Gopher Trapping

Typically, we save our thankfulness for the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. I found a reason to be thankful in spring as I was walking the cattle pasture this week. I considered the new piles of dirt courtesy of the local gophers and how their success as gophers belies my success, effort and interest as a trapper. I think spring is a good time to be
thankful; thankful that I no longer have to trap gophers.

Gopher trapping was like entering a family business for kids when I
was young. Kids would spread out across alfalfa fields to set
traps, and if successful, give the gopher a quick demise at the end of a stick. I hated the whole process, however the bounty for one gopher was at least a dollar
which would give me the money I needed to purchase my model
rockets and eventually a gyrocopter (yeah, I really planned to by a
gyrocopter) so I was willing at first.

The truth of gopher trapping is that it lacks the glamour associated
with trappers of the old frontier. Locating a gopher pile was easy,
but finding the entrance was difficult. I would stab around like a
blind nurse looking for a vein until the stick I used finally plunged
into a small cavern. I then opened the hole, placed a little alfalfa
on the trap release to attract the gopher, then set the trap. My
hands shook after I set the trap as I was sure it was going to snap
on my hands. It was the kind of tension that typically follows the
question, “do I cut the red wire or the yellow wire?’ That horrible sense of
impending doom absorbed my focus until I finally had it set
underground after which I covered everything with newspaper and dirt
to make things seem normal in the gopher’s house.

It didn’t take me long to realize I was not a gopher trapper. I never wanted to catch a gopher and was highly successful in that endeavor. I didn’t want to find a gopher in the trap, I didn’t want
to have to kill it and I certainly didn’t want to cut off whatever
proof I needed to collect the $1.25 reward. Even bounty hunters have
better work conditions than a gopher trapper and their prisoners
certainly enjoy better treatment. I love animals; even hissing pocket
gophers, with barred fangs and long claws. Their bodies always
reminded me of a potato and my own shape me feel that made us kindred
spirits. I can’t remember how many gophers I ever trapped (very few)
and I think brother Darrel did most of the post-trap, pre-bounty
taking stuff. Darrel enjoyed a moral flexibility about gophers, was not shaped like a gopher and so lacked my empathy for them and consequently; he made pretty good coin in the gopher-trapping business.

If you are a gopher trapper, please do not take offense in my words.
You do good work that extends the life of alfalfa fields by several
years; gopher trapping is simply not my bag. I instead have opted for the sort of urban renewal that occurs when we cut hay as the cutter bar absolutely levels the piles. It doesn’t really affect the gophers but it does make the field look better, plus you don’t have to produce any proof to collect a bounty.

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