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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/831

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THE BEAVER EATER.

controlled the traffic and inspired relentless war upon the innocent owners of these integuments. In olden times the hapless beaver was hunted for his castoreum pouches, which, Pliny says, the creature would bite off and leave to the hunter as a ransom for its life; but no compromise was possible when its coat was demanded in midwinter. Thus every beaver was the counterpart or token of value for some article of use or ornament,

PSM V44 D831 Simple form of the deadfall.jpg
a Simple Form of the "Deadfall."

brought from France to quicken the cunning and perseverance of the trapper, who would naturally exaggerate his losses, although the slaughter of beavers each fall and spring by the ever-watchful "beaver eater" must have been very appreciable. It is also worth noting that the distribution of the destroyer completely overlaid that of the destroyed, and that where the beaver has been exterminated the "beaver eater" has soon disappeared. The explanation of the other romances lies in the fact that the gourmand having already well earned unenviable notoriety, had the sins of the cougar, the lynx, the badger, and the fisher visited upon him, and many feats impossible otherwise to understand are thus accounted for.

The Indians called it ommeethatsees and okeecoohawgew, as well as quickiwahay; and corruptions from these have given us the English forms queequehatch, quiquihatch, quiquehatch, quickehatch, and quickhatch; also the French quincajou, corvajou, corcajue, cartajou, carcayou, karkajou, and carcajou, to one or other of which forms we find references in nearly all early American writings. The trials endured by the luckless hunter, whose track was once discovered by this monster, are frequently recounted. Day after day would the hunter visit his traps, only to find the ruinous work of his four-footed enemy, who, not satisfied with robbing the occasional prize, would often, simply for the morsel of bait, completely destroy scores of traps. Hence arose the