We were watching the local television news in the basement of my grandparents’ old home in Asheville when we learned of the rabid beaver attack at Beaver Lake. A lady had been stand-up paddle boarding on the lake when a rabid beaver bit her three times. The lady had to get a series of painful shots, and the beaver was killed. The newscast showed a sign someone had erected at the lake in memory of the beaver. I still have relatives who live in Asheville. I knew right away none of them had a part in erecting the memorial to the rabid beaver. I was also fairly certain all of them were safe since none of them would be a fair candidate to go stand up paddle boarding on Beaver Lake. Erecting a monument to a rabid beaver and stand up paddle boarding are new Asheville resident kinds of thing to do. An old Asheville resident would have been more likely to have been the one who shot the rabid beaver.
Since my aunt and I were up walking around Beaver Lake the next morning, it was only natural for me to look high and low for the memorial to the rabid beaver. I asked one woman who was walking by if she had seen it. She knew of the attack. She said when she told her husband about it the first thing he said was, “That poor beaver.” She added, “Of course, the bites did the woman no good at all.” I did not say anything, but it confirmed a suspicion I had that the couple were new Asheville residents. She was excited to learn about the beaver memorial being erected and said she would immediately post it to Facebook. Which was proof positive of her new Asheville pedigree.
My aunt and I proceeded on around the lake. She said she had been reading about beavers and learned they were really fast on land. “I thought they just hung out in the water and built dams,” I said. “No, they’re fast,” my aunt said. In addition to looking for the memorial to the rabid beaver, we now both felt a wary concern that any beaver killed might have been the wrong rabid beaver. Or if one rabid beaver were in the lake, might not another rabid beaver still be swimming around ready to spring from the lake and prove just how fast beavers can run on dry land?
Another passerby who lives part-time at the lake informed us that he’d heard gunshots last night. They must have been shooting at a rabid beaver, he said. I heard the same man tell another person that they had killed a beaver at the lake last night. His story had changed within a minute’s time. But I imagined he just liked to think the beaver was dead. What if a wounded, rabid beaver were now prowling the lake? My aunt and I proceeded around the lake, pondering that prospect. “I hope he got shot in the leg,” I told my aunt.
We never did find the rabid beaver memorial at Beaver Lake. One can only speculate that a cantankerous old Asheville resident spotted it and promptly destroyed it. Maybe that would only be fair since some of the old landmarks in Asheville that once were hubs of social life in days gone by have been torn down and paved over and repurposed.
We live in Texas now and just happened to be visiting in the aftermath of the rabid beaver attack, but we once lived in West Asheville close enough to the Asheville Motor Speedway that once hummed with activity like an angry bee hive on the weekends that I could hear the engines roaring and the booming voice of the track announcer without being able to distinguish any of the words. Something about not being able to quite make out what was being said always made me want to go there even though I have no particular interest in auto racing. I liked to imagine myself there having a great time, though I knew I’d never go.
The only time I did go was to cover one of its final weekends of the 1/3 mile race track’s operation for the local newspaper. The whole place smelled like motor oil and was even louder close up. Beer bottles littered the ground. The smell of the food from the concession stand made me nauseous. But kids ran around happily, and their parents told me what a shame it was that the speedway was being bought only to be destroyed. I tried to see it through their eyes. They clearly loved it, and it felt to them like the community was losing some part of its soul. The racetrack had been built in 1960 and lasted until 1999. The land where the track stood is now part of a spacious park that winds along the river with a permanent memorial to the racetrack.
Things disappear never to be fully replaced. That’s the way of the world. I suppose you really have to enjoy them in the moment and cherish rabid beavers that bite people and loud, smelly race tracks while they are around.