Tuesday, September 13, 2005

For Your Rodent Pleasure

Something is in the ground at the Kafkaesque homestead.

EXHIBIT A was the mounds of earth multiplying in the back yard. EXHIBIT B was the odd and somewhat disconcerting behavior of the neighborhood cat gang (note: I am not specifically speaking here of Cat Town, which I enjoy linking to whenever possible, because it contains pictures of cats wearing headwear, and that's important for America). What was happening was this: one representative of the neighborhood cat gang (usually a rather dapper little grey and white number) would trespass into our back yard and then sit and stare at the ground for hours at a time. Of course, having lots of first-hand experience with cats laying around and generally not doing anything, we were not too alarmed by this impressive display of inertia. But this cat was alertly staring into the corner of the lawn area (I call it the lawn area, because I think one day I may put a lawn there, and not because there is an actual lawn item there at present. There are rocks, dirt, and weeds, not necessarily in that order.) like a cat version of the Blair Witch Project.

This tipped us off that something was up, ground-wise.

At first I thought we had moles. And moles are great. They wear little plaid vests and charming Victorian eyeglasses. In the morning, they peek their heads out of their little holes, carrying a candle and wearing a jaunty nightcap. They also bring to mind the psychedelic Spiderman foe, The Molemen. Just to be thorough, I should also mention that Molemen are also featured in the not as charming, but you'd have to say interesting, series of Residents albums. Sure, moles still destroy your plants, but they're weird enough that you can almost forgive them.

Then, I described the symptoms to variety of people well versed in the rodent arts, and they assured me what I was facing was a gopher.

Gophers are single-minded about destroying your garden. They don't wear plaid vests or squint in the sun. They don't go for wild rides with Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, or gambol down rivers with their friend the weasel. They have giant fangs and, as if that's not bad enough, as soon as you tell someone you have gophers, chances are pretty good that person will launch into stirring rendition of one of three, or possibly all three, scenes from the movie Caddyshack.


Still, I wasn't that worried about our back yard, since as I have mentioned, it's a barren wasteland suitable only for filming 1950s Mars movies. Then, we spent many back-breaking hours redoing our front garden, freeing it from the shackles of junipers and ugly white rocks, and ushering in a new age of feather grass, Mugo pines, and a particularly nice flowering cherry tree. The mounds started appearing in the front yard soon after, and one day one of our grasses was pulled into the earth, cartoon-like.

Clearly, the time had come for action.

I went to a local nursery and asked for one of those gopher deterrent devices that you bury in your yard. You put batteries in the device, and every 30 seconds or so, it whirrs into life, emitting sonic vibrations that send your gopher nemesis into apoplexy, so determined are they to get away from the shaking menace. Maybe the device plays Guns n Roses too. I don't know. It sure worked for the ATF that time in the Koresh compound.

So I went to the counter and said, in so many words, that I am less than a completely formed man because I want to gently dissuade my rodent squatters, instead of, variously, sucking them out of their warm burrows with a tremendous vaccuum cleaner, driving stakes into their trembling gopherbodies, gassing them, or blowing them up. "I don't want any, you know, trouble," I said to the nursery lady.

After all, I'd hate to get to the afterlife, and find of bunch of pissed off grub-munching vermin are running the show, and none too happy about the whole genocide thing.

So I wanted the humane alternative, the sonic sound wave emitting super-robot machine from the future that would drive my little gopher chums to the very brink of madness and possibly over that brink. Maybe they'd run out into the street and get run over. Hey, not my fault. I didn't gas you, gopher buddy. Or drive a giant stake into your head.

But no, she informed me. They didn't have any happy friendly gopher-driver-insaners at the nursery. "Just," she said with something of a twinkle in her eye, "Poison, gas, traps. You know." I was disheartened, but told her that I would look through the selection of medieval torture devices anyway. Maybe there would be a pleasant and quick death device. Like a gopher version of Soylent Green, where the gophers get to view pastoral scenes and listen to soothing music in their final hours, before being processed into Ritz crackers. On the shelf there were the spike traps, indeed, and poison and gas. But there, in the corner of the display, was the prize...the GopherIt.

The GopherIt is an 18 inch, 4 battery-havin', buzzin', beepin' gopher sanity remover the likes of which I have never seen.

So I grabbed it and strode boldly to the counter and crowed to the woman who had denied the device's existence: "You do! You do have a gopher vibrator!"

And then there was a little pause, during which I thought (as I end up thinking quite a bit) "Maybe I didn't really say that out loud."

But, of course, I did. And I have to say she was unrattled.

It does make me think, though. For one thing, I paid $39.95 for the GopherIt. I don't shop for a lot of vibrators, but I'm guessing you could get a non-name-brand knock-off vibrator for somewhere around $20. Also, if I planted vibrators in the yard, maybe I could grow a vibrator tree and start a lucrative new career as an organic vibrator farmer.

So I've got that going for me.


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