Paddy

Bill Elliott’s drawings are as true to life as they are delightful.

Because I needed both hands to paddle the canoe, I put the kit into my shirt and buttoned it; then I paddled for home.

I was deliberately slow returning to the campsite with my newly found ward because I didn’t want to disturb him any more than was necessary. I let the canoe drift after every third stroke and I released the paddle with my left hand so as to caress the young beaver, pressing him against the warmth of my body and hoping that contact with something living and gentle would give him the reassurance he so badly needed.

Illustration (c) 1977 By Bill Elliot

The kit didn’t struggle, but he shivered, an almost imperceptible quaking that emphasized his shock and fear. Each time I put my hand over him the shaking lessened, but as soon as I returned to the paddle, I could feel the shivers against my diaphragm. I wanted to hurry, to race back to the campsite and give the orphan the care that he must quickly have if he was to survive; but I knew I must remain calm, for the little animal was very near to total nervous collapse and could not endure unbridled haste. I forced myself to paddle slowly and rhythmically, curbing my impatience as the distance to the rocky shoreline lessened like a filmed scene in projected slow motion.

I don’t think it took more than about three minutes to complete the short trip, but my anxiety for the beaver was so great that the 180 seconds seemed to tick away like so many hours, and when the canoe at last became beached on the shelving rock, I felt my tensions rise to a point of almost maximum adrenalin, not a good thing under any circumstance, but particularly undesirable now. Perhaps others have shared such an experience; it’s somewhat like a bad dream, like being chased and attempting to run, but not moving from the horror, so that panic rises and the heart beats loudly and the sweat starts and, mercifully, one wakes up. But this wasn’t a dream and the kit’s miserable condition was my goad; my memory of the scene where his mother had met her death was vivid reality inside my head.

Overanxious now, and fearful that at the last moment the it would die, I let emotion get the upper hand for a few moments; then I made myself calm by using an old trick I stumbled on years earlier: I began to think of beautiful things, of calm things, like flowers and quiet water and sunshine. it was an effort, but I managed to put my mind into a neutral and peaceful state that slowed my wild heart and allowed my caressing fingers to stroke the kit with affectionate reassurance.

Clasping him to me, I got out of the canoe and walked slowly to the tent, unzippered the flap with care so as not to make a sudden noise, and I went inside. Immediately I felt better, but I was still concerned. Wild things, especially young ones, are acutely sensitive to mood and are able to pick up “sense waves” from that aura which, like some intangible breeze, seems to be given off by all living creatures. This is a phenomenon of life that defies comprehension at this stage of human enlightenment, but it does, nevertheless, exist–of this I am sure.

Inside the tent, within the familiar surroundings of my own “den,” I felt personally secure and much more confident, and I believe this became evident in my voice as I talked softly to the kit while I undid my shirt and reached inside it for his little balled body. he looked at me calmly enough when I brought him out and he seemed pathetically trustful as I held him and then lifted him in my cupped hands and brought him close to my face, breathing directly into his partly opened mouth and into his nostrils, wanting him to get my scent, to relate to me, to know that the creature in whose keeping he now was would care for him and comfort him.

Paddy (c) 1977 R.D. Lawrence ISBN: 0-380-44594-8

Also available as an e-book.

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