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Why Paddy the Beaver Has a Broad Tail
Usually the thing that interests us most is something that we do not have and that is the way with Peter Rabbit. Mind you Peter is pretty well satisfied with what he has, which is quite as it should be. There is only one thing with which Peter is really dissatisfied, and it is only once in a while, and that one thing would be his tail. Yes indeed, that cute fluffy puff of a tail is the one thing that ever really troubles Peter.
You see, Peter’s tail is simply a funny little bunch of cotton, which doesn’t really look like a tail at all. The only time he ever sees it is when he has his back to the Smiling Pool and looks over his shoulder at his reflection in the water, and then, of course, he really doesn’t see his tail itself. So sometimes when Peter sees the tails of his neighbors, he wishes for just a little while that he had more of a tail too. Why, even little Danny Meadow Mouse has a full length tail, short as it is. And as for Happy Jack Squirrel and Reddy Fox and Bobby Coon and Jimmy Skunk, folks know what full fluffy tails they have. Once Peter thought about it so much that Grandfather Frog noticed how serious he was and asked Peter what the trouble was. When Peter told him that it seemed odd to him that Old Mother Nature had given him such a little tail when she had given others such long fluffy ones, Grandfather Frog just opened his big mouth and laughed until he had to hold his sides.
“Why, Peter,” he said, “you look so serious, that I thought you really had something to worry about. What would you do with a long fluffy tail, if you had one? It would always be in your way. Just think how many times Reddy Fox or old Granny Fox have almost caught you. They certainly would have before this, if you had had a long tail sticking out behind for them to get hold of. I had a long tail when I was a young tadpole, and I was mighty glad to get rid of it.”
After he heard that, Peter felt better. He didn’t lose interest in tails though, and he spent a great deal of time in wondering why some of his neighbors had big, bushy tails and some had long, slim tails and why he himself had almost no tail at all. So when Paddy the Beaver came to live in the Green Forest, and made a pond there by building a wonderful dam across the Laughing Brook, Peter couldn’t help notice what kind of a tail Paddy had, and the first time he got a really good look at it, his eyes almost popped out of his head. He just stared and stared. All he could think of was that great, broad, flat, thick tail, which is so unlike any tail he had ever seen or heard of.
The very next morning he hurried over to the Smiling Pool to tell Grandfather Frog about it. Grandfather Frog’s big, goggly eyes twinkled.
“Chug-a-rum!” he said. “Paddy the Beaver has one of the most useful tails I know of. Would you like to know how he comes by such a unique tail?”
“Oh, yes please Grandfather Frog! I didn’t suppose there was such a special tail in all the world, and I am curious as to what possible uses it can have. Do tell me about it!” cried Peter.
Presently Grandfather Frog cleared his throat two or three times and began to talk.
“Once upon a time, long, long ago, when the world was young—”
“It seems to me that everything wonderful happened long ago when the world was young,” interrupted Peter.
Grandfather Frog looked at Peter and Peter quietly settled in to hear the story without interrupting further.
“Once upon on a time, long, long ago, lived Mr. Beaver, the great-great-ever-so-great grandfather of Paddy up there in the Green Forest. Old Mr. Beaver was one of the hardest and smartest working of all of Old Mother Nature’s big family, just as Paddy is today. He always seemed happiest when he was busiest, and because he liked to be happy all the time, he tried to keep busy all the time.”
“Mr. Beaver was also very thrifty. He believed in preparing today for what might happen tomorrow, and so when he had all the food he needed for the present, he stored away food for the time when it might not be so easy to get. And Mr. Beaver believed in helping himself and did not leave everything up to Old Mother Nature to do for him. That is how he first came to think of making a dam and a pond. Like his small cousin, Mr. Muskrat, he was very fond of the water, and felt most at home and safest there. Although he found that sometimes the food which he liked best, which was the bark of certain kinds of trees, grew some distance from the water, and it was the hardest kind of work to roll and drag the logs down to the water, where he could eat the bark from them in safety.”
“He thought about this a great deal, and instead of going to Old Mother Nature and complaining, he studied and studied to find some way to make the work easier. One day he noticed that a lot of sticks had caught in the stream where he made his home, and that because the water could not work its way between them as fast as where nothing hindered it, it made a little pool just above the sticks. That made him think harder than ever. He brought some of the logs and sticks from which he had gnawed the bark and fastened them with the others, and right away the pool grew bigger. The more sticks he added, the bigger the pool grew. Mr. Beaver had discovered what a dam is for and how to build it.”
“‘Why, if I make a pond at the place nearest to my food trees,’” thought Mr. Beaver, “ ‘I can carry the water to the trees instead of the trees to the water; and that will be easier and ever so much safer as well. ‘ ”
“So Mr. Beaver built a dam at just the right place, while all the other little people watched and wondered why he was working so hard. Just as he had thought it would do, the dam made a pond, and the pond grew bigger and bigger, until it reached the very place where his food trees grew. Mr. Beaver built himself a big, comfortable house out in the pond, and then he went to work as hard as ever and he cut down trees and then cut them up into the right sized pieces to store away in his big food pile for the winter.”
“Now cutting down trees is very hard work. Mr. Beaver had to sit up on his hind legs to do it, and his legs grew very, very tired. In those days he had a tail very much like the tail of Jerry Muskrat. It was very useful when he was swimming and that was all. Sometimes he tried to brace himself with it—when he was sitting up to cut trees – however that didn’t work very well and so he stopped often to rest his aching legs which slowed down his work.”
“He was working just as usual one day when Old Mother Nature came along to see how he was getting on. She saw the new dam and the new pond, and she asked Mr. Beaver who had made them. He told her that he had and explained why. Old Mother Nature was greatly pleased to hear of his progress and stayed awhile to watch him cut a tree. She saw him try to brace himself with his tail and she saw him stop often to rest his aching tired legs.”
“‘That looks to me like pretty hard work,’” said Old Mother Nature.
“‘So it is,’ replied Mr. Beaver, stretching first one leg and then another. ‘Things worth having are worth working for,’ and with that he began cutting again.”
“‘You ought to have something to sit on,’” said Old Mother Nature, her eyes twinkling.
“Mr. Beaver nodded. ‘It would be very nice,’ he confessed, and went right on cutting without giving it a second thought.”
“Well the next morning he awoke to the greatest surprise of his life. He had a new tail! It was broad and thick and flat. It wasn’t like any tail he had ever seen or heard of. At first he didn’t know how to manage it, and yet when he tried to swim, he found that it was even better than his old tail for swimming. He hurried over to begin his day’s work, and there he made another discovery; his new tail was just the most splendid brace! It was almost like a stool to sit on, and he could work all day long without tiring his legs. Mr. Beaver was so very happy, and to show how happy he was, he worked harder than ever. And later he found that his new tail was just what he needed to pat down the mud with which he covered the roof of his house.”
“‘Why,’ he cried out with great joy, ‘I believe it is the most useful tail in all the world! Thank you Mother Nature!'”
“And that,” concluded Grandfather Frog, “is how Mr. Beaver came by his broad tail. And ever since that long-ago day, all Beavers have had broad tails.”
Purchase your copy of this P.L.A.Y. story adventure HERE!
The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver (Annotated):
A P.L.A.Y. Nature Story Activity Book
by Karen L. Willard
Learn all about amazing beaver behaviors in this P.L.A.Y.-filled nature story activity book based on the Thornton Burgess animal adventure series.
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This P.L.A.Y. guide book provides hours of entertainment as a read aloud to share with the whole family, a community group, in a classroom, or to simply curl up with solo.
The BONUS P.L.A.Y. guide pages include opportunities to:
illustrate each chapter
photos shared of real beaver activity
tree themed and blank nature journaling pages
recommended resources and so much more
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P.L.A.Y. Beaver VIDEO Series
Awwww SNAP! Paddy’s work has a set back as the tree he was gnawing snaps during a heavy wind, rain, and snow storm and has left this tree in a precarious position. Will he try to take it down or move on?
Old Dam – New Dam
The recent heavy rain and snow storm washed away parts of Paddy’s first dam and so he has now built a second dam further up the beaver canal, roughly 6 feet or so from the original location as well as approximately 6 feet across.
Collection of all BEAVER videos #1-44 on PINTEREST
From January 2019 to March 2020 Karen P.L.A.Y.fully captured signs of a beaver’s local activities at her home in the hilltowns of Massachusetts to pin and share the adventures with you on her Pinterest Beaver Board.
Purchase other P.L.A.Y. nature story books and adventure guides HERE.