The Busy Body Beaver: An American Fable
Thou find'st to be too busy is some danger
Deep in the forest, far from human eyes
Lived four creatures of diverse skill and size.
They made their home where a rushing river bends,
And there they lived the most unlikely of friends.
So long had they lived with each other here
And generations before them, lived year after year
That they had forgotten the source of their bond,
The delicate balance their lives depend on,
For the river didn’t always bend like it does:
Once the deep water was all that there was.
The land that they live on was submerged beneath
Before the first beaver came there with is teeth.
Slowly but surely, piece by piece, board by board,
He damned up the water, diverting it toward,
Another direction, just out of the way,
And eventually made a place for others to stay.
And others did come, now that the land was dry,
A squirrel, and a bird, and a bear all came by,
And made their homes where the water was diverted,
They lived there together in a harmony concerted:
The squirrel gathered nuts one by one with his hands
The bird built his nest out of sticks from the land,
And the bear ventured out in the shallows catching salm’n,
While the beaver worked securing the hold of the dam.
In this delicate balance the four animals thrived
Year after year, the generations survived,
And in the rainy season when the water gets high
Behind the strong dam they were all safe and dry.
Each to his work, his own job to do
Not quite like clockwork, no, more like glue
Holding them together, each freely giving
In the delicate balance of purposeful living.
But one day, the beaver, filled with boredom I guess
Looked over at the squirrel working hard without rest,
And he thought, how foolish to labor so hard so long
To grab one by one with two hands is just wrong,
So he took it upon himself to show his friend
A new way to put his labor to an end.
He said, “Why don’t you just load a bunch on your tail?
You could carry more at once, then rest and inhale,
Letting you keep on this way would be a crime,
For you could fill your needs in just half the time.
Here, I’ll show you, do it like this.”
And he piled fifteen acorns at once on his,
But when the squirrel tried with his bushy tail,
The acorns wouldn’t stay, so he did fail.
But the busy beaver would not let it go, and so
He did the job for him, laying more acorns in a row
Than the squirrel could ever do on his own.
Progress was made and the job was done.
The squirrel could now rest in comfort and peace
Not worried that his food supply would ever decrease,
And having done that the busy beaver felt good,
Then he saw the bird, working, as he idly stood,
Flying about going this way and that,
Looking for branches, twigs, and sticks, whereat
He could sweep down and gather each one to make
Into his nest for his future children’s sake.
And the beaver seeing this, thought it absurd
And he felt sorry for this little bird,
Scrounging around for just sticks from on the ground,
Depending so much on just what could be found,
He thought it would be better to teach his good friend
How to make twigs, himself, so then,
He called up to the bird from beneath,
And showed him how he could cut wood with his teeth,
But when the bird tried to bite through the wood,
And whether or not he would or he should,
He found there was just no way that he could.
He hurt his mouth. He broke his beak,
And before the bird could even speak,
Feeling so bad, the beaver just did it himself,
And the bird just sat by at rest on the shelf.
He didn’t care, it was done, there was no guilt
And before they knew it the nest was all built,
So the bird like the squirrel sat happily by
Free to rest, in the shade, underneath the clear sky.
And having finished the beaver felt good again,
Knowing he had helped out his poor friend
And feeling such pride, he then saw the bear
Up to his waist in the water over there,
And thought to himself though my friend is large
Think of all the energy he has to discharge,
Trying to catch slippery fish in his paws,
Relying on simply the strength of his jaws.
“If I could show him how to do it
He wouldn’t have to keep going through it
Again and again, day after day,
He could rest, instead, get a chance to play.
No one should have to toil and struggle long,
When good folks like me can right the wrong.”
So he grabbed the bear aside and told him,
“Build a trap in the water instead to hold them.
And with the fish there with no place to run,
You can reach down, and grab each one,
No need to wait for a fish to get near,
Any time you want one, it will be right here.”
But the bear had no mind for building with wood
And though he thought that the plan was good
He just didn’t believe him that he could.
“I like my way, and I do just fine,
But I appreciate your being so kind.
I’ll just do it my way, never you mind.”
The busy beaver said, “No I insist.
I can’t let you so stubbornly persist.
I’ll just do it for you, it’s easy you see.
Just stand aside, hey I’ll do it for free.”
And he spent the rest of that day, building the trap
While the bear sat bouncing his cubs on his lap.
And the view of the family made the beaver feel smart,
He felt so generous to give such a gift from the heart.
The beaver liked helping, enjoyed to be working,
And the others didn't feel like they were shirking
"He's just doing it better than you or me,
And more than that, who can beat it, it's free!"
Nothing seemed wrong, no one could suppose
And the rainy season came, and the water rose.
The dam stayed firm, the acorns were all kept,
The eggs were warmed, and the bear was full and slept.
No danger did they see, not even a sign
All seemed as if it were perfectly fine.
But when the time for work did come
The other animals refused to do their sum.
"Could you do what you did last year again?"
When the beaver hesitated, the animals complained,
"You do it better than we ever could
And you are so kind, so loving, so good"
Just like this, the desperate animals pleaded,
Just like this, the desperate animals pleaded,
The beaver felt flattered, felt good, felt needed,
And so he did help them again year after year,
He was loved, and honored, respected and cheered.
As long as he did their jobs for them
They acted as if they all adored him,
But their gratitude quickly began to fade,
They expected and needed the things he made,
And though they never at first asked about it,
Having been given it, they couldn't live without it.
Now they had forgotten how to do their jobs
Their idleness had made them useless slobs.
And since the dam had been long neglected
The years going by without it being inspected
The water began to drip slowly through it
The dam started breaking though none of them knew it.
And if something isn't done really soon,
Though they think their lives are safe and immune
They won't survive to see the next June.
And in the face of this impending disaster
The busy beaver worked all the more faster,
But not where he should have fixing the leaks
Instead he worked to improve his techniques
Building the systems to help his friends all the more
His own job he did completely ignore
He had done what they wanted, was popular, succeeded,
But did not give them what they really needed.
And the leak it grew, to a trickle and then,
It burst open completely and flooded the glen.
All was lost, the four friends and their families all drowned
Not one patch of dry ground was left to be found.
And a lesson is here for us all to learn
That to progress is something for which we all yearn,
Innovation ignoring the truth from the past,
Can never, no never, be destined to last,
To labor is life, and nothing is free,
A hard day's work is full of dignity,
And when helping turns into doing things for,
The danger is there for it growing to more,
Sitting idly by is a comfort to all,
But is a tower that always will fall.
~ Rev. Peter T. Atkinson