'Bucky Beaver,' the apple tree thief

Peering across the yard, I notice my little apple tree appears to be listing badly to starboard. Its leaves look badly withered, too.

How odd. All my young trees received a deep watering just yesterday.

The fruit tree's limbs seem unattached to the trunk as I continue to squint across my riverside lot.

Dropping the garden hose, I scramble across the grass, the oft-repeated words of my dearly departed mom echoing in my head, "Sandra Lynne! What the henryhamfat is going on?!"

Crud. I stare in open-mouthed horror at the desecration before me.

There is not a thread of connection between the trunk and the tree's carefully trained limbs. Branches dangle limply from elastic gardener's tape. Chips of fresh wood lie at the base of the tree's 3-foot-tall pointy stump.

My tree doesn't need a drink. It needs a funeral.

I look over at the little sycamore and maple trees. They seem fine.

Spinning around I dart over to the pluot tree, checking for damage. The plum/apricot hybrid is untouched.

Phew! The apple tree is my sentimental favorite. But the pluot's juicy fruit is insanely delicious.

Touching the curling green leaves of my poor decapitated apple tree, I remember the day Mom gave me the housewarming present. I'd never seen a grafted tree. That this single tree could bear several different types of apples seemed magical. For the past eight years, its branches have offered up Fuji, Granny Smith, Red Delicious and Golden apples.

I invoke the ghost of Johnny Appleseed and curse the blackguardly soul who killed my sweet little tree.

"What kind of freak chops down a defenseless little tree in the middle of the night?" I ask.

My geriatric border collie, Twirley Jane, sniffs in sympathy.

I give her a commiserating pat. She loved Mom, too. And juicy apple wedges.

Twirley keeps on sniffing. Nose down, she heads from the stump to the boat launch.

My gaze follows and spies the other half of the tree, branches adrift in the shallow waters of the Rogue River. Tiny green apples bob in the gently lapping water.

A jolt of memory brings a sigh of resignation as I realize who committed this nefarious act.

Bucky B. Beaver. He's back.

Flashback to two years ago when the paddle-tailed water rodent did a number on my neighbor's two willow trees.

Initially dumbfounded, Jan called me over to see the damage. She expressed the same initial outrage and confusion.

"Did you see anyone over here chopping on my tree with a hatchet?" she asked.

She later told me neighbors had assured her it was a beaver, not a crazed river-dwelling hatchet man.

I didn't believe her — or the neighbors. The uniform wood chips surrounding the base of her trees were clearly made by a man-made implement. Any idiot could see that — especially a savvy investigative reporter.

Wisely, Jan ignored my rolling eyes and listened to our more experienced neighbors. Following their advice, she purchased special metal cloth and wrapped her trees' trunks. Her willows were saved.

We named Jan's midnight marauder Bucky B. and talked about how it was kind of cool that beavers were still alive and well and living in the wide and deep backfilled section of the Rogue River just above Savage Rapids Dam.

"Where do you suppose he took your willow limbs? Is he trying to build a dam at one of the creek runoffs?" I asked.

We scanned the river for beaver activity, but saw no signs of Bucky B.

Until now.

I ask Jan whether she has any more of that metal cloth lying around. And I wrap the three surviving trees' trunks.

Balancing my loss against Bucky's gain, I conclude I'm rooting for the little fellow. He's facing long odds in this increasingly populated area.

Untying the wilted remainder of my apple tree from the hog-wire fence, I drag the branches to the boat launch and leave them sitting on the cement.

"Here you go, Bucky. Enjoy!" I shout.

He can have my apple tree. But he better keep those tree-chomping chompers off my pluot.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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