I am thinking of gophers today since it's Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, officially sentencing us to more cold weather. I'm in California. If it gets any colder in Los Angeles it'll be summer. Winter never fully arrived in some parts of our state. If you're in London, what with the blizzard and all today, you probably think Phil is a bloody genius and wish we would swap him to you for Madonna. Frankly, I think we should leave things as they are. I don't know what you ever did to deserve Madonna but hey, she's yours to keep. She says she wants to go back to New York now that she's gutted Guy Ritchie. If I was NYC I'd hang out the "No Vacancy" sign.
But speaking of things you don't want, I'm glad our gophers aren't as big as Punxsutawney Phil. Your leg could get a cramp trying to shake them off. It was hard enough trying to dislodge an average sized rodent.
When our house was being built every gopher in the neighborhood waged war with the encroaching humans. The gophers were tough and big and carried small semi-automatic weapons. One afternoon, we pulled up to our house to check the progress and the Godfather met us at the curb. He stood up and stuck his chest out. Grizzly Adams, my husband, yelled and stamped his foot in a show of brutal authority. The gopher clutched his heart and staggered, fell down laughing, then leapt to his feet, possessed-red-eyes flashing, and buried his Bucky-the-Beaver incisors into the toe of Grizzly's sneaker.
My husband is no Jackie Chan but he's got pretty sophisticated ninja moves when vermin are attached to his lower extremities. He whirled and kicked and jerked and whacked and sprinted down the curb, still sporting two long teeth and a pair of beady eyes, and that wasn't even counting the gopher. I very helpfully ran along yelling, "Get him off! Get him off your shoe! Kick him! Fling him!" These helpful utterances offered him valuable insights that might not have occured to him otherwise. But it didn't matter. When the rubber hit the road, it did so with the thud of vibrating gopher flesh and there was no sign of retreat.
As I looked around wildly for a stick or missle launcher, Grizzly gave one last massive kick. I watched our miniature nemisis sail through the air as though shot from a cannon. With a final show of dominance he stuck the landing and dusted himself off, glaring down the road at us. I always hoped he was the one my cat laid at my feet several years later.
Kitty Baby made it her life's mission to divest the neighborhood of this evil element. She relished her job. It wasn't enough to merely kill the things. She felt if you could not enjoy your work there was no point doing it. She frequently showed up in the backyard circus playing "Flying Trapeeze," in which she would throw the gopher and then fail to catch it on the other side. This provided hours and hours of great cat fun. When she grew bored, she would skin them and lay them out on the front porch for the rest of the rodent clan to view. In her spare time she made jaunty little hats for herself out of the leather.
I like to think she was avenging me from a childhood attack.
When I was seven I walked to second grade by myself everyday. It was about two miles and that was a lot of time to think up hair-brained ideas like how great it would be to catch a gopher in a paper bag. The thought first occured to me when I spotted a furry brown thing scooting along the ground one day. It was my foregone conclusion, as it was when I saw any animal, that it was lost, desperately lonely, and would undoubtedly die but for my timely intervention. And then there were the show-and-tell possibilities. No one ever pulled a wild rodent out of a sack. I was sure to be popular.
The next day, with brown lunch bag firmly in hand, I set out for school hoping my gopher rescue would go off without a hitch. As soon as I spotted him I dumped my lunch and closed in. He saw me and sat up. I lifted the bag for rapid capture. I was successful except for the fact that I had caught him by the teeth with the fatty part of my ring finger. He was firmly attached. I screamed bloody murder and ran like my tail was on fire. He wasn't the least intimidated. I shook my hand, my arm, the earth on which I stood. We were one.
I think he gave up when I entered the third grade.
Supposedly I never contracted rabies. But I have raged around and foamed at the mouth a few times to the point that the shed and being shot have been mentioned in my actual presence.
Which reminds me of the time I had a feral cat plastered to my head via teeth and claws and actually did get rabies shots. But that's a story for Halloween when my booster is due.