With my eyes lowered and gear held high, I chose a gingerly path amid the briars and the muck. Ahead of me, a man whose name I did not yet know how to spell chatted happily as he led me around the lakebed's edge. His voice, amplified and accented, bled from the headphones around my neck and I guessed at the vintage of the batteries in the tiny wireless microphone he wore. "There" he said, pointing to a pile of sticks in the mud, "that's their handiwork." I set my sticks aside and shouldered my fancycam. Rolling the barrel of the lens, I snapped a tight shot into focus and hit the trigger. High above, a hawk screeched as his passing shadow fell over the two of us. Thirty minutes earlier I'd ambled into the morning editorial meeting without a clue as to how I'd spend my day. Now, I found myself sleepwalking through a very special my very own episode of The Blair Witch Project. Some might call that strange. I call it Wednesday.
Actually, it wasn't all that bad. Kerry Jones was a nice enough chap. The paint store employee had phoned El Ocho the night before, with tales of as beaver dam you had to see to believe. That kind of talk doesn't make the sat trucks roll, but it's just the kind of quirky coverage I specialize in. So it was that I followed Mister Jones into the muck, grateful to be far from any idling live truck and glad my guide didn't seem crazy after all. Instead we'll call him 'enthusiastic', for his zest for freshwater architecture knew no bounds. Not that I'm complaining. Hell, I wish more good folk would ring up their affiliate whenever something weird enters the radar. That way I don't get stuck on some incarceration opera downtown, far from the pudgy obstructionists of Oak Hollow Lake.
Trouble is, beavers are notoriously camera-shy. No matter how much phone tag or footwork I put in, I couldn't convince a single member of the local beaver guild to agree to an on-camera interview. Thus, I was reduced to framing the evidence: gnawed-sharp tree branches, pockmarked mudbanks, an temporary reservoir for a species unseen. It may not be your idea of compelling television, but I'd rather spend a shift up to my ankles in dried-up lake muck than sitting on my ass at some city council stand-off. Therefore, I never complained once about today's gig - not on scene, not in the edit bay, not at my desk as I pounded out every single word my anchor might think to say on the subject of drought, ingenuity and engineering instinct. I, on the other hand, remain off-screen, knowing that however many viewers watched this spot, none would think about the poor schlub tasked with bringing it to screen.
That ain't always bad.