One day we were standing on our dock waving to our neighbors. They were making their way across the cove on their pontoon to visit. All of a sudden something – something BIG – splashed into the water near us. We jumped, then looked around for a fish or turtle. We saw nothing.
Our neighbors, who have had a place at the lake for years and years, laughed as they pulled up. “We saw you jump,” they said. “Must’ve been a muskrat.”
A muskrat, we thought? Eeek! “Do they bite?” we asked.
They chuckled and said, “Not that we know of. You hardly ever see them. They don’t like to be around people, so if you ever do see one, it won’t be for long.”
Sure enough, throughout the spring and summer, we never saw one. We kept finding traces of their presence. Fish bones, fish scales, droppings, but no muskrat sightings. And that was OK with us.
One week we stayed at the lake for several days, so we had time for afternoon boat rides that drifted into the twilight. As we climbed the boathouse steps and onto the gangway in the dusk one afternoon, we noticed something to our left. We froze and watched. It was a muskrat, swimming though the water.
Either the animal didn’t see us or didn’t care. It swam leisurely right under where we stood, then continued on over to our right. It cut a smooth line through the water with a perfect V-shaped wake behind. Its head was up and we could barely see the shape of its tail beneath the water. This didn’t take long, but it seemed to get dimmer every second, so we could barely see it as it reached the bank. It ducked effortlessly under some low-hanging branches, presumably into its concealed burrow. And that was that.
We have never seen another one and we probably never will. But it was a special gift that evening to be witness to what goes on frequently when humans are not usually around.