Groundhogs and gophers
Trapping animals sounded fun in theory, but practice proved to be a little too gruesome
By Theresa Blume
Did you know that a bear and badger were also considered as the animal for Groundhog Day? Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s badger had to forfeit to Pennsylvania’s groundhog, so we missed out on those tourism dollars.
Still, I enjoy this minor holiday, making it a point to watch the movie “Groundhog Day” each year. Maybe it is my inner child that loves the silliness, or maybe I feel obligated to the entire rodent family for the “incident” that happened when I was about 7 years old.
The Department of Natural Resources had given farmers incentive to get rid of pesky gophers in our section of the county, known as the “Sand Country,” because there were too many of them. My oldest brother trapped them. Years later he told me he took them to the town hall where he was paid so many cents per head. I did not realize he received money for it, but I was always copying my big brothers, so I begged to go gopher trapping too.
My other older brother was my mentor, showing me how to set traps for gophers in the ditch along our isolated road. I learned how to identify the holes where gophers entered and exited so I could set a trap right in front of the hole. I took a few kernels of dried field corn out of my old bubble gum pouch and carefully arranged them on the trap, being careful not to set it off. I also trailed some kernels back to the hole, but not too many to fill the gophers up before getting to the trap.
I faithfully rode my bike along our road twice a day checking traps and refilling the empty ones when some smart creature had managed to get to the corn. I anxiously waited for the day that I would come upon my first trapped gopher.
Finally, one day my keen hunter eyes spotted a trapped gopher, and I skidded to a stop. I was surprised to find him dead but still warm, so I was not anxious to hold this kitten-sized creature too close. After carefully extracting the limp body, I held him by the tip of his tail at arm’s length.
I pedaled the short distance home as fast as I could, speeding up as I went down our slight hill, anxious to show the trophy to my two big brothers. I had a tight grasp on the black rubber threads of my handle bars while also clenching the gopher.
Suddenly, he slipped from my hands, and I dropped him right on the road. I stopped so fast I almost went over those handle bars. I hated to have to pick him up again, and I carried his body and walked my bike the rest of the way home, still shook up from the unexpected event.
I was not so thrilled about gopher trapping after that. That was about 50 years ago, and I am glad I can now enjoy rodents in zoos and not have to trap them to see them.