Licensed to thrill gophers by the government of the United Nations

One time a gopher climbed into the outdoor vent for our dryer and wound up falling down the exhaust tube and meeting its end inside the works of the machine. The dryer had to be turned on its side and almost entirely disassembled before we could get to the source of the smell and by that time the little carcass was…well, it was pretty awful.

Today when my youngest daughter, Patience, and I came home from church she opened the door from the garage into the kitchen just in time to see our cat coming hard from the living room in high speed pursuit of a brown streak. Said streak made it to the dining area and underneath a free-standing jelly cabinet, whereupon the cat set up a seige. My daughter scooped the very annoyed kitty and closed him in the basement and came out to the garage where I was still getting things out of the car.

“Dad, Felix chased a chipmunk under the jelly cabinet!”

“Good,” I said, “let him earn his keep by keeping the varmints under control.”

“Daddy, we can’t let Felix get him,” she said in some distress, “and besides I’ve already locked him in the basement.”

This was not good news. We don’t see many chipmunks around our place, so I was thinking gopher. Which of course reminded me of the last time a gopher breached our perimeter. I had also been thinking a dead, rotting gopher in the dryer was about the worst thing we ever hoped to experience as homeowners, but now I started wondering if a live, excited gopher could be more destructive – and a lot harder to remove.

I went inside with Patience to scope out the situation. She announced she was going to try to trap the beast using a shoe box and some hazel nuts from the cupboard; an idea I thought would be spectacularly unsuccessful. Still, it was an idea, and since my thought of letting the cat retrieve the interloper (and then retrieving the neutralized rodent from the cat) was in disfavor I figured it was useless to suggest the Carl Spackler options of flooding, shooting with a high-powered rifle, or plastic explosives shaped like the gopher’s “friends”.

The situation seemed stable for the moment, so while Patience assembled the elements of her scheme I went outside to see if I could find a gopher-sized opening into the house; hopefully one that didn’t already have a gopher-sized sign advertising “free high-speed internet.” Minutes later Patience came bounding outside as well.

“I tried to force it out from the cabinet and toward the box with the food in it,” she said, “but it ran into the kitchen and under the stove. And I think it’s a gopher and not a chipmunk.”

“Ah, Mr. Gopher, we meet again,” I thought. I was not surprised that the trap hadn’t worked because – in order to defeat my enemy – I was already thinking like my enemy and I sensed that a gopher on the run in strange surroundings would not be thinking, “I’ve got to get out of here – but first, a snack!”

I was thinking again of unleashing the cat, but my daughter was thinking strictly in terms of an exit strategy. “If only we could get him to run outside,” she said. I was about to say, “Oh yes, perhaps if we asked him nicely…” when it started to dawn on me. The stove is opposite of a door that leads directly to our driveway. Both are located in a narrow neck of the kitchen that leads to the larger part of the room. If we could just establish a barricade to prevent any flight deeper into the house, and if we could hold the door to the outside wide open….why, yes, it could just work!

Quickly we laid chairs on their sides, perpindicular to the front of the stove. Next my daughter selected a broom, and I positioned myself in the threshold, holding the inside and outside doors open as widely as possible. Patience then started to probe gently under the stove with the broom. Almost instantly the gopher shot out from under the stove, crossed the narrow strip of floor between us and was out the door in front of me and launched itself off of the stoop. It landed in stride and crossed eight feet of pavement faster than you can say “great gobs of” and flung itself into a hedge with a last exultant leap. I choked up like at the end of “Free Willy”.

But do you want to know what the best part of all this is? The cat still thinks the gopher is under the jelly cabinet, and is camped out. I plan on breaking the news to him in the next day or two.

3 thoughts on “Licensed to thrill gophers by the government of the United Nations

  1. Yet another oppurtunity for my M1 is wasted. I would have guaranteed success with no more than 10-20 bullets holes in the walls of your home.

    But no! You had to take the sensible approach. You really are no fun.

  2. Pingback: Wild Kingdom | thenightwriterblog.com

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