Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News,Tolosa Press, SLO, Ca for July 3,08
A Visit from “Uncle Phil”
It wasn’t my fault. Honest. It wasn’t.
I first noticed something was wrong when I grabbed a branch of my huge, beautiful pale pink mallow bush and the whole thing fell over. The main trunk looked like it had been gnawed off by a beaver. Then the mounds appeared in the front yard and I knew who had arrived – gophers.
I couldn’t use poison for fear the sick or dying creature would escape its burrow to become a deadly meal for my canine crew or any passing crow or hawk. Plus, poisoning is an ugly business, even if the critters are trying to eat up my front yard, so I thought I’d try a different tack.
For some reason, the gophers didn’t seem to bother the salvias, so I started planting salvias. Chemical warfare -- a no-kill method of discouraging the gophers while also xeriscaping the front yard with plants that were not only drought resistant, but came in an endless variety of colors and sizes. And lavender plants, too. Apparently, those didn’t appeal to the gopher’s palate either.
Oddly enough, neither did geraniums. Or rock roses. Or the giant four o’clocks, with their sweet-potato-sized tubers. And so our battle of the edibles continued until the furry beasts upped the ante by downing another mallow.
Then, out came the wallet. No more Mrs. Nice Person. “Kill’ em painlessly in their burrows,” said the package of smoke bombs. “Koff-Koff-Koff, ” said the gophers, gleefully digging more holes. “Environmentally safe castor oil spray drives ‘em away,” guaranteed the environmentally safe castor oil spray bottle. The gophers didn’t drive anywhere, but more of my money sure did. “Use those beeping gopher stakes. They work like a charm,” assured one of my blog posters. Pounding dollar bills into the ground would have worked better, since one gopher even pushed up a huge mound right next to the beeping stake. Clearly, my gophers were into heavy metal music.
Like some awful uninvited obnoxious drunk at your nice weekend party, no amount of less-than-lethal hints that maybe it was time to move on worked. Not smoke, not sprays, not loud music.
And then the gophers went too far. Coming out in the early morning to get the paper, I noticed a huge gopher mound right smack dab in the middle of one of the old wine-barrel planters. The arrogant, rotten little scoundrel had come right up through the bottom of the planter and there on the walkway lay a huge pile of gnawed off yellow nasturtiums.
Well, that was that. Nobody messes with my yellow nasturtiums. Nobody.
That’s when my neighbor Phil got a phone call. Soon his tall, lanky figure ambled down the dirt road. Was that High Plains Drifter music I heard wafting in the background or merely the metallic clank from a pair of evil-looking, deadly metal gopher traps dangling from his hand?
He gazed earthward with Clint Eastwoodian narrowed eyes, and with slow, practiced movements he probed the ground with an enormously long screwdriver, then dug and carefully placed the traps. All while counseling patience since, as he noted, it often takes a while to round ‘em up and head’ em up to Heaven.
Days passed, traps were triggered but empty, then moved and moved again. Finally, Phil and his wife Candy walked down early one morning to check the lines. A firm tug and out popped a dead, sickly-sweet smelling, thoroughly decomposing gopher, his damp fur matted, his huge incisors gleaming yellow in the sun.
Before I could even get in a quick prayer for the rotten little guy’s soul, the sight of my mallow-chomping enemy suddenly turned me into a goggle-eyed, growling, fist-pumping Tusken Raider from Star Wars. “ Rrrooooaaggghh, Rrroooaagghhh!” I howled, jerking my arms skyward. Then to add insult to mortal injury, I bent down to the tunnel to evilly croon in my best Baby Jane sing-song, “Yooo hoo, Oh little gopheeees, Uncle Phil The Gopher Killer is here. Sweeeet dreeeeeems. Heeee-heeeee-heeee.”
“Careful,” said Candy, sipping on her coffee. “Or PETA will come pay you a visit.”
“Let them,” I snarled, unrepentant. “I gave those rotten crummy little varmints every chance in the book to take the hint and go away. But did they listen? They did not.”
“I’ll be back,” said Phil, resetting the traps.
“Heh-heh,” I replied, taking my smelly dead prize to the garbage can.
Like I said. It wasn’t my fault. They made me do it.