The other OTHER kind of beavers, or, Of sore arms and status symbols

25 Jun

When I was in the 6th grade I remember going on a field trip with my class. The trip itself obviously wasn’t very exciting because I can’t remember where we went but I do remember the bus ride. The only reason I remember the bus ride was because 1) it was the age of the Spice Girls and we (re: the ladies) were rockin’ out to Wannabe on repeat, much to the dismay of our male classmates and ornery bus driver, and 2) it was the very first time I bore witness to the game “beaver”.

I was just starting to doze off, face squashed attractively on the window when I heard a boy yell, “LOOK A BEAVER!” followed by his seat mate yelping with pain.

What the fuck? I thought, directing my attention out the window to where the boys were looking.

To the best of my knowledge at the time, “beaver” meant only one of two things: our noble national animal or vagina (yes, even in the 6th grade I knew what beaver was. Those are some important formative years and I had only brothers and male cousins around. I learned a lot of things from them that I would have been happier not knowing at the time). I had only been in the province for about 6 months at this point, so I was bewildered at what I was hearing. I was also worried about what I was going to spot when I looked out the window.

Obviously I was hoping that maybe this new province had an abundance of the animal beavers and that maybe, just maybe, they liked to chill on city streets. You know, maybe their habitat had been overrun by developers and the poor creatures had no choice but to migrate to the city in hopes of better lives.

Of course, while I was hopeful, I also knew that the obvious answer was that the boys were actually getting excited the other type of beaver and despite my better judgement I had to look to be sure. Not that it was necessarily something I wanted to see but if there was some random woman streaking through the streets I was sure as hell not going to be the only kid on the bus who wasn’t going to be able to have claimed to have been scarred by it.

What I saw on the streets was neither an animal (to my disappointment) nor an indecently exposed woman (to my relief). What I saw instead was what I then learned to be the third category of beaver: a station wagon wide wood panelling on the sides:

I'm not so sure I agree with you there, HAT

For reasons still unbeknownst to me, the boys were treating these vehicular monstrosities like Volkswagon Beetles and punching each other viciously in the arms (or gut, or balls, or face – whatever was most convenient when crammed in those pew-like bus seats) whenever they spotted them, following up each attack with a shrill “NO PUNCH BACKS!”

I have no idea where they got this from. Why beavers? And what the hell was wrong with the tried and true punch buggies? What all the H8, boys?

It didn’t really matter what the answers to those questions were because it took the rest of the bus all of 15 second to catch on. The rest of the trip was consumed by 30 pairs of eyes desperately scouring the streets in search of the next chance, flying limbs, howls of both pain and laugher and the Vuvuzela-like buzz of “BEAVER NO PUNCH BACKS!” punctuated by the occasional “ZIGGA-ZAG-AH!” courtesy of Scary Spice.

It was the best and worst field trip ever, all at the same time.

The reason I tell you this story, dear readers, is because yesterday on my drive home, I spotted a beaver.

I spotted a beaver and my arm instinctively started to ache and I glowered at the thing and thought to myself, who the HELL ever thought that was a good idea?

And by “that” I meant wood panelling on the side of station wagons (and the occasional PT Cruiser), not the game where school children beat the snot out of each other every time they see them.

I hate you so much

I mean, honestly, they’re butt-ugly. We’re not talking about the walls in some cottage in the woods or a two-bedroom bungalow circ 1970 – we’re talking about a vehicle. A weird vehicle with even weirder decals that make no sense whatsoever. What. The. Hell.

Still twitchy over the beaver sighting when I got home, I did what I couldn’t do back in the 6th grade – I Googled that shit.

Thanks to our friend Wikipedia, I now have some closure*:

The station wagon’s first incarnation was as a wagon that was used at train stations to shuttle passengers and their luggage around (oooh). Back in the day, these wagons were obviously made of hardwood. As vehicle production expanded station wagons eventually transitioned over to commercial use (a la vans and trucks). Because they were intended more for shipping and not more general consumer use, they didn’t bother paneling the sides with steel.

Eventually, once the vehicle started to be produced for mass consumption, the wood-bodied models (or “woodies” as they were apparently called. Ha! Beavers, woodies – station wagons are clearly the pervert’s preference when it comes to fine automobiles) came to be considered “superior”. Owning a woodie was actually a STATUS SYMBOL (guys, I can’t make this shit up). After World War II, all wagons were steel-bodied and the decals were added as a sort of throw-back to a more “innocent”, pre-war era of carefree penis-jokes and general perversion.

So there you have it, dear reader – the mystery behind the wood paneled station wagon can be laid to rest. Next time you see one parked beside you when you go to get groceries and/or beer, you can nod knowingly as you find yourself touched with a slight, inexplicable sense of envy that you were never able to place before.

And then you can lean over and clock the closest person within arms-length and inappropriately scream “BEAVER!”

Doesn’t that sound fun?

You’re welcome.

*Editor’s note: Wikipedia unfortunately did not provide me with the answers as to why “beaver” became the new punch buggie game among Canadian youth back in the 90s. I apologise if I got your hopes up.


5 Responses to “The other OTHER kind of beavers, or, Of sore arms and status symbols”

  1. Maggie_C June 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm #

    “1) it was the age of the Spice Girls and we (re: the ladies) were rockin’ out to Wannabe on repeat, much to the dismal of our male classmates and ornery bus driver”

    Our ages, they MUST be within about a year of one another.

    • Kat June 25, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

      Honestly. When someone says beaver, the first thing I think about is not the animal. Now there is only one more purpose for this word. Man oh man. I can’t keep up! 🙂

  2. tara June 25, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    This is neither here nor there but once I saw one of those beaver cars and the license plate read: GRZWALD Get it?

    That second picture makes me want to cry for America.

    Finally. No punchbacks is insane. You punch me, I will not only punchyouback but way the fuck harder.

  3. Jo and the Novelist June 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    I have never in my life seen one of these cars. I kinda feel like I’m missing out.

    • Jam June 28, 2010 at 11:56 am #

      You’re not. Trust me, it’s better this way.

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