Gopher Takes Down Joyce Oroz

Gopher takes down five-year-old Shoestring Acacia

It’s hard to imagine a rodent the size of a small fruitcake, taking out a ten-foot tree. The tree happened to be a shoestring acacia I had babied for five years. I planted it in a wire basket, knowing there were critters in the ground plotting its demise. I faithfully tended my little tree, giving it food, water and kind words.

Two feet down, right under my feet, the gophers were laughing and doing high-fives as the acacia roots lengthened, eventually pushing their way out of the wire cage, and deeper into the sandy earth where the greedy monsters drooled and waited.

Over the years, my favorite little tree grew straight and tall, it’s branches proudly wearing thousands of foot-long stringy (but graceful) leaves. I imagined my tree growing to twenty feet and giving refuge to small birds needing a place to hide from the local cats. I couldn’t wait for its branches to stretch out and provide filtered shade over the grass.

Under the grass the fruitcakes were busy gnawing delicate tree roots down to the nub at a time when Mother Nature was orchestrating a mighty wind storm all over California. Finally the winds diminished enough for me to go about my gardening duties. Suddenly I noticed that my tree was leaning. I dropped the hose and reached out to the acacia’s slim reddish trunk. It easily moved several inches in every direction.

Life can be cruel, but I was not about to let my tree die. I raced to the back yard, making several trips actually, gathering long sticks, rope, a large rock and duct tape. I quickly staked and wrapped the trunk until it looked hokier than the blouse I sewed in my seventh grade Home Ech. class.

I quickly stuffed half a pack of juicy fruit gum into my mouth and chewed until it was soft. Juicy fruit is a gopher killer. I didn’t make that up. I poked the wad down a gopher hole. Now, if the tree grows new roots and the gophers partake of gum (and die) I will be satisfied. Later that day my neighbor told me his cat smelled like juicy fruit gum. A flavor I love!


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