I set out to help my dad several months ago. His beloved garden of thirty years had been demolished by animals the summer prior and he was left pretty disheartened. He even had said “this might be my last year.” I had co-operated my first garden the previous summer so I had gotten my taste of the farmer’s life. We had dealt with all sorts of pests–skunks, gophers, and groundhogs–in our 8 x 8 garden in Redbank Village. The animals were resilient and were everywhere in a neighborhood with densely populated houses and outdoor, filled trash cans. We had built a fence. It failed of course, but I now had experience. So, several months ago, I put together a nice little fence surrounding my father’s much bigger garden. The materials cost over a 100 dollars but the respect I’d get from my father would be priceless.

The fence was compromised within two weeks.

And so began the summer of the gopher. I like to think of him as Gary the Gopher. I’m not sure I’ve ever known a Gary but Gary sounds like a shady guy you’d see at a bar picking up 20 year old girls. Gary was sneaky, fat, and an absolute menace.

My dad’s high hopes were quickly dashed after Gary got in. But I was determined not to let Gary off so easily. Soon, everyone in my family hopped on the kill-Gary bandwagon. Even my niece and nephew. They thought it was a fun game tracking down Gary, but they’re too young to know about the evils of this world.

Someone told my parents that Juicy Fruit gum was the answer to all our problems. The gophers love Juicy Fruit gum (who doesn’t!) and when they eat it, their stomachs expand and they die. This proved to be, in the very least, scientifically misleading. Gary certainly didn’t die. His stomach may have expanded–I can’t be sure. Because Gary was and is a fat fuck of a gopher so who knows if he already had an expanded stomach. “Did you use all the Juicy Fruit,” my mother would say every day. YES I USED IT ALL, I’d respond, trying to convey to her that I didn’t think gum was going to kill Gary.

Then my dad brought home guns. While my parents are pretty conservative, they are far from gun freaks. But let me tell you, when those pellet guns entered the house, a whole new culture was born. Wayne, a former Vietnam vet who works for my dad, gave my dad a BB gun with a laser on it. The thing looked pretty lethal but apparently it wasn’t what my dad wanted. He graduated to a newer, bigger gun, and the size of it symbolized his growing distaste for Gary.

He looked like a newly initiated gang member. He had just begun a new diet and people thought it was to become healthier. I remain a little skeptical and wonder if it was at least in part, to make him quicker to catch the gopher. Regardless, the house now had a gun in it and a bunch of angry people wanting to kill something.

I had never shot any type of firearm before. It’s not a moral thing or anything. I’m just not really attracted to them nor do I trust myself with it. But my dad kept putting me on “patrol” as he’d call it. “I think he comes out to eat around 4 PM, so if you could be at the house, I’d appreciate it.”

It was like I was getting asked to babysit. Except I was given a gun and a completely ridiculous timeframe that was based on no evidence. Do gophers eat at a certain time? I’m pretty sure they’ll just eat when there’s shit to eat. Anyways, I got out the gun and set out to be a hero.

Gary dashed by one of those afternoons. Let me tell you something about guns. For all those people who say it’s needed for self-defense are full of shit. I WAS WAITING for Gary but that bastard was so quick I could barely lift the gun before he was hiding under the damn shed. Imagine if someone just busts through your door looking to kill you. “HEY. WAIT A SECOND, STRANGER!. I GOTTA GO UPSTAIRS TO GET MY GUN. CAN YOU TRY THAT AGAIN SO I CAN BE MORE READY.” 

I felt pretty emasculated when Gary dashed under the shed so I aimed at the area he went into, and fired a few dozen shots. The rush was immense and absolutely unproductive. I wasted a lot of pellets and I think I heard Gary laugh at me.

We then moved onto some corn-based Petrol shit that we found on Amazon. You’re supposed to put it down in a path, and have the path lead the gopher away from the target area. What a fucking waste of 30 bucks that was. FIRST OFF, why would the gopher be led away from something it knows it likes (tomatoes) to something else? I found myself leaving a path that led to the end of the driveway as if I thought Gary was going to be tricked into suicide. Score another one for Gary.

Then I got a GoPro from my girlfriend. I’ve wanted one for a while but I realized this could be tactic number 63 in getting Gary. See, GoPro has a wireless feed that connects to your iPhone. You can place the camera anywhere and see the footage from the camera on your phone from up to 60 yards away. So I cued up the phone in the kitchen, and told my dad to take a look at my phone (so he’d see the footage from the adjacent room). Well, his head exploded from the technology but then I told him we could use it as a spy-cam in front of the shed. He could watch TV and also watch the phone to see if Gary was outside. It was to be the greatest thing I’ve ever thought of.

This didn’t work either and with each tomato eaten, my dad grew more and more disheartened. It was demoralizing. And then I posted on Instagram a picture of me with the gun aimed at the shed and I got some PRO-GARY FEEDBACK. These people implying how much of a brute I was for using a gun, and for wanting to kill the gopher. SINCE WHEN have we cared about gophers? And don’t you dare go on about how they’re involved in the circle of life and how they eat some shit that helps us, in some circuitous way, breath the air we breath. I call horse shit on that and I’ll put a pellet in your shin too if I find you protecting a gopher. WE NEED TO EAT TOO. If you’re with Gary, you’re not with me.

Finally, I had had enough. I was reduced to a simple, practical solution.

“Dad, why don’t you just put some tomatoes  in front of the shed so it can eat that, and won’t go in the garden.”

“Won’t work. He only eats from the vine. It’s like he knows we’re tricking it.”

And with that personified view of Gary, I knew it was over.