The Cowboy and the Trophy Gopher

Being a good farmer takes a certain type of personality. I don’t have it. The cowboy and I have raised cattle and hay for the last thirty years, usually with seventy or more acres of hay. 
Now, I tend to be rather laid back when it comes to farming. The water will eventually get to the bottom of the field. Most of the hay will grow. What’s so hard about this?
On the other hand, the cowboy has an elaborate set of farming rules. We argued about, uh, discussed our differing opinions for several years until I found a job in town, and he farmed to his heart’s content.
One of the scourges of growing that much alfalfa is a small rodent called a gopher. It moves into a perfectly nice field, has tons of babies and each digs holes at an unbelievable rate. As the irrigation water runs down the field and into a hole, it disappears. The area below the hole dries out, and the hay dies.
The cowboy has waged all-out war on these burrowing invaders for years, checking his traps daily, spring, summer and fall. During this time, he’s tried repeatedly to convince me that since my hands are smaller, it would be easier for me to set the traps. I’m proud to say I didn’t fall for this con.
The county pays two dollars a tail and with three hundred gophers a year, this is a nice little side line. He’s saved the tails and cashed them in and the bodies were…well, let’s just say our dog Cindy was a gopher gourmet. Three years ago, he checked his trap line and found a trap was stuck. When the cowboy finally worked it free, there he was, Humongo-Gopher. It was the biggest gopher he’d ever trapped, maybe the biggest gopher in the world. 
He told his friends about Humongo, and they scoffed. Forced to take action, he took  the body in for a viewing and was proven right. All agreed it was the biggest rodent they’d seen. It was a fact. We owned a trophy gopher. Now how many people can say that? Since it was a trophy, we couldn’t feed it to the dog, so it went into the freezer to be preserved for posterity.
The problem is I don’t have much of a memory. If it isn’t in front of my face, I tend to forget it exists. Because of that, I’ve spent the last three years calmly going to my big freezer to get meat for dinner only to be confronted each time I opened the door by long yellow teeth and curved claws. Humongo looked like he could leap off the shelf and attack. The only thing that kept me from jumping out of my skin was the fact he was enclosed in a Zip Lock bag. Still, it was a shock.
Humongo finally went to the big gopher heaven in the sky this fall, and I no longer have to fear my freezer. The cowboy suggested we have a taxidermist mount Humongo and put him in the trophy room with the Elk and Deer antlers. That’s where I put my foot down. I guess in the cowboy’s mind a trophy is a trophy but really, Humongo was just a super-sized rodent.


  1. Are you sure Humongo was a gopher and not a rockchuck (/Colorado whistlepig/groundhog/marmot)? They look quite a bit alike, but the rockchuck is a lot bigger.

    We had several rockchuck infestations in our hay fields when I was growing up, probably because of the lava outcropping that was such an excellent place for a burrow system.

    Cute varmints, but boy could they suck the water out of an alfalfa field.

  2. LOL! I can't imagine opening the freezer to face a gopher! What an interesting life you have, Stephanie. Really enjoyed reading your blog and learning about the challenges you face:)

  3. Oh I think you should have let him take it to the taxidermist with a promise it would reside in his workshop OUTSIDE the house LOL! Very funny story! You're right sometimes the stuff you make up just can't compare to the real thing!

  4. Val, we had a huge colony of Rock Chucks at our farm in New Plymouth. No, this was definitely a gopher. We've had whistle pigs, gophers and rock chucks and they are all destructive as all get out.

  5. As I wrote that, I thought of several other things that have happened along the way. I came up with a title, "Blood, Guts and Cowboy Butts". I think it will be a good one. LOL

  6. How cool, that critter would have looked great mounted on the wall of my recently completed Man Cave. You have the coolest things, all I have here are squirrels and possum, oh and ghosts.

  7. I loved your story and can't wait to read "Blood, Guts and Cowboy Butts" if you put it in ink. I agree with Dee–stories that come from real life just can't be beat. Thanks.

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