Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Modern Muskrat Love

A muskrat cruise through Astotin Lake.

The bump in the water is a muskrat. We saw a few of the little critters as we canoed on Astotin Lake in Elk Island National Park last weekend.

They seem so happy. Whether they are or not depends, one assumes, on the muskrat and what kind of a day it’s having. This one went about its important muskrat business and barely took notice of us.

It was so peaceful to paddle on the lake and watch the wildlife. I found it soothing to see the muskrats float by us. Maybe they were busy, maybe they were doing patrols of their lodges, or maybe they like to come out and laugh at the silly two legs who float on top of the water instead of in it like sensible souls.

He also reminded me of other times. When I was young I was a tomboy. I took more of an interest in the farm and the outdoors than cooking, or clothing styles, or talking about boys, or personal grooming beyond keeping my hair combed when I thought about it, or other activities commonly associated with females. In short, girly stuff bored me senseless. In all frankness it still does.

What I loved to do was go out with my dad on the long spring evenings to check for beaver and muskrat in the creek about a quarter-mile up the road. Our farm was more than a half-mile off the highway and surrounded by trees. This made it quiet for us and a haven for the wild things.
Dad hunted muskrat and beaver in those years. The creek had plenty to offer, we believed, and taking out a few a season was just something we did.
We’d mimic the sound of a beaver slapping its tail on the water by dropping a rock off the bridge. Later, if dad’s .22 was true, we’d throw rocks in the creek beyond the poor thing’s lifeless body so the ripples would send it to the shore. Dad was a damned fine shot. He did not miss.

I lost interest in this around puberty. Dad did too. It’s been nearly 40 years since I went hunting with him in the evenings. Today I have no desire to kill anything. I’d rather watch the critters go about their lives.
I’m neither proud nor ashamed of the evenings at the creek. It happened. It’s there. It exists as part of my past and watching the muskrats on the lake brought those days back to me. I do not miss the hunt, but I miss the time.


Frank Baron said...

Leah, I can relate to this post in ways that would take the better part of a book to describe. (And I'm pecking away at that book.)

Muskrats are interesting critters. I see them occasionally at my creek and cottage. Last week, Hilary and I watched one in a pond near her place. I'm glad you and your husband had such an enjoyable time. Probably just as nice as the muskrats did. :)

the Bag Lady said...

Thanks for sharing your memory of time spent with your dad! Hunting beaver and muskrat was just something that had to be done.

Like you, though, I'd much rather just watch them.

Thomma Lyn said...

what a poignant post about time spent with your dad. And I understand about not being much of a girly-girl. :)

Leah J. Utas said...

Frank, I look forward to your book.
I suspect we enjoyed ourselves nearly as much as the lake critters.

dfBag Lady, my pleasure. It was a different time back then.

Thomma Lyn, thanks. Good to know there are other non-girlies around.

Missicat said...

Never seen a muskrat! Would love to be in a place to just observe them at play.
Of course now I have that Captain and Tennille song stuck in my head. THANKS!!!

Leah J. Utas said...

Missicat, I hope you get a chance to see them live and in person, as it were.
As for the song, well, it was in my head most of the weekend.

Hilary said...

I was about to nudge Frank over here because I knew he'd relate, but I see he's already commented. :)

A lot can be learned from your last paragraph.. wise words. I'm glad you had both a memorable and memory-evoking day.

Leah J. Utas said...

Hilary, thanks so much. That's good to hear. So many people look at the events of their lives through the lens of today's sensibilities. It warps the memories and there's really nothing good about it. We did what we did and it made us who we are.

Barbara Martin said...

I remember when muskrat pelts were used to make fur coats, a nice alternative for those who could not afford mink or something more exotic. My mother gave me a jacket made of them: very nice and warm.

My farm raised cousins would kill off some every year too, to prevent them from flooding the farmland.

Rabbi Lars Shalom said...

the giood poin tis the effort

Reb said...

Sounds like a good memory of times with your dad.

Glad you enjoyed the lake.

Leah J. Utas said...

Barbara, there's local woman who has said that muskrats are good eating, and I have a Canadian cookbook that I believe has some recipes for this sort of wild game. It's sure not like they were killed for sport.

Rabbi Lars Shalom, yes.

It sure is, Reb.