This column is for those of you who are weary of politics or for those who miss Russell Hively’s walks along the boulevard. My preferred method of exercise is paddling along the shore of Beaver Lake with my trusty “ski” belt, so I do not glimpse the foxes and other critters that inhabit Russell’s world. My critters tend to be herons and other water birds, squirrels and deer coming down for a drink, turtles and occasionally water snakes.
Sometimes I am accompanied by my elderly dog or faithful cat. But usually, after a quick swim, Dog heads back to the woods or house for a nap. Cat will sometimes nap under his shady bush on the beach. But today (this was written September 21 when the lake was still warm so I could swim) events unfolded in quite a different fashion. It was calm, cloudy and rain was expected, so Cat ventured out on a rock pile, trying to follow me into the lake without getting wet. I accommodated his curiosity and swam as close to that rock pile as I could. But if I had known then what would transpire at that rock pile an hour later, I would not have done so.
After exploring the shore looking for my heron, hoping to see him “pounce” on a fish as he had earlier in the week, or the spotted fawn who had come down for a drink the day before, I paddled back toward our “beach.” The rain had begun, Dog had deserted me, and even Cat had retreated under the trees and was sitting on a log watching me. Was it my imagination, or was that rock moving? It certainly was moving, and was NOT a rock. I was seeing my first river otter in the wild! How exciting was that! But I had no clue what was about to unfold.
Otter seemed to be following something swimming along the rocks at the water’s edge. Then Cat, who had been watching from his log about sixty feet away, suddenly launched himself down the beach toward Otter. Oh no! Otter was much larger than my little cat, and I certainly didn’t know how Otter would feel about being interrupted in his pursuit. Just as they both reached the vicinity of the afore-mentioned rock pile, Otter attacked his prey—a water snake. There ensued a couple minutes of battle between Otter and Snake, with Cat watching from a rock a few feet away. Midway through this skirmish, Otter warned Cat off, and Cat backed up a few feet, but was still intensely interested in this conflict. I was immensely grateful that Otter was so preoccupied with catching his meal that he could not be bothered with an unwelcome, curious intruder.
Eventually Otter was able to get a firm grip on his writhing lunch, and swam off determinedly in the direction of a nearby dock. I was thirty to forty feet from the pair and was not warned off. Otter may have been too busy to notice me. I swam toward the end of the dock, determined to see where Otter would take his quarry. This dock had four boat slips and six walkways to inspect. On the fourth one, below the decking and lying on the Insulbead floats, was Otter enjoying his feast. It took him well over half an hour to devour that snake, then suddenly he was gone, leaving only a small pile of bones.
While treading water watching Otter, I had time to be thankful for this rare opportunity, but also thankful that I do not have to hunt for my dinner. Now, two months later, as I watch the snow accumulating and prepare to send this to the newspaper, I realize that I neglected to share my bounty with the birds that may appreciate a little help during difficult times.
Happy Thanksgiving to all, and I hope you enjoy your feast as much as Otter did.
- Another Point of View column runs each week in The Neosho Daily News. This week's column is provided by Kate Rhoades.