Living in the country, one gets used to wildlife. Rabbits help themselves to our garden, deer prune our fruit trees and raccoons savage our trash can. I take them all in stride.
All that is – except gophers. Gophers and I do not get along.
I have four acres of pasture and the state set aside four hundred acres of prairie next door but in all that turf – do you think you could find a single gopher?
Not a one.
Which is odd because the lawn behind my pond suddenly became infected with them and I had no idea how they got there. They just showed up for no reason like zits on the morning before prom.
It is embarrassing… I have a reputation for taking pride in my place – which is why my neighbors now like to slow down and chuckle as they drive past.
Not knowing what to do, I called one of them. “How do you get rid of gophers?” I asked.
“You got GOPHERS!” he cried, barely able to contain his excitement
“Uh yes, I do…”
“Me and the militia will be right over. We LOVE to shoot gophers”
“Uh, let’s put that idea on hold until I talk to a few more people…,” I told him. Gauging from the deep sigh on the other end of the line, I probably broke his heart.
So I talked it around.
Everyone had their techniques and while no one else suggested a posse, all the solutions were equally as violent.
The consensus was this. If you didn’t poison them, you could snap their little necks with traps or possibly stink them out with sulfur gas. My personal favorite was to pump gasoline down the holes, light a fuse and run like hell. I had hoped for something less gruesome. But then I recalled an old trick I used as a kid when my hamster got out of his cage.
I found a five gallon plastic bucket and covered the bottom with bird seed. Then I rigged up a screen to allow the little guys to crawl up the outside of the bucket and drop inside to where the seed was.
I put the trap out that evening.
In the morning, there was a gopher in the bucket, and I might add, a hefty little fellow. So he and I took a car ride together. We drove about two miles down the road, where I released him in a field full of gopher holes, so he could play with his buddies.
The next morning, there he was, his cheeks stuffed with seeds, grinning at me from the bottom of my bucket. I drove him back home.
The next morning, he returned.
Now, I know what you are thinking. How can you tell one gopher from another? I asked myself the same question. The answer is – that toothy grin – but just to be sure, I took a paint brush and dabbed a blob of red paint on his belly before chauffeuring him back down the road.
The next morning, there he was again – red paint and all.
That’s when it dawned on me.
I called up my militia buddy. “Hey,” I said, “beside me, who won’t let you shoot gophers on their property?”
“Leon Forbes. He’s a catch and release woosie, just like you.”
“Where does he live?”
“Two miles north of your place, back in the trees behind the ground with all the gophers in it.”
“Yeah, he’s some kind of pacifist.”
“Explains a lot.”
So that night, I made a stencil.
The next morning, when I pulled the little guy out of the bucket, I slapped the stencil on his back and gave him a shot of red spray paint. He was no worse for the wear when I let him go at Leon’s.
That was the end of my gopher problem. I think Leon suddenly got the idea to release his pests somewhere else – but I would have loved to watch him check his live trap and read: “Property of Leon Forbes” on the back of a gopher.