The disappearance of Quill Gordon, shortly after Tropical Storm Irene, meant I was able to take over this blog for a while but it also meant covering for him at work. I met many members of the Neverwas Nonesuch Angling Society and the majority of them are terrific people. Some are even a lot of fun to hang out with. For a few of them, however, it is a wonder that no one has punched them in the nose.
I don’t know how he does it, working from the end of April through the end of October — on call 24/7 — taking reservations, making beds, bailing boats, unclogging toilets, stocking firewood and all the other things that go into running an old fishing camp. Add the human element, in the form of the aforementioned members and their guests, and it is easy to understand why Quill Gordon seems a little tired and cranky by the time the leaves begin to turn.
One might ask how hard it could be, scheduling simple tasks like bed making and toilet scrubbing but, as I found out, there is a lot more to Quill’s job than toilets and beds, and few things go as planned around here. Every day brings new surprises and challenges.
Quill Gordon has returned home safely and wants his blog and his job back. He can have them. But first, one last post from me.
There was plenty of warning that Irene was coming and heavy rain was likely to fall. Quill used some of that lead time to make sure the culverts he maintains around the property were clear of debris and flowing freely. Even so, the amount of rain that fell was more than they could handle and one of his roads was over-topped.
Acres of woods upstream from the culverts were flooded.
Because the pair of 24-inch culverts beneath this section of road were clear, the water drained away fairly quickly, with minimal damage. A few trees brought down by the rushing water were cut back and Quill was able to move on to other projects, like chainsawing a path down the main road to town.
After surveying the damage in Weston — Town Office flooded, mill stream dam collapsed; back wall of the Playhouse imploded and a 1,000 pound piano flipped on its back; foundations and roads washed out; the village market and fire station full of muck, with all sorts of mud and debris everywhere else — the quick over-topping of a small road was nothing, and Quill gave himself a little pat on the back for remembering to clear the culverts.
As soon as he was gone, however, the beavers gave him the finger, or whatever passes for a finger on their stupid, webbed, rodent paws and, in less than a day, the local subsidiary of Nature’s Little Engineers, Inc. plugged the culverts and stopped the flow.
It was a hit-and-run operation, their workmanship shoddy. Quill said they hadn’t worked these culverts at all this season and I don’t think they expected the major obstacle to success they encountered, which turned out to be me.
They began with a few sticks, clumps of grass, and a lot of mud, but I tore those things out. The next night they floated in chunks of birch and downed spruce trees. At their dinner break they ate the bark off a clump of young maples, creating half a dozen naked, twelve-foot poles which they shoved length-wise into the pipes, followed by more mud, grass and whatever else was handy.
Unable to find the upstream end of the culverts in the cold, dark water, I worked carefully from the downstream end of one, reaching in, snagging and pulling what I could with a long-handled, four-pronged cultivator. Each reach brought out more debris and soon the slow drip of water became a trickle. Balancing carefully on the slippery rocks at the mouth of the culvert, I prepared to stretch into the 24-inch pipe for one more grab with my tool. As I bent to the task a tremendous noise like a fart echoed through the woods.
The noise did not come from me, as I know how my waders muffle the sounds I emit. The noise came from the culvert. I had broken the seal the beavers had made and the trickle of water became a muddy rivulet. I leaned in, up past my shoulders, ready to capitalize on my success, when another noise arose, this time a rumble I felt in my bones.
If Quill Gordon were to tell it, I am sure he would make a heroic leap, clinging to an overhanging branch as the blockage broke loose. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water would roar through the pipe, beaver poles with chiseled ends would fly like spears past his feet and rocks the size of cannon balls would shoot out like, well, cannon balls.
I, however, screamed like a girl and scrambled up the slippery bank as fast as I could.
Every night for a week the beavers did their level best to permanently plug the culverts and every morning I did my level best to clear them, all the while being careful to not be sucked through the pipes at the upstream end and not get skewered or crushed by the debris coming out the downstream end. The arrival of my friend Vic Salvo allowed the documenting of work that normally gets done alone, out in the woods where no one sees what goes on. It’s not often that a guy has his own personal photographer along. It is probably even less often that the photographer has his own photographer along …
It was cold, wet, lonely work, re-establishing the flow through those culverts every day. There was plenty of other work that took a back seat to saving the road and I began to understand why Quill is sometimes a little testy when it comes to beavers.
Quill Gordon can have his job back. I’m going fishing.
(One of our favorite blogs, The Angler’s Culvert, recently brought up the need for fly fishing to have an adjective. They suggested we all ask ourselves, “Am I culvert?” I believe this post proves that Quill Gordon and I are, indeed, “culvert.”
The Angler’s Culvert is also home to one of the funniest stories either Quill or I have ever read. Certainly not suggested for the squeamish, but highly recommended, is their story “Sporting? Yes — but is it ethical?“)
Quill Gordon plans to take back this blog on Friday, October 14.