After 15 years of persecution, beavers suddenly have won exalted status in Knowlton, New Jersey, in the shadow of the Kittatinny Mountains according to the Associated Press. Children sing beaver songs and write essays on ways Knowlton's beavers and humans can live in harmony.
"The state actually told us we've got some of the smartest beavers in the world," Mayor Frank Van Horn often declares, daring anyone to challenge this sweeping statement.
From schoolchildren to elected leaders, the sharpest minds in this town of 2,800 have failed to find a way to stop the flooding and clogged pipes caused by the beavers' single-minded upkeep of their dams and ponds.
Graceful in defeat, the town now celebrates the creatures' perseverance with the same enthusiasm, beginning with its first-ever Beaver Day this Saturday.
Last year, Knowlton made its surrender official in a document that is equal parts peace treaty, fish story and excuse for a town-wide party.
According to the resolution, the beavers are "long standing residents of the Township of Knowlton, perhaps even longer than the Taylors," and "it has been demonstrated on numerous occasions over the past year that the Beavers of Knowlton Township are both clever and cunning, having thwarted all attempts to dislodge them from their preferred lodge."
The resolution designates the beaver as the town's official animal and gives the mayor the authority to annually proclaim Knowlton Township Beaver Day, "at which time the Deputy Mayor shall dress in the likeness of a beaver during all official functions."
Each morning, the mayor goes to the same woman's home to unblock her pipes. Beavers follow, diligently plugging them up.
In less enlightened times, dams were torn down; in fact, the deputy mayor and his wife-to-be were rumored to don hip-waders on dates. The beavers simply rebuilt. Engineers proposed beaver-proof pipes, supposedly with too many holes for the critters to clog. Guess again.
Students from Knowlton Township Elementary School offered "Poppy and Rye," a children's book in which deer mice and a porcupine overcome the arrogant beavers who flooded their home.
"I went to Frank and said, 'My fifth grade wants you to read this book because, from what they read in the papers, you need help with beavers,'" Superintendent Mark B. Miller said.
At the height of the man-versus-beast power struggle, the mayor swears beavers began singling out local leaders, gnawing their trees and making "obscene" tail gestures. Said Van Horn: "That was premeditated!"
Whether Knowlton's latest gambit will end its beaver problems remains to be seen, but its past schemes have met with success.