Beavers and Neighbours

The beavers are thriving on Kedey Island and Fitzroy Harbour. At night their tails slap the river as they bring down the trees like rapacious Scott MacNealys. Only oaks are good enough: they turn their snouts up at the basswood that grows like weeds.

The beavers are thriving on Kedey Island and Fitzroy Harbour. At night their tails slap the river as they bring down the trees like rapacious Scott MacNealys. Only oaks are good enough: they turn their snouts up at the basswood that grows like weeds.

The fecund beavers have polarised the hood, and I am entertained by reports of the debate. String ’em up by their buck teeth, says one side: the country-born, the Albertans, the tree-huggers. Don’t upset the fluffy animals! says the equally well-established colony of pinko freelance writers. “It says in _Cottage Life_ that beavers don’t like loud rock music,” I offer helpfully, but so far we haven’t got around to dosing them with Creedence Clearwater Revival. Inertia is with the beavers, and with luck they’ll make a log bridge by spring.

Kedey Island is about a sixth the size of Central Park, but the human inhabitants are nicely varied. I got to meet some as they closed up their cottages this Thanksgiving weekend. The next-door neighbours are a Thai-Cambodian family now from Ottawa, determined that their boat won’t be ice-bound this winter. I scored a dinner invitation when I dredged up _Sawat dii khaa_ in greeting, much to my own surprise. Behind this cabin lives a pair of sisters who have been coming here since the 1930s. This year they coped with their stolen lawnmower by rowing the replacement back to the mainland for the winter. There’s a retired Chemistry professor from Alberta, a right-winger who clashes with the colony of writers and artists. The Helferty family place has a Dodge straight out of Havana in the back yard. It was marooned on the island in the Fifties when the ice melted early one spring, and has never left. Further down there’s a beautiful old camp owned by a woman who worked in what used to be called Silicon Tundra, the Nortel-Alcatel-Corel corridor a short way down the highway. A Chinese family putters about the only cabin on the tiny island next door: they retired this year, Molly says, so they can start enjoying the damn place at last. Murray, the Toronto writer has been coming to his wife’s family’s cottage for twenty years. He warns me about the mean German Shepherd in the place next to his.

Then there’s an abandoned cabin that calls to my new building instincts. Carved into the outhouse wall in beautiful serif script: “Edward Kedey, 1915”. The carving may be an island feature, or maybe a cottage tradition that’s new to me. The beams that hold up Tim’s cabin are a palimpsest of the visitors since the thirties. “Les Swamp Girls, été ’98”. “John D. 1986 England.” He’s carved his name near the top of the second beam. I haven’t signed this wooden guestbook yet.