Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gophers (Prairie Dogs)

My brother Ken told me he took his son to the Saskatchewan prairies several years ago and they stopped enroute and shot prairie dogs as a part of his nostalgic return to the past. Gophers, as we knew them in the olden days, and now, are always a pest to the farmers in Saskatchewan. The number of varieties of species of gopher are quite overwhelming, but for us as children, they were just "gophers". The current measures of gopher control in Saskatchewan include various poisons like Strychnine and others, and shooting as a sort of control sport . Living in the then, small town of Kindersley, the bald prairie was close at hand and in the spring the sloughs were full of water. It was easy to haul a pail of water from the slough to the burrow hole, fill the burrow with water, and guard both the front and rear burrow entrances. When the poor bedraggled gopher emerged we would club it to death and cut off the tail. We got one cent per tail and deceitful or not, if the tail was particularly long, we cut it in half. Our family left Kindersley when I was 13, so this was a little boy business. We tried the snare technique, waiting for them to pop up as they did, looking for danger, but this was a slow and ineffective way to deal in the tail business world. We were too young for guns, and too innocent for poison. The tail production was not substantial, but a penny is a penny. It dismays me now that the rather grotesque nature of our work seems to indicate we were bereft of finer feelings. I think now of the seal hunt and the animal rights group and harken back to that earlier time. Certainly there is no distancing of the act of killing when you club a little animal to death.

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