Last weekend I got an email from a man who used to have a cabin on our lake. He sent the following anecdote to be published in our lake newsletter. He originally wrote it in a letter to his brother in 1983 and by the best of his recollection it occurred in 1968. What is amazing to me is that the entire incident, with the possible exception of the beaver*, could take place in June 2019.
A Convergence of Wildlife
One evening about fifteen years ago I went out fishing on [our lake]. It was one of those still summer evenings when the lake gets mirror-smooth and sounds echo across the lake with a beautiful, natural amplification. My boat gurgled to a stop on the east side of the lake just to the north of the narrow island. The sun was setting in all its glory to the west. Warm, still, quiet, peaceful, serene, mirror smooth… it felt great to be alive! The loons called out and echoed, and called again. My cup runneth over. I casted toward shore at my favorite spot where I once had caught a northern pike when northerns were very rare. The plug plopped on the water and made a loud splash, all else was pin-drop quiet. A great blue heron glided silently over the other island as a pair of ducks ducks, trailed by four fuzzy duckling in single file, lightly broke the silence with an occasional quack. I thought about the nice coincidence that I had seen loons, a heron, and a family of ducks all within minutes of each other. Suddenly a horrendous splash stopped by heartbeat in its tracks. As my heart regained its rhythm I saw that it was a nearby beaver slapping its warning sign to its family. I’m sure they heard it! Beavers were also rare at that time and I again reflected on this wildlife coincidence. Quietness again prevailed as I casted a few more casts toward shore. The casts were unsuccessful but I didn’t mind in the least. I was just happy to be there. Ten minutes had gone by since I had arrived at the spot when to my amazement, not more than fifty yards from me, a doe and a fawn were standing at the shoreline drinking from the lake. They saw me just as I saw them, when suddenly my fishing rod jerked intensely toward the water. I set the hook as the doe and fawn bounded up the hillside and away. I landed the four-pound northern, released him, and headed back to the cabin to tell my family of the experience.
One might wonder if I’ve embellished this story with perhaps a deer, a fawn, a beaver, a northern pike, a heron, a pair of loons, or a family of ducks. Who would know? There were no witnesses and it was a long time ago. All I can say is that it is absolutely true; it happened just this way in less than half an hour’s time.
This little story could probably never be published in anything other than a [lake association] newsletter. It was no big deal. Who would care — unless you’re a cabin owner on [our lake]. We who know and love the lake can clearly visualize the scene and appreciate the story. Let’s do all we can to help preserve the lake and wildlife so this experience could possible repeat itself for others. Feel free to one-up my story with an eagle, a walleye, a bobcat, bear or whatever. It’s possible now, let’s keep it possible in the future.
I replied with my own sort-kinda-maybe-a-little-one-up story.
One evening in the late ’90 my two boys and I went for a bike ride. I was hot and sweaty when we got back so I threw on my swimsuit and jumped in the lake. It was a still night, much like the one you described, and after a brief swim I was relaxing on an air mattress. I was floating on my stomach, daydreaming, when I heard a soft whish-whish above me. When I looked up, I saw a mature bald eagle passing about ten feet above me. I will never forget that experience.
He in turn replied:
I liked your eagle story. I spent many wonderful hours on air mattresses at Antler and can picture your story very well. I had a similar experience. I was standing with a guest on our bench that overlooks the lake. I was bragging to him about all the wildlife we enjoyed at [our lake]. About mid-sentence an eagle flew just over the treetops behind us and swooped down to the lake surface perhaps forty feet from the shore in front of us. What I remember most clearly were the bright yellow talons that were set for action and so vividly close. What a wonderful place [that little lake] is.
I try to remind myself every day how lucky I am to be able to live here in such a beautiful and calm and natural setting, and how lucky we were to be able to raise our boys here, first every summer and later year-round. Nature is restorative; I need to spend more of my free time in it. The wildlife photos below were all taken from our house or deck.
* Beavers are still around, although not always visible. Our dog Lucy (R.I.P., sweet dog) tangled with one at a patch of open water at our shoreline one winter. Lucy came away with a bleeding ear. The beaver escaped unscathed. Moral: don’t mess with a beaver if you have ears.