I’ve been conditioned by years of watching Green Acres to expect the countryside to be full of lovable eccentrics. I don’t know if this is true of all country areas, but it’s certainly true of Sonoma. Maybe, it’s because a lot of old hippy and counterculture types washed up here over the years, but we seem to have more than our share. Many of them drifted into professions like woodworking, reclaimed wood sourcing, and various gigs related to agriculture (especially Biodynamics and Permaculture). We try to hire as many of them as we can. Besides the fact that they tend to get shit done in non-toxic, old fashioned, innovative ways, you can’t beat the comic possibilities.
But I wasn’t expecting to encounter a Sonoma eccentric when my Ranch Manager signed me up for a Saturday morning Gopher and Mole Eradication Seminar down at the local nursery. I should have. And I shouldn’t have brought my latte into the seminar as I almost choked on it several times laughing.
The Gopher Guy addressed us in Carhartts and a safari hat. He should have been wearing full camo fatigues and jungle face paint. He opened his talk this way:
“I smoked a lot of pot in ‘Nam, but I learned a lot from Old Charlie.”
Then he proceeded to tell us how you battle gophers like you go down tunnels after the Viet Cong. In fact, sometimes it was hard to tell if he was talking gophers or Cong.
Now before you say, “Oh he stole his routine from Carl Spackler in Caddyshack”, let me tell you, this guy was the real deal. There were a couple of vets in the audience and he started asking them about where they’d served and throwing around names of conflict areas I’d heard of. As the daughter of an officer who served two extended tours of duty in Viet Nam, I’ll tell you, I can spot an authentic vet from in-country. This guy is it. He was there. In fact, I’m convinced that somehow Bill Murray got wind of the Gopher Guy and modeled Carl Spackler on him.
Anyway, it was a morning of serious strategy, techniques and technology for gopher eradication. Punctuated by me trying not to fall off my chair laughing. Not that any of this is a laughing matter. As The Gopher Guy warned us,
“I ain’t no catch and release guy. I kill the bastards dead. It’s a humane death, but the little bastards are dead.”
It was a full morning packed with information on gophers, moles, voles and other burrowing pests of the rodent variety. Believe me, there is a lot more to it than you’d think. But The Gopher Guy is very generous on his website with sharing his knowledge. Even if you don’t have a lawn or land, you should click over there because it’s just as hilarious as he is. Although the imagery for his site is more New Sheriff in Town than it is Apocalypse Now. You have to know your enemy. A mole has a very different modus operandi than a gopher. And don’t even get The Gopher Guy started on rats: “Bastards! Smartest damn rodents out there.”
After The Gopher Guy showed us various traps and shared his techniques, he pumped us up with a real pre-battle pep talk. “Ya can’t go into this half-assed. This is war. You go all in or you go home. The gophers will win.”
I could write three more posts on The Gopher Guy’s war techniques. But I’ll tell you what really impressed me. He said he once caught a gopher and kept it for a pet. I started laughing again and he leveled me with an intense gaze: “What’s funny? Ya gotta know the enemy. Know how he thinks. How he eats and breaths.”
So The Gopher Guy built a large version of an ant farm, two panes of glass on either side of a frame filled with dirt. So he could observe how the gopher dug his tunnels. That period is what earned The Gopher Guy his equivalent of a Degree in Gopherology — or perhaps the Silver Star for valor in the Rodent Wars. So what happened to that pet gopher?
“I forgot to put the lid on the cage once and he tunneled out, got through the screen door and into my backyard. I let him live. Ya gotta acknowledge that kind of bravery and ingenuity. When ya meet a worthy opponent, RESPECT.”
I am SO hiring this guy!
Apparently The Gopher Guy is quite famous around these parts. Sadly, he’s semi-retired and has sold his business to his son. I’m hoping I can stipulate that I’ll give them a contract to eradicate gophers from my vineyard if we can have the original Gopher Guy come out just for a day. Just to tell his war stories. Because Francis Ford Coppola is just up the road. I know he’s just about out of the film business and tending to his vineyards. But he must drop that immediately and do a remake of Apocalypse Now. With gophers. And The Gopher Guy.