The ranch hands found him
half grown and half starved
wandering through the hills
five miles from any real water

Rolled him up in a leather jacket
threw him in the back of the jeep
brought him home and set him loose
in that big slough north of the barn

And what an architect he turned out to be
building his house with cedar post beams
and mud and straw and sticks for walls
larger and homier than a sodbuster’s cabin

A aquatics engineer as well
every inch of his domain cobwebbed
with small rivulets to larger streams
to little rivers all running to his castle

Spill a cup of coffee anywhere in twenty acres
and he could sip it in his home

Mighty impressive and a good neighbor too
until the dry years came

At the edge of the slough was a dugout
where the cattle watered spring and fall
and mostly in winter when we chopped
a hole through thick ice and the cattle’s
weight pushed water to the surface

The beaver needed water too
and he knew what to do
dig a hole through the soft dirt bank
and steal his water from our tank

I watched the surface a long patient time
to see the Vee of his swimming
to shining brown of his head
and fill it with lead

My brother held him up, large as a small man

Life on the ranch is very simple, as was I
what interferes with living has to die
as a city boy might swat a fly

Had they gotten to me then
I could have gone to war