James Michael Stephens – Grandson of Ed and Minnie Beaver

Beavers, you know, have been known to cut down trees, darn up streams, erode mountainsides, and create ecological changes to entire regions. They are, at once (a) adorable, (b) opportunistic, (c) disruptive, and (d) most lovable. It is, therefore, entirely appropriate that the family being honored in this book, bear the name Beaver with all that it implies.

My earliest memories of anything, are of life at my grand parents homes near Girard, Texas. I was especially close to my maternal grandparents, Ed and Minnie Beaver, spending many summers with them, even after my own family moved away from Girard. Finally, Granny (Minnie) came to live with our family part of the time after she lost Grandpa (Ed) , and this continued through all of my high school years.

Granny Beaver can best be described as an “absolute character”, one of those rare acquaintances in one’s life who is truly unforgettable. She was very candid, with an unwitting sense of humor and a profound interest in everything and everyone as her trade mark. Though lacking in formal education, she had learned from living, having raised many children and grandchildren, and known thousands of people from all walks of life. She was, also, a hopeless insomniac who would rather sit up all night with a grandson who was sixty-plus years her junior, and listen to his joys and problems of growing up. I miss that woman still, and I could in no way complete my chapter of this book without making sure that Granny Beaver got “honorable mention”.

My relationship to the Beaver family comes through my mother, Jane Beaver (Stephens), who later married into another notorious Girard family, the Stephens! That her name was not originally Jane is oddly typical of the Beaver family. Hardly any of them go by their given names, but rather are usually known by a series of nicknames, or as in mom‘s case is something entirely different. One of mom‘s sisters has the beautiful name of Samintha. Of course no one ever called her by that name. She is Sam to most, Sammy to lots of others, Mincy, Mince, Mom, Mama, Grandma and so forth to everyone else. So, Jane Iona beaver is my Beaver “connection”. Now here is a woman who, in her younger years, fit all of the aforementioned Beaver descriptions and almost any others one might wish to throw in. This is a woman who could, on any given day, tear up $500 dollars into little pieces and throw them in my dad’s face (“gambling money”), or she could melt your heart by patiently feeding tiny, sightless orphaned kittens with a doll bottle. Of the two paradoxes, the “heart of gold” eventually won out, and today Jane Beaver Stephens is a beautiful woman, mother, grandmother, and soon-to-be great grandmother. To say that she has had a profound influence in my life would be a gross understatement. Like her mother be fore her, she is also insomniac. Are Beavers nocturnal? She has sat up many a night with both children and grandchildren, listening to joys and problems of growing up.

I guess I knew from the beginning that I was not your ordinary child. Not that different but – well Different! Even my earliest aims in life did not include the typical grow up, get married, have family cycle. Instead, I was, and am, curious about everything, especially the fact that there was a whole world out there to see, explore and experience. Having found a professional niche in the budding electronics industry of the 195O’s, I have variously made my home in Hawaii, California (twice), and Texas (twice), and have travelled, either professionally or privately, every state in the Union except Alaska. I’ve seen the far east, Japan, Hong Kong, and most of the rest of the civilized world except England and Europe, where I hope to live for awhile soon.

Hawaii, the melting pot of the world. Every nationality, religion, racial, and personal orientation is found there. It was the perfect place for this nineteen year old kid wno had never been out of West Texas, and who was smitten with wanderlust to start with. The United States Marine Corps sent me there in 1953, and there was where I was to make my home for the next four years. And such beauty! Hawaii is truly a tropical paradise. I’ve since felt that fate had a hand in taking me from provincial, smalltown West Texas to the diverse, teaming internationalness that is Hawaii. All the things you were taught in good faith, come into question. One is suddenly confronted with races and religion much older than your own. Lifestyles so different from any you knew existed. I matured, and grew up in Hawaii, in a healthy way, more than any period of my life, be fore or since.

Speaking of older cultures, for several years I was associated with a company whose home office was in Kyoto, Japan, and I spent quite a bit of time there. Now here is an old culture. Japan and China go back much further than Christianity would have you believe the world existed. The Temples of Buddah in Kyoto are, in themselves, worth a trip over for those who are interested. The people are a lesson in politeness and homogeneous amicability; so different from the good old U.S. of A. where we can’t seem to agree on anything.

Back to the Beavers; one of my very favorite is Nancy Jo Beaver of the Rollie Beaver Clan. She and I once sat on the outdoor veranda of the old Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, Arizona and drank $150 dollars worth of margaritas and solved, not only the world situation, but the Beaver situation as well. The problem is that neither one of us can remember the solutions!

So, let me close my chapter of this “best seller” by saying that, just as I expected as a child, it is a great big, wonderful world out there, and I, for one, am glad to be here, and would not change very much of my life if I could. I suspect that anywhere one might go in this great big, wonderful world, he mignt easily find a Beaver, a friend of a Beaver, a relative of a Beaver, or definitely, someone who knows a Beaver. And if you inquired about a Beaver, the answer would likely be, ”Oh, they’re probably out there somewhere – cutting down trees or building a dam!”

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