"H.B.," Huge Beaver or Huge Baloney

by Tryon Wells

Sycamore Islander, September 1998

It lumbers in and takes away villagers at night! It can chew down a fully grown Sycamore in an hour! When it enters the water, small tidal waves are produced that menace nearby settlements!

O.K., O.K., these descriptions are slightly exaggerated but the myth of the huge beaver remains. (Really -- how do these things start?) Loch Ness in Scotland is famous for its mythical dinosaur serpent, and also for the hoaxes perpetuated to prove its claims (and it's certainly good for the locals who would have left years ago for jobs in the city without all the tourism.) Will Sycamore Island start selling H.B. trinkets on the tow path?

Then there's Ogopogo. Some Canadians figured out a few years ago, "Why should Loch Ness have a monopoly on water monsters?" So some ancient Indian sitings were trooped out to bolster the claims of the more recent European arrivals and now there's a museum, depositions, and Discovery Channel episodes! Wow! - must be true!

And how about all those aliens landing and abducting people, and ghosts that make the room cold, and witches that make the stew hot, and devils, vampires, werewolves, goblins, and all the other traditional spectral miscreants that we're already dealing with. Now there's a huge beaver!!?? Do we really need this?

So who are the Sycamore Islanders that have sited this beast? Why, our very own caretakers, Peter Jones and Doc Taliaferro. I mentioned this story the other day to a couple of guests who were swimming and met with a predictable reaction. "Puhleeze... like I'm worried. Does it nibble on toes like the fish or eat people whole?" I said I hadn't actually heard of any people being eaten but the thing is supposed to be around. She told me I should get a life. "Call me," she said, "if the thing's still around after the year 2000." (I'm still trying to figure that one out.)

Anyway, according to Doc (who has actually written this stuff up!) when the huge beaver stands on its legs, it's almost as tall as a man. "St. Bernardness" in size (actual quote). It easily climbs over the chicken wire on the trees and chews to its heart's content. Doc says he even yelled at it one night and waved his arms and the thing kept munching, with just casual glance at him to see what all the commotion was about. When Doc went out of his quarters to scare the beast away, it had disappeared!

So we are all warned that there's a beaver with an over-active pituitary gland prowling the river by night, probably driving the area's lady beavers into terror or ecstasy, or maybe is a lady beaver itself! Peter says that when he first spied the creature, he thought it the size of a small bear! (I swear, I'm not making this up!) He said his first thought was, "My God, do I swim in the same river as this thing?"

It is certainly true that the caretakers, by spending more time on the Island than any member, might spot wildlife the rest of us might miss. But Peter and Doc both have shared the Island with their partners so how come they haven't seen it? "Just our good luck, I suppose," said Holly Syrrakos, "and anyway, we could always blame stuff on it like how it ate all the toilet paper in the bathrooms when really, we just ran out."

What is clearly needed is a picture of the thing to calm the skeptics -- and not one of those grainy fake-looking pictures that grace the covers of alien abduction magazines or grocery store scandal-sheets. When I mentioned this to Doc, he said it wouldn't be easy. "Beavers are mostly active at night and my camera's on the blink these days."


Actually, there was never any real intention to discredit Peter's or Doc's sightings of a large beaver with this story. It just seemed to be a good vehicle for an amusing piece, and besides, a page for that Islander issue needed to be filled with something!

-- Tryon Wells