Gopher holes are part of the landscape in central and north Florida. I was nearly grown before I realized that our 'gophers' or 'gopher turtles' are really better known as 'tortoises' to many people. For me, these holes were made by 'gophers' or 'turtles'.
When startled, a gopher will draw its head into its shell and pull all four legs tight to the shell. It takes a good bit of strength to pull a leg away from the shell. As a child, I could only move the leg a little bit and it would snap right back in place.
We kids would find a gopher and take it home, putting it into the old dry concrete block above ground pool or something else large where it had room to wander but couldn't escape. We'd take the gopher food and water, keeping it for a few days before we let it go again.
The small dry pool, many years later.
Gophers were fun. We found them often. Some were fairly small while others were 'big ones'. At least they were big to a little girl who picked them up and carried them around. Any one that we called a 'big one' was always large and strong enough to carry a 2 year old child standing on its back, balanced by an adult's hands, for a short distance. Of course, first the gopher had to stick its head back out of its shell and began to walk again for that to happen. They startled easy.
David Taylor, Daddy's right hand man, enjoyed gophers in a different way. David and his family enjoyed eating gophers. (We tried a fresh water turtle after Stephen and I were married. None of us liked the turtle. Stephen used to date a girl whose family ate possum. We never tried that meal at all.)
(left) David Taylor and some of his family at one of our family gatherings, many years later
(right sitting) Granddaddy Waddie Lee, (leaning over) Daddy, (standing) Uncle Charles, Daddy's brother
David told me that he'd pay me for any big gophers I'd catch for him. Oh boy, I was ready to go! I could find a lot of them! He paid me according to the size. Many were just too small and he would let them go again. But he'd pay me from 15 cents to 50 cents per gopher that was large enough to become a meal for his family.
At first he would simply look at the gopher, reach into his pocket, pull out some change, and hand me the amount it was worth to him. After he had bought several gophers, he changed his approach. The next time he bent and picked it up and pulled out its legs one by one, looking under each one in turn. He turned the conversation (such as the conversation could be between a 6 year old girl and a grown man) to how the gopher itself paid me. This caught my complete attention. HOW did the gopher pay me? I was full of questions. David proceeded to show me. He'd cup one hand under the leg area, pull out a gopher leg with the other hand, and a coin would fall into his cupped hand. I was amazed. He'd do this with each leg, then hand me the coins.
Oh, this was exciting! I told Mother, Daddy, my brothers and sisters, everyone who would listen. Some showed amazement too, some scoffed, some laughed at me, some told me that I was being stupid. It didn't matter. David showed me and I saw him do it. I KNEW it was true.
I stayed enthralled. Each time I caught a gopher, I'd pull and tug. But when I did have enough strength to pull the leg out any, it would snap back in too quickly for me to look under it. I'd flip the gopher on its back and try it again. All four legs one by one, partly out then it would snap back in, partly out, then in, over and over and over. It was a real tug-of-war. But I was a determined little girl. I wanted to find that money MYSELF. I would fight with the gopher for a long time before giving up and putting it in the dry block pool to wait for David to come in from the field or come from his home. Each time, I told David that I couldn't find the money under its legs and each time he would patiently and slowly show me how simple it was. He would gently pull out a leg and presto, there fell a coin into his hand. Four legs equaled four coins. All four coins were for me!
I don't know how many gophers it was before I found out that David was teasing me. My parents had gone along the teasing, expressing amazement to me, saying they'd never seen anything like that! It never occurred to me that Mother and Daddy were never there when I gave the gopher to David. I'm sure their expressions would have given the whole thing away.
It was fun having parents that knew when to tease, when to go along with teasing, and when teasing wasn't appropriate. It was an honor to know David Taylor.