Accident causes Jim to lose his hand
The Incident
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One of the most important things when living in the Alaskan bush is having a good place to collect drinking water. Shelter, firewood for heat, good winter clothing, and a big gun also top the list. Jim was able to locate our watering hole within the first year of moving to the bush. A small valley is located about one half mile from our cabin. The valley has three streams running through it; two of the streams were created due to natural springs coming up out of the ground. These two streams come together in the middle of the valley and flow into a third large stream, also fed by a lake located near the end of the valley.
The large stream flows for about a mile, goes underneath the Alaska Railroad tracks and empties into a large river called the Susitna River. The valley is a beautiful sight as a person tops the hill and looks down into it. The lake cannot be seen from this hilltop because it is around a bend at the far end of the valley. For as long as anyone can remember the lake has been there. Another small stream feeds the lake along with springs that bubble up in the hills surrounding the lake. A large beaver dam is located at the end of the lake. Water flowing over the dam feeds the third stream. Our watering hole is at the bottom of the hill we go over to get to the valley. The water is from a natural spring ? very pure, crystal clear, and cold as can be without being frozen! It comes right out of the ground and runs year-round. It is some of the best tasting water a person could ever drink.
A beaver is one thing that can ruin a drinking water hole. Every few years, when the beaver population gets too large for the size of the lake, a few middle-aged beavers go in search of an area to build a new dam and create a new home for themselves. One day, a few years ago, Jim and I went to fill our water jugs. As we topped the hill, instead of looking down in the valley, we were looking at a large lake. Our spring was submerged under twenty feet of water! The beaver had erected a dam between two hills at the far end of the valley in just four days. It took a lot of work, but this time we were able to tear down the dam and restore our source of drinking water.
It is dangerous for humans to have beavers anywhere near their drinking water source because all beaver carry the beaver fever virus. There is no known cure for this virus and it is deadly to humans. Beaver fever can kill a person within weeks or the virus can linger for years, slowly deteriorating one's body until they die. Because of this virus, Jim is very attentive to keeping beavers away from our water source.
A couple of years after having torn down the beaver dam the first time, Jim went to fill our water jugs and discovered that, just like before, beavers were building a dam between the same two hills at the end of the valley. Jim tried to knock the dam out that day but was unable to because of pain he was having due to a broken rib. He had broken one of his ribs a few weeks earlier. It was still healing and causing him a lot of pain (that is a whole other story all on its own!). This time, Jim decided to trap the beaver instead of trying to knock out the dam. We prefer not to trap them, but this time we had no option - it is us or the beavers!
The next day, September 9th, 2009, is a day I would love to forget and a date I will never be able to forget. As Jim was getting ready to go to the new beaver dam sight to rid the area of beavers, a feeling came over me that I should go with him this time. I asked him if he wanted me to go, Jim replies "Yes, you will be helpful since my rib hurts." Later, Jim and I talked about the intuition feeling I had that day and we are both thankful I was at the scene during the incident - otherwise Jim might have bled to death.CONTINUED ON PAGE 2