Today I’m going to tell you a story about a man named Tony Beaver. It’s an old story — a little known American folktale — in the tradition of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and John Henry. It originated in the logging camps of West Virginia over two hundred years ago, and was the inspiration behind my company’s name.
While I’m doing this, you get a treat (or at least a picture of a treat, since you aren’t actually in the room with me). But you can imagine it. After all, what’s story time without a snack.
THE LEGEND OF TONY BEAVER
Once upon a time there was a giant lumberjack named Tony Beaver. This lumberjack, who happened to be the cousin of legendary folk hero, Paul Bunyan, lived in the mountains of West Virginia. He stood eighteen feet tall in his stocking feet, palled around with a pair of giant oxen named Hannibal and Goliath, grew watermelons the size of large appliances, and invented a host of useful objects, including matches, clothespins, and peanut brittle.
This all took place during the early nineteenth century, when mountain life was challenging, and it took ruggedness and a certain amount of creativity just to survive. Tony Beaver had both. Beaver, who operated a mining camp along the bank of the mythical Eel River, had stockpiled a large quantity of jumbo-sized peanuts. These peanuts, which Beaver had grown himself, were of the highest quality but much too large for the average person to handle. Although disappointed that he could not sell them, Beaver refused to let these giant goobers go to waste, choosing to store them until he could figure out what to do with them.
The following spring was especially rainy in the state of West Virginia. In fact, it rained for several days without stopping and the Eel River rose to alarming heights. Soon, it threatened to overflow its banks and flood a nearby village. The people of this village, known as Eel River Landing, were terrified and begged Tony Beaver to help them.
“Help us stop this flood,” they cried, “or our entire village will be wiped out!”
Tony Beaver sprang into action. “All hands report for duty!” he yelled.
When the villagers were assembled before him, Beaver instructed them to load his entire stockpile of peanuts into wagons and haul them down to the river.
“Shell them as fast as you can,” he said, “and dump them into the water.”
Then he ordered his logging crew to grab a hundred barrels of molasses from their mess hall and dump these into the river as well.
The people did as they were told, and the river roiled and foamed, mixing the peanuts and molasses into a thick, golden brown mass. As the mass thickened, the river slowed, until it finally stopped altogether.
“Hooray!” The people cheered. “Tony Beaver has saved our town.”
The next morning the sun came out, and within days the river was back to its pre-flood level. However, the villagers had a new problem.
The mass of peanuts and molasses Tony Beaver had used to stop the flood had hardened into a dam, completely blocking the Eel River. This was bad news for the villages farther downstream that depended on the Eel as their water source, as well as Tony Beaver’s lumber crew, who used it to float their logs to the sawmills.
Once again, the people gathered on the bank of the river and once again, they sent for Tony Beaver.
Tony stared at the dam for a minute, and then he broke off a big piece and put it in his mouth. Then he broke off another piece and handed it to a little boy.
“Try it,” he said.
The little boy took a bite, and then grinned from ear to ear. “Tastes like candy!” he cried.
Then Tony Beaver broke up the candy dam with his giant ax, the villagers ate their fill of the world’s first peanut brittle, and everyone agreed it was “dam good.”