The Gopher in the Front Yard

Last summer, when my mother was still with us, mounds of dirt were appearing in the front yard. One day when we were looking out the kitchen window my mom commented that the last time she noticed there was only one mound, but now there were two. At the time she was struggling with memory challenges, so I thought to myself “maybe”.

My husband had also been observing the dirt piles, each one next to a hole. He had been filling the holes up with the dirt, but as fast as he could fill them another mound would appear.

Later when I happened to look out the window again, I saw dirt fly up from the ground, a small head pop up and look around, and then disappear. It was just like the gopher in the movie Caddyshack.

I got this Caddyshack image from the internet, but it looks a lot like our yard

With the giant gopher holes in the yard making steady progress closer and closer to the house, we figured the gophers would be digging up in our kitchen in a day or two. Action was required.

Following is Wayne’s account of what happened next: “I drove to Fleet Farm, which as we all know, has everything you could possibly need. I found my way to the section with mouse traps. I was looking perplexed when one of the Fleet Farm workers approached. I explained to him the situation, telling him I had gophers digging up my lawn and they were heading towards the house, getting closer by the minute. 

“You have one gopher, and the trap you need is not in this section. Follow me.”

We headed to the far end of the store, near the sporting goods. 

“We may not have our larger animal traps out yet, as they are a seasonal item, but if they are not out, I will take you back to the warehouse where I know we can find them.”

The trap he was looking for was not on the show floor, so off we went through two double doors into the spacious warehouse area. We walked and walked forever, until we finally came to a big bin full of twisted wire. It turned out the twisted wire was actually individual gopher traps — the infamous “Death Klutch” DK-1!

“This is what you need,” said the Fleet Farm trap expert confidently. He showed me how to set the trap once but knew I would forget. “Just look it up on YouTube, they will show you how to set it.”

You dig a hole in the dirt mound, to get air into the tunnel below. The gopher will sense the fresh air, and return to patch up the hole. If you are lucky, he will spring the trap. The first try was unsuccessful, but the second was the charm. End of gopher. Our yard, and our living room, were saved”.

Minnesota is known as the Gopher State

Minnesota is the Gopher State. A political cartoon from 1857 is credited with giving Minnesota this nickname. In the 1850’s the legislature was considering a five million dollar loan to the railroad tycoons. Regular folks were skeptical and wondered why this was necessary and whether only a few people were benefiting. The drawing by St Paul artist R.O. Sweeney showed the rich railroad owners as gophers with human heads pulling a train with paid off lawmakers. The cartoon went “viral” as we say today and thereafter Minnesota was known as the Gopher State.

The original University of Minnesota mascot from the 1940’s

Goldy Gopher has been our University of Minnesota mascot since the 1940’s, being represented over the years by various logos with a striped tail. Actually it turns out that gophers do not have striped tails. The rodent with the striped tail is called a 13-lined ground squirrel. I guess the mascot has been depicted with the striped tail for so long that no one notices or cares that it is not accurate.

The U of M mascot since 1986

Published by Meg Hanson

Hello. I am a recently retired empty nester. My husband and I moved to Jewett Lake in Otter Tail County, Minnesota, after living most of our lives in the Minneapolis area. I have no trouble keeping busy with knitting and spinning of wool, selling yarn and handmade goods, reading, walking, watching movies, surfing on the internet, traveling, doing bookkeeping for our family cabin, and spending time with family.

3 thoughts on “The Gopher in the Front Yard

  1. Great story. Notice how the image of Goldy from 1986 has a very friendly, non-threatening smile and normal size biceps? When I began attending law school at the U of MN in 1984 the image of Goldy at that time was almost identical to the one you include from 1986 but the earlier Goldy had very large biceps and a rather aggressive or leering face. Around 1984 there was an incident on campus involving claims by some women that they were assaulted by U athletic students. Apparently as part of a review of the culture on campus regarding conduct by student athletes, the University revamped the image of Goldy in 1986 to the current, friendlier style. At the time I remember thinking this was possibly a silly, token gesture, and that the image on students’ sweatshirts was not what needed to be addressed. See the earlier image of Goldy, clearly an animal who would trounce you on the playing field and possibly at a Frat party as well, at this link:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVE this entry. Your personal story was fun and charming (as well as irritating), but the background info on the Minnesota Gopher was delightful and informative, to a non-native especially. Great illustrations.

    Liked by 1 person

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