Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to catch a gopher

As a kid growing up on the Saskatchewan prairies, one of our favourite pastimes was to catch gophers, those little guys who peeked at us from their holes while we brought home the cows for their daily milkings. Curiosity was often their downfall. If all was quiet for a while they could not resist peeking out from their subterranean cities to see what was happening in the upper world.

Bailer twine, the old prehistoric organic kind, made excellent snares. With a lot of patience, which young boys don't always have handy, you could fashion a slip noose and lay it carefully inside the gopher's hole, and sit back and wait for that gopher to show it's tiny peeky eyes. Then with one great pull you might snag that gopher in the noose, abducting a not so willing playmate for the day. We tried to domesticate them, but they didn't seem much inclined to human friendship, and their teeth are rather salient.

For the less patient variety of human trouble makers, a bucket of water would often work wonders. The snare was still used. One urchin would man the snare while his shill would pour that whole bucket of water down an adjacent hole. This usually created a soggy response, however the little devils often came up a hole other than you were wagering on. It seems gophers don't hedge their bets on minimal options.

In the dirty thirties in my fathers time, one penny was paid for each gopher tail which amounted to $1M paid out in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The rest of the gopher made a delicious stew. In my day we had no incentive to cause them any harm, and mom would have tossed us out by our ears if we brought a batch home for supper, so our little buddies usually escaped to be chased around the field by the dog, till they found a convenient hole to dive into. We were really kindhearted scoundrels.
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