Trout fishing season opened on a crisp spring morning as the DEC stocked our local streams with an abundance of rainbow trout. Their shimmering scales could be seen swimming in the fresh moving water as rays of sun hit their silvery underbellies. And at home, Spring Break was upon us with a week off from school.
The lush foliage from the new maple leaves brought a sense of newness to the air. In recollection, it was one that was needed from the ever-white, frost-covered landscape that winter brought forth each year in the northeast. In short, spring was our reprieve.
During the morning in question, my grandmother and grandfather were taking their bi-weekly trip to Pennsylvania in order to save money on gas. The trip was short, but in retrospect, it seemed to take forever. As my grandfather drove his white pickup, my grandmother opened her traveling cookie tin. Inside, she had a fresh batch of chocolate nut clusters. Before taking one from the tin, she graciously offered me one which I did not refuse.
Along the twists and turns of the country road, we happened upon a large body of water held back by means of a massive dam made completely of chopped timbers. The wall stood some 30 feet high and strangely enough, the logs appeared to be held together by nothing at all. More curious still, a tiny town seemed to be right at its base. But it was not quite a town; instead it appeared to be bogged hutted homes. I pointed out the dam to my grandmother, and she nodded in acknowledgment. “Oh, there is a story behind the creation of that dam and the keepers that dwell below it.”
Hidden deep in the Hudson Valley, the nestled town of Donbridge bustled about in its normal manner unchanged and unchallenged for a spell as chaos seemed to subside for several decades. However, as much as quiet seems to last forever, the sound of a pin drop can break the silence and with little more than that sound, peace unraveled in the little town.
Samuel Sutton, a local trapper and law master, was out amongst the wooded bogs of the valley. As he traversed a swamp, he came upon a waterway that he never knew nor had seen before. Curious as to its formation, he followed the body of water for miles and found, by the end of his journey, that an aged dam built by an unknown force was leaking.
Climbing a tiered walkway known as the Lenape path, Samuel ascended to the top and was shocked to see a massive lake which, if this dam gave way, would rain devastation upon the valley of Donbridge.
Concerned as to the fate of the dam and the town, he traveled back down the path and there at the base of the dam he saw a hut. There, caught in a trap of Samuel’s own making, was a beaver. Realization fell over Sam that the trapping he had done had dwindled the beaver population and because of this, maintenance of the massive dam was left to this sole beaver.
Seeing balance was needed in nature, Samuel released the beaver instead of taking the creature’s pelt and in no time the beaver began scaling the dam, packing mud and silt into the cracks and forever sealing the calamity that nearly was the end of Donbridge.
From that day forward, Donbridgians always recalled the story of Samuel and his dam-building beaver. From that point on, the good folks of Donbridge would only take what they needed, leaving behind enough for life to have balance.
When my grandmother finished her tale, I looked out at the large dam one last time before we passed it. For a moment from the truck window, I saw a beaver climbing the ridge of that old dam. I quickly tried to show my grandmother, but before I could verify what I saw, the scene had passed, becoming yet another distant memory of a time long since forgotten.
Grandma’s Nut Clusters
2 11-ounce bags of dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup peanuts
1 cup chopped walnuts
Line a 10x15-inch pan with wax paper. Melt chocolate chips with shortening in a double boiler. Pour out melted chocolate onto the pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Combine all nuts into one bowl, then sprinkle the nut combination over the melted chocolate. Place into the refrigerator overnight. The next day, remove the set chocolate from the refrigerator and use a baking mallet to break chocolate into pieces. Chocolate Nut Clusters can be stored at room temperature in a tin or container.