The Amazing Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci

Buck Carson, Oreland, PA, April 2011

It would have been somewhere around 1961 that I had my first beaver experience. With my 12 year-old son, Tom, in the bow, we were canoeing up a feeder stream to Moose Pond in the Bridgeton area of Maine when we came to a beaver dam. The first I had ever seen. I was thrilled pink so to speak. I had been reading about beavers for some time previously and had a vague feeling for their ecological importance. I wanted to know more.

We put the canoe over that dam and continued on our way over one or two more dams before turning back. Strangely, I don't remember seeing a beaver lodge, although I'm sure there must have been one. I probably wouldn't have known what it was if there was one. Going back was easy. Tom would sit in the back of the canoe and the front would ride up on the dam, then we would both go forward and we and the canoe would slide right down the other side.

I don't know how long it was after our trip that I read in the newspaper about a place called Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, and we soon made the acquaintance of Hope and Cavit Buyukmihci. What wonderful people.

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci feeding beaver
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci feeding beaver

Because we had a growing family and a small service business we never got to spend as much time at Unexpected as we would have liked, but enough so that I got to work on the cement walkways through the swamp with Cavit. (I was amazed at how he could handle those big hunks of cement) and Mary, wife, and I would mow Bluebird Field and help cut back the growth on the trails. Mary was never Mary to Cavit. Because my nickname was Buck, she was Doe. And of course we would help patrol during deer hunting season. As I recall, we would never, because of the distance we had to travel, get there before dawn, so we would report to Hope who would be at Station Six, and she would assign us to an area or station to patrol. Fortunately, we never had to face a trespasser, but Hope did, and her courage at facing down an armed, angry man was unbelievable. I think in the early days the hunters hated not being allowed to hunt on the Refuge, but now I think they realize the Refuge improves the wildlife population all around.

We used to love to walk the perimeter of the Refuge and sometimes we would miss a turn and have to walk back by way of the roads. Wow! It would be a different thing to walk the perimeter now.

It was a sad day for everyone connected with Unexpected when Cavit died. We were lucky to see him a couple days before he went. He knew he was dying and with a woeful smile his last words to us were "So much for healthy living."

I wish I could remember all the happy happenings we enjoyed at the Refuge. Like the afternoon Hope took us to a spot where the creek came into the Refuge, and we watched as the beavers came up and took apple slices from her hands. Or the time we went with her to dig up, or plant, gladiolas (I can't remember which) for a friendly neighboring farmer. Or the time when a lady called in panic that she had a snake in her basement. Hope rescued it and released it in the Refuge. I don't remember whether it was poisonous or not, but I don't think that would have mattered to Hope. Or the time my sister-in-law was visiting from Australia and a raccoon came out from under the house in broad daylight to eat and show off. She had never seen a raccoon before then.

I am 91 now, and both my Mary and my patrolling days are long gone, but my love for beavers is still alive and strong. I truly believe that the beaver was the keystone factor that made America such a great place to live.