Lakes and ponds allow for a kind of floating structure of sticks and branches that can be accessed from a secret hole beneath, a key real-estate feature that reduces the need for terrestrial entrances through which land-based predators can climb. Upon finding shallow watercourses, colonising beavers immediately begin damming, creating canals along which trunks and branches can be dragged along to add to this, their anti-predator superstructure. In these lodges, beavers rear their young and see out winter, safe and sound.

Why and how they hit upon this behaviour is of interest to those who study beavers and their family members, the Castoridae (nearly all of whom are now extinct). It may be an example of a behavioural trait that has “piggy-backed” upon an appetite for bark-gnawing. One imagines that their semi-aquatic ancestors were tree-gnawers that used their spoils for building riverside burrows, with some accidentally hitting upon damming rivers. The truth is we don’t yet know. The creation myth eroded, now a new mystery is being gradually exposed based by those that study comparative anatomy, fossils and DNA.

Got that? Beavers build dams to create deep water that protects their lodges. I especially like thinking about all the kinds of castoridae that used to exist. Surrounded by beaver cousins! What an interesting world that must have been!

One thing is clear. Our original sins now washed away by rushing floodwaters, we have an opportunity to bring beavers back into our lives. In recent years, almost every European country has made steps to re-introduce and restore their wild beaver populations. In Scotland, an introduced population of beavers is doing well – indeed, it is now considered a protected native species. There is a good chance that a small breeding population in England may be granted the same status.

After almost killing them off entirely, we may yet redeem ourselves from the sins of our ancestors. How delicious, therefore, that we should free ourselves from damnation by becoming, once more, a dam-nation.

Oh, that was awesome, Jules. I adore your creation myth, but I’m not sure it’s a myth at all. I truly believe beavers WERE put on this earth to give us habitat and store water and that when we reject them we are turning down a gift from the divine. But that’s just me.  I know the world is full of athiests. I just had to look at my Sacred center video from So long ago. There wasn’t a part of making this video that wasn’t packed with wonder and curiosity. In fact in those days I was watching the beavers on Escobar street and had never even been as far as the dam!
I’m sure you want to know more about Jules. I’ll leave you with his TED talk just so you can see what a fine story teller he is. Let’s be thankful that he chose to tell one about beavers.