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Mark Loper

By Mark Loper

We did the right thing last year, removing most of our front yard and replacing it with wood chips and drought-resistant plants. We felt good about ourselves.

We were saving water, the ecosystem, and most importantly, money.

And I admit feeling like I was a charter member of Greenpeace, standing atop the bow of the Warrior fighting for whales and, ultimately, the world.

But we kept the grass in our backyard intact for reasons I forget, and now, after the winter rains and under the spring sun, it’s flourished.

It’s green, lush, and acts much like an African watering hole.

We have raccoons hunting, skunks strolling, and rabbits twitching.

We have butterflies hovering, lizards darting, and hummingbirds, well, humming.

And now we have gophers excavating—excavating being a euphemism for destroying, ripping asunder, or stripping mankind of any dignity.

First, there were dirt mounds along the slope and I laughed because there was no harm done, and gophers can be sort of cute. I loved the gopher in Caddyshack.

They remind me of gerbils, but with buck teeth.

And I named him Gordie.

But, being prescient, I immediately bought several solar anti-gopher, mole, and oryx spikes that, when planted in the ground and activated, emit an intermittent, high-pitched buzz which, purportedly, drives the little devils out of the yard and to Lake Elsinore.

(And with the devices being solar-powered, I enhanced my eco-status on the Warrior, minimizing my chances of being removed in lieu of a whale lover and being tossed unceremoniously into the Arctic.)

Two mornings later, a hole (with the requisite dirt mound) appeared near the grass, and I could almost hear Gordie taunting me, “Here I come! And those stupid things sticking in the ground buzzing like cheap doorbells can’t stop me!”

I bought and planted two more of those stupid things.

The next day, like Erwin Rommel, he had advanced onto our lawn!

Our lush grass had been replaced by three ugly dirt piles, one with a little flag on top that read, “Gophers Rule!”

I was angry, but vowed not to give up.

This little rodent had a brain the size of a grape and he thought he could better this man? A man who once answered Final Jeopardy correctly? A man who knew most of the lyrics to “The House of the Rising Sun?” A man who assembled a bureau from IKEA in less than a day? (Well, except for the top drawer.)

Oh, please.

Unlike our less self-assured neighbors, I was not calling the Gopher Patrol. The solar spikes would work! They were guaranteed! And advertisements never lie!

Several days later, we had more holes than the 49ers defense.

So I rushed to the hardware store and bought the last bottle of Gopher Scram. (This being the last bottle was not a good sign—signaling, perhaps, a pending major offensive in the city, like D-Day, but with a different consonant.)

Gopher Scram is another guaranteed, non-lethal deterrent to gopher incursions, and as I spread it across the remaining shreds of our backyard grass I, well, I couldn’t help but gloat.

Goodbye, Gordie, it wasn’t nice knowing you.

The next morning there were more holes, more mounds, and several tiny, empty wine bottles, and a note that read, “Thanks for the appetizer. Chablis pairs well with Scram.”

So, as much as I loathe saying it, Gordie is winning.

I have been forbidden by my daughter to hurt Gordie, so poison, land mines, and surface-to-air gopher missiles are not options.

But I haven’t given up.

I’ll try again tonight and, if Gordie continues his onslaught, I can still find the positive.

By the weekend I should have enough holes to open a golf course.

Mark Loper has been a San Juan Capistrano resident for over 30 years and has written for several kinds of media. His writing has been scorned and rejected countless times, but while hanging onto a wisp of self-esteem, he’s managed to have the occasional scribbling published as ad copy, in book form, online, in columns, and for TV. He has yet to tweet.

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