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Saturday, January 31, 2009

No, I Can't Gopher That (Jan. 2009)



We have a new arrival. A gopher has adopted us. He didn’t follow me home. He just showed up. Up, literally, from underground. Out back one afternoon I heard a rustle-scratch-rustle sound in the same spot I’d heard it a few days before. The first time I’d heard the noise and seen weeds moving, I’d investigated by (bravely) poking the spot with a long stick, but my research had yielded no scientific findings. This time, the rustling was followed a few minutes later by some dirt being pushed up nearby. I had never seen a gopher. Were they big? Were they violent if provoked? Likely to bite ankles (specifically, mine)? Not having these answers, I kept a bit of a distance, but curiosity drew me closer as the creature made several tunnels underground, pushing up dirt. Eventually, we saw his head, cute and hamster-like. And then, without warning, he was gone. We never saw him again.

Well, that’s not true. We saw him the next year (which was a few weeks later, when the chill of December vanished and January came blowing in at 70 degrees). I think it’s the same gopher. Not sure I could have picked him out of a lineup of gophers, but let’s assume it’s the same one. We saw the telltale dirt piles first. Then, a few days later we were outside and my son said, “Mommy! Gopher!” Indeed, there he was, popping his head up as he pushed dirt away to create another tunnel. I ran for my camera (which, even as I type this, sounds a little lame. But hey, I don’t have any gopher photos, and when it’s in your own yard, it’s oddly exciting!). I got a lot of photos of dirt, since the gopher didn’t seem to understand my photographer lingo, words of encouragement like “NOW! No, NOW! Come on! Please? I have my camera!” Finally I got a few photos of his head. Mission Accomplished.

It’s been a week. We haven’t seen him since and I’ve wondered why. Are gophers shy? Anti-social? And why do they make so many tunnels? From my brief observation, I think they are wily: it’s hard to predict when and where you’ll see one. We haven’t started a full-fledged campaign to get him out. Right now his surprise appearances are more intriguing than anything else. (In a voice-over using an English accent: “One never really knows the elusive gopher. He tunnels his way underground in search of food and safety, but is content to remain an enigma.”)

Why aren’t there more films about gophers? The Caddyshack movies are the only ones I can think of. Maybe we need more. After all, there are multiple movies about Beethoven the dog (I was shocked to find there were at least 5, and not interested enough to pinpoint the number). Perhaps the focus groups indicated that Americans are not likely to go to a theater to watch gopher films. Another film about man’s best friend? Sure. But a movie about man’s peskiest backyard creature? Guess not. Would I go see it? Nah, I can’t go for that.




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