Gonna Get Me a Gopher

Richardson Ground Squirrel.jpg

Last week we had the first week of the Coulees & Culture Day program where kids aged 6 to 10 spend the week at different venues around Lethbridge.

On Friday they were at the Galt all day. Michelle, Galt summer staff, spent most of the day with them but I was able to drop in for some of the fun activities (hiding dinosaurs for them to find, making ice cream – it’s a hard life, but somebody’s got to do it). I also gave Michelle a break at lunch and was out with the kids south of the museum during their free time.

The kids were using sticks to try and dig out gopher holes (and, yes, I know they’re Richardson’s Ground Squirrels but I’m going to keep calling them gophers). Watching them, I had a major case of déjà vu. I remember doing the same thing during my early elementary days. We could often be found behind the school with small sticks determined (and positive) that we were going to dig the gopher out of the hole.

We planned it like a military expedition. We had people at various holes each digging away at the same time. And with our sharp pointed branches (because we never had so much planning that we had shovels or anything) we would dig and dig.

I was amazed watching the kids how little things have changed. Just as it had when I was young (more years ago than I care to admit) – a stick, a hole and friends to play with were captivating these kids. I remember being that captivated, certain that with perseverance and a little more time, we were going to dig the gopher out of its hole.

Watching them, though, I had the advantage of seeing it as a child and an adult. I knew that no matter what they did or how much they dug, they were never going to get the gopher. I could imagine the gopher in one of probably a dozen other holes popping her head up and looking at the kids and thinking to herself, silly kids. Or maybe the gopher was resting from the heat in a deep, dark place in the hole comfortably away from the hot sun (it was a really warm day), laughing at the silliness of humans.

As an adult, I knew the gopher was never in any danger from us. But watching the determination on the kids’ faces, hearing their excited discussion as they planned where to dig and how best to dig and observing them as they tried to make certain they had all of the hole covered, it was priceless. I realized, for those kids (and myself, too, as a child), it was not about catching the gopher – it was about digging for the gopher.