Beavers, snakes and other tales from Perch Creek

Perch Creek isn’t a big tourist destination, but it’s been at the center of many of my life’s formative moments.

“The Creek” is a beloved – and revered – spot for my family, and it runs through our property in rural Lincoln County. “Runs” is a strong word, really; it’s more of a lazy flow, and that only happens when its path isn’t obstructed by beaver dams. And, let me tell you, those beavers are a pest, and they can build a dam quicker than you can finish this column.

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, who lived a hop, skip and jump away from “The Creek.” My grandpa Jerry, who died at age 90 in 2016, was always at war with the aforementioned beavers, and we’d get on his old John Deere tractor and travel to that narrow stream of water to lay scary-looking traps. I thought I was a real big shot riding with him on that tractor, and I knew we were fellow soldiers united against a common, furry enemy.

My grandma Bernice would sometimes ride with us to “The Creek,” but I can’t for the life of me remember how we all fit on that single-seat tractor. I’m reminded of the introduction to “The Beverly Hillbillies” and specifically the scene where Granny is strapped to the top of the truck in her rocking chair. We probably looked something like that, but we had a lot of fun, and we made it back and forth safely each time.

Grandma was an expert worrier, and she always admonished me to watch out for snakes, which were a common sight. Her eyes were always on me, even as she dipped her toes in the cold water, and I knew I was safe at her side. She passed away – also at age 90 – in 2019, but I think of the two of them daily. I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing them.

I spent a lot of time at “The Creek” with my parents and siblings, too. Our weekend visits were like mini-vacations, and we’d ride four-wheelers through well-maintained paths or find a deep enough hole to go swimming. My mom would spend her time there looking for distinctive rocks to add to her rock garden, and my dad, who is a skilled carpenter, would look for trees that could be used for his latest project. As for me, I’d build sand castles, fight imaginary monsters or pretend to be a U.S. Navy captain on an epic voyage.

One summer, I decided to build a little ship and set it to sail in the mighty waters of “The Creek.” I don’t recall all of the items I used to construct my fine vessel, but I do remember using some old scraps of material for the sails and two empty water bottles for flotation. I think a piece of cardboard served as the deck, and I taped a Power Rangers action figure to the ship to serve as its navigator and commanding officer. I’m pretty sure it fell apart the minute it hit the water, and that was my first – and last – attempt at shipbuilding.

I had a lot of good times at “The Creek,” and I’ll always cherish those memories. I think I’ll pay it a visit soon, and I’ll leave my phone in the car and enjoy nature for a bit. I may even take my shoes off and wade in the water. Don’t worry, Grandma. I’ll keep an eye out for snakes. And, Grandpa … I’ll yell at a couple of beavers for you, too.

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