Tigger, with muddied nose and paws from attempted gopher excavation
I happened to be in Tijuana today so I decided it was time–time to head to Home Depot and take care of what has become an escalating gopher ‘situation’ in the yard–the same yard in which I’ve been planting tomatoes, blueberries, arugula, carrots and strawberries, among other things.
Well, to be entirely forthright, it was yesterday afternoon when I realized it was time. The gopher had poked its (actually rather cute) head out of one of the many holes and appeared to be looking around. Tigger (the dog), who had been waiting for this sighting, stood about a foot away, staring at said gopher. Her concentration was complete, but she did not make a lunge for the gopher. I’m guessing that since they live under ground gophers eyesight is not great, because it didn’t seem to notice a fairly large potential predator staring right at it.
I watched. And waited. Nothing. Tigger had been stalking it all afternoon, so I didn’t understand why she didn’t pounce. So, I took matters into my own hands, which happened to be holding a rake. With a really long handle. A handle that is sort of the same size as a gopher hole. I shoved the rake handle into the hole. At which point I realized that I had officially crossed some sort of line. A troubling one.
“Did I really just go after the gopher with the end of the rake?” I asked myself–though not out loud, as that would make me sound crazy.
Of course the gopher was much quicker than my rake wielding skills, so it really accomplished nothing. Except for to unmask the truth behind my so-called “belief in non-violence,” which is something that I would espouse as something I adhere to. Except, apparently, when it comes to gophers eating my vegetables. Which got me to thinking about non-violent resistance, and how there are real situations with real threats and folks choose a path that relinquishes fighting back. Which then lead me to ponder liberation theology, which is often associated with the need, at some point, to fight back against an oppressor. Which lead me to many other thoughts that I won’t bore you with here.
Cut to today. I was in Tijuana, happened to be near Home Depot, and decided it was time to find a gopher solution. Which, apparently, at least in Mexico, is not found at Home Depot but at the ‘granero’ which is literally translated ‘barn’ but in actuality is a sort of feed supply store that also sells baby chicks, ducks, dogs, and, as I found out, gopher ‘solutions.’
One brief aside, for context. Today, Thursday, happens to be what is called on the Christian calendar, Maundy Thursday. Mandy Thursday (which I always thought growing up was Monday Thursday and didn’t really get) is the Thursday before Easter that Christians celebrate as the Passover meal which Jesus shared with his disciples. It is frequently referred to as the “Last Supper” and is the subject of the famous painting of the same name.
So, when I walked into the granero and asked the woman if she had anything for gophers (I intentionally didn’t use the word ‘kill’ but stuck with ‘anything for gophers’ hoping that maybe I could find a way to avert traveling further down the path that the rake handle had begun) her response seemed rather fitting, in a troubling sort of way.
“Ah, la ultima cena para los topos,” she responded, which, translated loosely means “Ah, the last supper for the gophers.”
“Como hoy, con Jesus?” I responded (like today, with Jesus?). I assumed that her somewhat incomprehensible look back at me was that she simply didn’t know that today was Maundy Thursday, the day commemorating Jesus’ Last Supper. In reflecting back on the situation, it occurs to me that perhaps she was not unaware, but somewhat troubled that I would compare poisoning gophers to Jesus.
There were a few more mentions of ‘ultima cena’ (which, each time, made me more and more uncomfortable with the merging of the terminology between gophers and Jesus) but she finally decided that, since I do have a dog, rather than the ‘ultima cena’ what I needed was gas pellets, which, unfortunately, she did not have. Somehow adding a gas pellet to the mix did not seem to make the conversation more palatable.
So I left. And went to another granero, which thankfully did not use the ‘ultima cena’ reference, and which did happen to have the gas pellets. After an extensive discussion regarding whether or not they could be used in a garden with a dog and with vegetables, and with a consult to a veterinarian (again, this seems like a troubling turn of events), it was determined that the gas pellets would work. The same gas pellets that, when I googled the name, made sure to warn that they are only to be used by trained and certified professionals. Where did I put that rake again…?
The thing is, I’ve been trying the ‘natural gopher deterrent’ route for some time now, with pretty much no success, as little gophy’s appearance yesterday can attest to. Bill Murray’s got nothing on me, with google on my side. I’ve tried putting dog poop down the holes, using a hose, planting onions nearby, a stake that makes some sort of noise that is supposed to keep the gophers away, and even some other things that shall go unmentioned. Yesterday, after the rake incident, Jose suggested that one solution he had heard about was breaking wine bottles and putting them in the bottom of the hole where you are going to plant something. Which may or may not work, until the next season when you have to dig the soil again…
I spent the afternoon planting new seedlings–tomato, cucumber, kale, basil–which was, in a sense, procrastinating.
My mind was doing as much digging around as my hands.
…Why am I planting all of these if the gopher is just going to eat them?
…Are you really going to gas the gopher?
…Do you have any other solutions left? What about planting garlic?
…You talk about Jesus’ death on the cross as the ultimate act of non-violent resistance…and to commemorate it you are going to murder that poor, sweet, cuddly, furry little gopher? What kind of hypocrite are you?
Okay, so that last one might be a bit of a stretch…or is it? Is it ever okay to take life, intentionally, premeditated? Are vegetables sufficient rationale? I’m sorry PETA, but I don’t think twice before swatting a mosquito that is about to bite me. But somehow a gopher seems different–maybe it’s the cuddly nature. I didn’t really think twice when I encouraged Tigger to catch the mouse which had gotten in the house and was hiding under the kitchen sink. But that was a mouse…in the house.
This gopher was just out in the garden, being a gopher, minding its own gopher business when it happened upon a goldmine–carrots (which, being a root vegetable, are completely within gopher range). Who wouldn’t partake?
I realize there are some (who have probably stopped reading this by now, wondering what the drama is all about) who would not think twice about doing whatever it takes to rid the yard of gophers. One of the options that was presented at the granero was a rather large metal trap. “No gracias,” I promptly replied. There was no way I was going to dispose of a gopher corpse.
But the thing is, if I could get someone else to do it for me, I’d probably be right there with them. Which, I’m afraid, does not help my cause much. “I’m okay with killing as long as I don’t have to have blood on my hands” seems to be a fairly apropos sentiment reminiscent of Pontius Pilate. It was Pilate who (on what has now come to be called ‘Good Friday”) infamously ‘washed his hands’ of guilt/responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus.
But that, conveniently, is a story for tomorrow.