A Tale of Friendship：Chapter One
Years ago, even before the Indian had set foot in America, there lived a colony of beavers on the banks of a tributary of the Mattawamkeag River in upper Maine. Semi-mountainous, it was a beautiful place with willow, elm and pine trees and plants such as fern and duckweed. The banks of the tributary were dotted with meadows of wild grass created by the beavers in the cutting of trees to build their dam.
The beaver pond and dam
The beaver colony was neither large nor small, having three families and ten members, and like all beaver they worked very hard to dam the small river. Although the beavers took occasional breaks, usually for not more than half an hour, one beaver relished sitting at the water's edge deep in thought. He worked harder and faster just so he could sit still longer. If they kept busy with the who and what of things, he found value in the if and why of things -- for hours at a time.
One day in early spring while he was sitting on the bank deep in thought about why trees should shed their leaves in winter, he was distracted by a loud "quack-wack-wack" and "rab-rab-rab". He looked up to see four mallard ducks attacking a smaller one that limped, chasing her from the water onto the bank near him. She struggled to get a foothold, suffering numerous pecks, and he saw anguish in her eyes. It was too much for his sense of fairness. "Stop that," he blurted out.
The ducks ceased their pecking and fell back astonished. They were accustomed to being ignored by beavers so what was this? He glared at them but didn't say anything more, so all but the small one that limped jumped back in the water. She caught her breath before quacking, "Why did you do that?"
The beaver shrugged, "They're always picking on you. I got tired of it."
"Well," she said, "They didn't used to pick on me. But nobody else cares -- not ducks, and certainly not beavers. It's... very curious."
"Why, yes." The duck began preening her feathers, pretending indifference. "I notice things. If I didn't I couldn't keep out of the way of those hooligans always chasing me. I notice you sit here far more than other beavers do, and...that makes me curious."
The beaver sighed. "Oh, I like that word "curious...curiosity, curiously, curiousness." He rolled the sounds over his tongue like the taste of a tender willow sprig. "I am myself curious about many things. For instance, what is your name?"
The beaver lowered his voice as if they were co-conspirators. "Miena, my name is Dooro. I have a question. I've often wondered about those objects that hang in the sky. Not the clouds, but the round things, that very big bright one during the day, and the dimmer one at night along with all the sparkles. Have you flown there? Can you touch them?"
"Oh, no!" she said. "It doesn't matter how high I fly, they're always farther. I suspect I could fly for ten summertimes and never reach them."
Dooro was so impressed Miena flapped her wings momentarily. "Yes, when you fly you do notice a lot of things. Like, did you know there are not just other rivers and lakes like we have right here, but a lake so big it takes weeks, maybe months, to fly across? I've never actually crossed it, but we ducks hear stories from other birds. It tastes salty and strange animals swim in there, like a fish so big it could swallow this pond in one gulp."
The beaver was enchanted. He'd never heard such a thing. He listened in rapt wonder as the duck talked on about seals, dolphins, water spouts and hurricanes. She had an endless supply of information, so their conversation continued for hours punctuated only by the beaver's quick dips into the water. He apologized, explaining that he needed to wet his paws or they developed cracks in the warm spring air. The more Dooro listened the more Miena told until they had talked late into the afternoon and the trees' shadows had became fingers long and thin, and a cool breeze had sprung up.
"I have to go now," said Dooro.
"Me, too," Miena echoed and reluctantly slipped back into the pond.
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