An unusual situation of the gopher kind

Article

Attempts to eradicate these tunnel-digging rodents on my lameness pad pique my neighbors' curiosityand leave me wide open for a prank.

One of my worst nightmares actually occurred recently at Brock Veterinary Clinic. Gophers invaded the in the area where we trot horses to evaluate lameness. I got to work one morning and noticed mounds of dirt neatly piled up. Argh!

These rascals dig shallow subterranean tunnels and if a horse steps on one, the ground caves in and the horse can break a leg. I went to school to learn how to fix critters, not kill them, but we can't have horses breaking their legs because the local gophers won't live just 200 feet away in a happy place for digging.

So I set out to run them off. Have you ever dealt with these critters? They're elusive and hardheaded. I first tried gas capsules, hoping the terrible smell would make them head back to the vacant pasture, but they just dug more holes.

Next I tried garlic. I went to the grocery store and purchased 10 pounds of garlic cloves, put five or six cloves in each entrance hold and covered it up-and they continued to dig more holes. Next I tried bleach. I poured a gallon in the holes but this still didn't work. Time to get serious. I can't have horses breaking their legs at the clinic. Now it's war.

I decided to get traps because I didn't want to use poison. There are lots of traps available that will snare, pinch, poke or grab a gopher. I purchased several different types and went to work putting them in place.

Brock Veterinary Clinic is on a highly traveled road that runs through the middle of Lamesa. Every evening I was out on the lameness pad digging holes and talking trash to the gophers. It never crossed my mind that people passing by would even notice me, but Mark did. Oh, boy, did he notice.

It became a ritual for me. I would set the traps in the evening when I left the clinic, and I would check them early in the morning before things got busy. I wasn't having any luck. Those gophers were smarter than me and it was infuriating.

When I got to my fifth type of trap I was having high hopes. I set out six traps and was optimistic that this was going to be the ticket. I left that evening feeling that morning would hold a triumph in gopher extermination.

The next morning found me, bright and shiny, out digging up the new traps. The first two heldd nothing. As I approached the third I noticed that the surrounding dirt looked different, which gave me a little hope that I had finally got one of those rascals. I had attached the traps to a six-foot piece of baling wire and attached the wire to a stake in the ground so the gophers wouldn't be able to carry the traps off. This third hole was all covered up with packed dirt and definitely looked interesting.

I was excited as I dug down to see if I had finally ridded the pad of one elusive beast. Six weeks of every method of gopher removal known to man and not one gopher was even a tiny bit scared. These gophers had outsmarted me for so long I figured they had group meetings every afternoon to make fun of me for being such a buffoon. But now? Ahhh, I was feeling good. This was the moment I had been waiting for.

My heart raced as I followed the wire down into the tunnel. I dug gently as I pulled the wire through the packed the dirt. I continued to work the wire and could finally see the trap itself. As I uncovered it I could see a little hair. I was about to dig up the first victim of my gopher eradication program and I was excited.

I kept digging. Something was wrong. The hair I first saw in the trap was attached to something that didn't look like a gopher. It was kinda pink and felt way too firm to be a dead gopher. The more I pulled, the more I realized that this was no gopher at all. In fact, I had no idea what it might be.

I removed dirt slowly and carefully, but the more I removed, the more I knew I had been outsmarted again. This thing, whatever it was that was caught in the trap, was not a gopher. The more dirt I removed, the more it became apparent what it was.

A naked Barbie doll with gopher-colored hair. Are you kidding me? I had snagged a naked Barbie doll? Where did it come from? I looked around knowing those gophers were looking out from another hole and laughing their butts off at what they had done to me.

A few days later I got a call from Mark. He asked if I had caught anything unusual in a gopher trap. He had seen me digging around every morning and evening while he drove by and decided to give me a surprise one night. All he could say was he wished he had been there to see me dig it up.

Dr. Bo Brock owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

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