TOWNSEND — Walking from the driveway to the screened porch leaves little doubt about the many interests of the Kauppis.
Pots of tomatoes jostle beds of flowers. A small camper sits to one side. Cordwood is stacked in a decorative, geometric pattern. The historic landmarks belonging to the Townsend Historical Society are right across Route 119. So is the Squannacook River.
There might be a “gone fishing” sign somewhere. Inside the porch, Bucky stands guard by the door into the house.
Bucky, a two-year old beaver, is mounted on a display plague. Most of the beavers killed on the road, as Bucky was, are two years old, Eino Kauppi said, when their mothers kick them out of the lodge.
The young beavers set out to find a new home but sometimes a car finds them first. You don’t see them by the Kauppis’ house though. They can use a waterway by the grist mill to move on, he said.
Bucky is a little worse for wear. He was stored in an attic one winter at the state park, and mice ate the webbing between his toes.
Kauppi brought him home and figures he can jigger something up to repair the damage. He rescued some plastic greenery, too, when his wife, Claire, tried to throw it out. He just needs to drill a hole to hold it in place on Bucky’s plaque.
In July, Kauppi received a citation from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. It commends him for his commitment as a volunteer to the betterment of the state and to the education of youth.
He volunteers to lead beaver hikes and fly-fishing workshops at Pearl Hill State Park.
Kauppi and Bucky have been teaching families about beavers for 30 years. “Kids love it,” he said. They can touch the animal.
After he saw an interpreter at Laurel Lake in Erving State Park, Kauppi decided to do beaver programs. “He had skulls,” Kauppi said. “It was great.”
“I didn’t know squat about beavers,” he said. That detail didn’t stop him. He stayed one step ahead of his audience and learned as he went along.
The program continues to evolve. Kauppi wants to add a beaver skull to his program. There happens to be some appropriate bones buried in the yard that should be skeletonized soon.
A tooth on a lanyard shows how the curve and sharpness increases with use. But if he has a skull, he can show kids how the rodent’s teeth grow from the bone.
It is true what they say. A beaver, like other rodents, have to chew. If they don’t, their teeth will keep growing and will eventually curve back into the animal, he said.
After the group learns about beavers with the help of Bucky’s able modeling, Kauppi takes them on a hike to beaver habitat, right down the brook from the Pearl Hill pond.
There, he talks about how the landscape was shaped by glaciers streaming through at four inches per year during the ice ages. The beaver habitat at the park was formed after soil built up around a block of ice. When the ice melted, a kettle hole was left behind.
Beavers are nocturnal though, so they don’t come out to visit with Kauppi’s group. That might be why Bucky comes along.
In the morning, before the beaver hike, Kauppi runs a one-hour Fly-fishing workshop. Potential anglers have a chance to learn about the river, fishing etiquette and the bugs, he said. The bugs would be the flies cast at the end of the poles.
He aims to remove the mystique from the sport. “They think it’s too complicated,” he said. Everyone gets to cast and experience the sport.
Expense is also a notion he seeks to amend. A $600 rod is not needed; his cost only $200.
Kauppi grinned and his eyebrows moved up and down as he described the repair job he did on a friend’s expensive rod that snapped near the handle. He replaced a bit of the inner core foam with bamboo and sealed it up. Good as new.
He has been fly-fishing ever since his dad bought him a rod when he was 10 and lived in Fitchburg. As an adult, he lived in a few places, none more than a short walk to a good fishing area.
“Everyone knows me,” he said. People he once taught stop by the house to say hello. Sometimes he finds them when he is out fishing.
For those who are serious about learning the sport, he holds day-long fly-fishing classes at his home. “I guarantee results. If you’re not happy at the end of the day, it’s free,” he said.
Like his rod, Kauppi’s advertisements are low-tech. He posts fliers around town for the free events at Pearl Hill. He has had up to 40 attendees, but prefers having around 10 people.
To find out when he will teach his next day-long fly-fishing course, you will need to keep an eye on the northeast corner of Spaulding and Main streets. He usually puts a sign out about 10 days in advance.