In retrospect, I see the clues that should have caught my attention earlier, but it was only a few days ago that I actually figured out what has developed under the turf here in the mountains of Crestline. The animals are partying. Tell you how I know. For one thing, my flowers are disappearing. I recognize now that the animals are using them to decorate for their festivities.
It was five years ago that we moved into this house –in the dead of winter–between snow storms. Came springtime, in the front yard, tall iris stalks rose from the dead earth, and I waited eagerly for blooms. There were none and every year I watched and there were none–until last year. Then from those stately stalks, burst purple irises–so dark they ran to black. Meticulously, we tended them, and, when I thought Jerry couldn't hear, I whispered words of instruction and encouragement. There is something regal about an iris, high-standing, they start out with sturdy shoulder but then the flower is not quite sure it wants to be that high, and so their petals bend inward and flutter together as though they were elegant old friends…mumbling and muttering. They bloomed again this year and I gazed and calculated and then the next day as I gazed and calculated, I noted one to be missing. Not wilted, or knocked over or bent down–missing.
Before we moved to Crestline, I had never met a gopher. I had heard of them, and clearly recall Jerry fuming about the lawns being ruined at our church property and what should they do… But none made house calls in our neighborhood, so all those years, I missed making the acquaintance of even one gopher. The neglect was readily ameliorated our first year here. I believe the word rippled through the underground that throughout my earlier life I had been bereft of gopher contact. Many came and left their cards.
Once, through a window, I saw a recently planted flower begin to shake in the wind. Problem was, there was no wind. Puzzled, I scanned oak trees for leaf flutter, but none stirred–the day was still and hot. Before my eyes, the plant grew perceptibly shorter, a fairytale, a reverse Jack-In-The-Beanstalk. Then the plant was gone, not bent over, not broken, not wilted–gone.
The gophers have scouted about. They have counciled and designated our neighborhood the place to be. The new Hollywood, the new Central Park. The MacDaniels live across the street, and the other day Ken came home with two tall fan-like objects. "What are those?" Jerry asked.
"They're for the gophers," Ken snarled as he affixed them to the earth.
"Yes, Gophers. I found these at Harbor Freight. Lady there said they are a marvel. The fans set up a vibration, the gophers don't like it, so they move away." (Probably move into our yard, I thought, when I heard the story.)
We get a fair amount of wind up here and Ken's two fans looked kinda cute, the blades whirling in his garden, clearly visible from our dining room window. "Think I'll get a couple of those fans," Jerry muttered last week as he dropped in some choice food and closed yet another gopher hole. (Eighty-two year old Bill next door goes for the jugular with steel traps.)
"Are the fans working out, Ken? Think I'll get me a couple."
"Don't bother, Jerry." A sheepish grin spread over Ken's sweet face. "I don't think it helps a lick!"
Over my garden, flowers continue to disappear, and finally, I have figured it out. The fans are banging out underground music and my flowers are supplying the decorations and the snacks. Beneath the turf in Crestline, grinning gophers are dancing away as they throw extravagant parties. They've chosen the tastiest food and the most elegant of floral arrangement. Come party's end, they gather chairs, bring out the notebooks, stick pencils behind their ears, and aggressively plan for advancement.