By Art Bupkis
Once upon a time, in a fair Manitoba meadow, lived a woodchuck named Charlotte. But never call her a groundhog! If you did, you were in for it, as she came from a long line of stuffy, entitled woodchucks. Indeed, her father had insisted on being called “Charles”, never “Chuck”.
This family of woodchucks considered themselves “the quality” of the neighbor-hood, and loved to lord over “the peasants”, the field mice. How’d they do it? Bullying, plain and simple. If a field mouse did not bow, or genuflect when one of “the great ones” passed, the big rodent would simply roll upon it. In the case of ten-pound Charlotte, that meant one mashed mouse.
Well, finally the mice had had it. They may have endured Charles, but Charlotte was worse. Not only was she now demanding to be called ‘Lady’ Charlotte, but she’d just issued an edict that each night two mice were to come into her burrow and rub her back. Have you ever smelled a groundhog burrow?
The mice called a meeting. Even all together none of them wanted to take Charlotte on by themselves. Back then mice weren’t very brave. One mouse suggested hiring a badger, but the others objected that a badger would certainly eat them. Perhaps they could hire a lawyer; but, besides being somewhat uncomfortable with rats, the mice were cheap and didn’t want to spend the money. Maybe a charitable fellow rodent, one of stature, might do. They decided to hire a porcupine.
Off the mice marched up the hill and into the heavy pine forest to find a porcupine. It wasn’t long before they saw a sign above a wide burrow under a fallen tree:
Sir Lances-A-Lot Porcupine, Knight Errant
The mice explained their predicament to the prickly but gallant fellow. He was sympathetic, but there was a problem. He had just taken on another mission. A hunter had been through the day before and blasted a covey of quail with a load of birdshot. Miraculous that none of the birds had been killed, but they now feared the hunter would come back with a dog. Wounded, and all dripping blood, the dog would have little trouble finding them. The quail had sought the porcupine’s protection, and there they were, in a shrub behind his burrow. If the dog came by, he’d get quills in his face before he could alert the hunter. No dog barks with a face full of quills. Whimper yes, bark no.
The mice were persistent. Whatever the quail were paying they’d double it if the porcupine would only come down that very afternoon and drive Charlotte off. It wouldn’t take long; he’d be back before sundown. But, being a warrior of true chivalry, Sir Lances-A-Lot said that, no, his duty was to stay right there and guard the holey quail.
Still, the punny knight did want to help the mice, and had a suggestion. Beaver are the biggest rodents around, and quite formidable. A few whacks from a beaver tail would surely send “Lady Charlotte” packing. And, he knew just the fellow. Buster, a young beaver who lived just inside the city limits of the little town on the other side of the hill, was eager to find work.
Off the mice went again. It was easy to find Buster Beaver, and it was quite evident that he needed help, too. There the poor chap was, sitting in the bed of a dried-up beaver pond, crying his eyes out. It seems the stream that had nourished his traditional family abode forever, had been diverted recently to supply water for an oil fracking operation. This was despite the fact that Buster’s ancestors had once been the town’s mascots. Indeed, the Scotsmen who first settled there had so admired the industry of the local beaver, that they passed strict laws to protect them. But today no one cared about Buster, not with a lot of fracking money to be made. What a disgrace, given that the humble, hard-working beaver is still the national animal of Canada, despite the recent efforts of polar bears to muscle in on the gig.
The mice had an easy negotiation with Master Beaver. When Buster heard there was a stream running through the meadow where the mice lived, and that there were big, wonderful trees all around, the deal was struck immediately. All the young beaver had to do was run Charlotte off, then settle in with his new friends. The mice would leave it to Buster to build his own home as he chose.
Now to spank the daylights out of “Lady Charlotte”.
“Hip, hip, hurray for Buster Beaver! Hurrah!” “Ma Lady” was never seen again.
The mice celebrated most of the evening before retiring to their own little burrows, but after midnight, one by one they started to awaken. At first some thought they’d wet their beds, but as the water rose, all had to flee or drown.
By dawn the whole field was flooded because Buster had worked all night to complete his new dam. The mice were now homeless.
Sadly, but not surprising, in the famous case of Mice v. Beaver, the courts sided with Buster, ruling that what he did was fully allowed by the deal that he’d struck with the mice. Angry to this day, said mice are now the most ardent supporters of a bill to have the polar bear replace the beaver as Canada’s national animal, and they roam the halls of Parliament squeaking their demand. And, in Quebec Provence, with what police described as a blind rage, three meat cleaver-wielding mice ranting about separation hacked an innocent school-age beaver to death. They have yet to be apprehended, but there is a million dollar reward for the arrest of little Theodore Beaver’s vicious killers.
And the moral of this story?
No matter the cost, always have a lawyer specify all possible details of a contract up front. Even in Canada you can’t just leave it to beaver.