note: to learn more about pocket gophers click (Pocket gopher-Wikipedia button above)
Authors note: I first thought of this idea while taking a shower tonight. I had the idea to write something called "The Gopher People" to illustrate humans on earth as being the gopher people and Ferd being a a metaphorical but human spiritual soul traveler. However, as I began to write this I started to see children reading this in my mind and learning about gophers and cats and hawks and birds and their interactions in the process. So then I wasn't sure how I was going to write about all this. But then my wife talked to me about Native American Creation stories and about how when there was no food often children were left alone without food to die often and how creation and spiritual stories in this context reminded people of Japanese or Chinese stories where if two young lovers couldn't live together as man and wife because of wars or parents they turned into storks and flew off together which is a metaphor for a "Romeo and Juliet" type of ending to a story in them turning into storks in some dream sequence so they can be together. So, how will all this progress? I'll just have to see how I'm inspired to write this. end note.
Ferd was a young gopher. He was being trained by his father and mother to dig gopher holes to escape predators. Ferd didn't like digging holes. His eyes were much better than his father and mother but because he could see much better he also got more dirt in his eyes when he dug. So, his eyes were always having to water a lot to wash the dirt out. So, he tried to make excuses so he didn't have to dig so much. He didn't want to go blind or something by getting too much dirt in his eyes and scratching them so they didn't work right anymore. Since his Mom and Dad didn't see as well as him they could care less. They mostly only knew him by smell anyway. One day while digging he heard another gopher scream so he popped his head above the ground in time to see another gopher fighting and screaming as hawk took the gopher away in his talons. Since this was a distant relative of his he knew this gopher and was mad at the hawk for eating a relative of his. "How dare that hawk eat one of my relatives?" That was really rude. He went back and told his mother and she screamed as that was one of her litter mates. It was her sister Maude. So his mother cried and cried and would not be consoled.
This got Ferd to thinking. If he went up at night maybe no hawks could see either and then he could explore the surface. He didn't have much resistence to this because now his father had to console his now irreconcilable mother. So since Ferd was kind of an adventurer and unique kind of gopher anyway, he went up to the surface and climbed a small tree. But then he heard something in the dark. Slowly his eyes adjusted and he noticed that this was a cat. "What is cat?" he thought. then he saw the cat jump and catch a wood rat. He heard the wood rat scream a lot like his Aunt Maude had. So he knew from this he could be eaten too. But at least now he knew that there were creatures that hunted at night as well. So, Ferd tried to find a way to move faster on top of the ground as he wasn't really built for fast movement over the ground even though he could dig or move through an underground tunnel really fast.
Then he heard a Mockingbird singing and he thought it was the most beautiful sounds that he had ever heard anything make. He was entranced by the mockingbird singing until another cat pounced upon the mocking bird. Ferd thought, "Boy. That could have been me. So as the cat took his prey away, Ferd scampered down the tree and into his hole.
This gave Ferd a lot to think about. No one of his species that he knew of knew much about cats or hawks. So he took it upon himself to become an expert on predators that hunted his kind that lived above the surface.
The next night just before morning he scampered up his hole after checking for cats and hawks and once again scampered up a tree and into a hole in the tree that squirrels had used to raise their babies earlier in the year. Because now it was summer. So, Ferd sort of hid himself in amongst the leaves and nutshells and sort of sneaked a look out in a way that nothing much might see him. Besides, he was a Gopher and no animal or bird would expect him up in this tree in a squirrel nest that wasn't being used. And If they saw him they would think he was a squirrel which is very hard for anything to catch because a squirrel is just so unpredictable.
But then, he noticed that there was a big square thing next door and then the biggest creature he had ever seen came out and set a trap. He knew right away that this was a trap to catch one of his relatives. So, that night he went home to warn the other gophers of the trap. When he got back home his Dad said to him, "Where were you all day? I needed you to help me console your mother since she lost her sister Maude. Ferd said, "There is a trap being set for our cousins about 30 to 40 feet that direction."
Ferd's father got really mad and said, "You mean you were outside? That is death to gophers because we can't see the enemies." Ferd said, "I can see real good." His Dad said, "Well. I don't know if that is a good thing or not, Ferd". Then Ferd had a great idea. "I want to be a lookout for our gopher clan of families here, okay Dad?"
Even though Dad was upset about this he said, "Even though I hate the idea if you can save lives so I don't have to console your mother every time a gopher gets eaten by a hawk or a cat." "A cat?" said Ferd. Dad said, "Oh Yes. A cat hunts mostly at night after the sun goes down." Ferd said, "I saw a cat eat both a wood rat and another cat eat a mockingbird. Did you ever hear a mockingbird, Dad?" Dad said, "No. And you shouldn't have been there either." However, keeping the gopher clan alive was probably more important than how Dad was thinking. So Dad said, "I guess I have to let you protect the gopher clan by being our lookout because you have such good eyes. Most of us can't see very well at all and so would make poor lookouts."
Ferd said, "Thanks. Dad."
So, once again before daybreak when it was pretty cold (but remember this is summer so not that bad) Ferd climbed up his tree and into his abandoned squirrel nest and heard a tap-tap-tap which was a knocking sound on the tree. Ferd said, "Stop that infernal racket whoever you are. So the red headed woodpecker looked in the abandoned squirrel nest and said to Ferd, "You aren't a squirrel what are you doing here. I didn't give you permission to be in here. I cut this nest out of the tree while pecking for worms and bugs in this tree. What are YOU doing here in my nest?"
Ferd felt kind of out of place now and said, "I'm a lookout for my gopher people. I was sent here to watch for things that might eat us." The red headed woodpecker eyed Ferd suspiciously and said, "How come you can see? Most gophers can't see as well as you."
Ferd was happy about this and said, "I can see the best of all my relatives and friends. But when I dig tunnels in the ground the dirt hurts my eyes because they are good more like yours."
The red headed woodpecker said, "No one has eyes as good as a bird not even a human."
Ferd said, "What's a human?"
Woodpecker said, "They live in those box like things like that one there. I park my acorns into the edges of their roofs before winter. They rot less around the edges of roofs than they do if I put them in the ground. So they are better to eat for me and my family during the winter months. What do you eat, Ferd?"
Ferd said, "Well. We eat roots of trees and plants on the land below this tree."
Woodpecker said, "Does that kill this tree?"
Ferd said, "Not usually. We don't eat the tree roots that much because they are too tough. We like tender roots of other things better usually. So we just eat the tree roots when all the good stuff is gone."
Woodpecker seemed relieved because he liked to eat bugs out of this tree a lot and if the Gopher people
ate too many tree roots on this tree then the tree might die and so might the bugs he liked to eat.
Ferd, the young Gopher becoming and adult smiled at the Woodpecker. But then he realized a woodpecker can't smile. He just has a beak for pecking and eating with.
The woodpecker cocked his head sideways and said, "I give you permission to use this nest to protect your people. But you have to give it back to one of the squirrels that I gave permission to stay in my tree hole that I made by next winter, okay?"
Ferd agreed to the deal. He hoped this would work okay for his new job. Ferd felt really happy somehow now. He had made a new friend and bragged about how well he could see. This woodpecker seemed like a nice sort of being--orderly but still nice and just.
Ferd found he went to sleep through the rest of the day. He found an ant biting him and it woke him so he brushed it off him and looked outside. he saw the moon outside and listened to a hoot owl. This made him nervous because his Dad had said hoot owls ate gophers when they could catch them too.
But then he saw the hoot owl fly after he hooted a whole bunch of times. The form of the hoot owl stood out on the light of the moon. It took Ferd's breath away as he realized this beautiful hoot owl might eat him too. But he sure was amazing looking!
After the hoot owl was gone Ferd started to climb down from the tree but he slipped and grabbed a vine hanging on the tree. the force of him falling arched him out in and arc and then he came back and banged into the tree and then he fell into a pile of leaves. This was just too much noise so after he regained his breath from falling he scampered down the nearest gopher hole and saw his Dad.
His Dad said, "Well. What did you learn for us gophers today?"
Ferd said as he ate the roots his Dad had gathered for him to eat, "Well. I met a woodpecker that eats bugs and worms in the big tree we sometimes eat the roots of." Dad said, "What did he say?"
Ferd said, "He said I could use the squirrels nest until the next winter until the next squirrel couple needs it to raise their babies."
Dad said, "Well. That was very nice of him. The next time you see him be sure to tell him thank you from me."
Ferd said, "Thanks Dad, I will." But then Ferd fell asleep from falling off the vine. His back hurt a little but because he was still young he suspected it would heal by morning.
The next morning Ferd woke up to his back pain from falling off the vine and into the pile of leaves at the base of the tree. However, he was young and full of inthusiasm like many young people are and decided to forget about his aches and pains and get up and to to his squirrels nest to be a lookout and knowledge gatherer for his people, his kind.
The woodpecker said, "Good Morning" as he climbed the tree. He said, "What happened to you that you are limping. Ferd told his story and the woodpecker said, "You are having quite and adventure for a gopher." Ferd liked the idea of being an adventurer. Gophers weren't normally adventurers so this made him unique among gophers. So as he spied out his squirrels nest into the greater world he went to sleep dreaming about the woodpecker. He found himself flying along with the woodpecker in his dreams. When Ferd woke up he found the woodpecker staring at him. The woodpecker said, "You are a very remarkable gopher, Ferd. You can fly in your dreams with me. And I can see you as you fly with me like a ghost." Ferd said, "You actually experienced me flying next to you like a ghost?"
Woodpecker said, "Yes. Why did you fly with me like that?"
Ferd said, "I guess because I could I did!"
Woodpecker said, "Well. Let's fly some more sometime!"
Ferd said, "I'd like that if it happens.
Woodpecker said, "I've got to go gather some more food."
Ferd said, "Okay." and off the woodpecker went.
This gave Ferd a lot to think about. If creatures actually could experience him flying in his dreams maybe his father could experience him this way too. So, Ferd went back to sleep to see if he could dream and contact his father. But all he did was sleep and heal his hurting back. But then his dream changed and he saw his father stick his nose out of the ground for a moment and saw that his father was in danger of the hawk in his dreams. So Ferd Yelled in his dreams, "Dad. Watch out the hawk sees you push dirt at the surface. IN horror he watched the hawk try to attack his Dad. But Ferd's Dad somehow heard Ferd and got away just in time.
So, later when he hobbled back home from his squirrel's nest his father said, "Boy. You sure saved me today!" Ferd said, "Did you hear me, Dad?" Dad said, "Yes. You came to me as a ghost and said, 'watch out the hawk is attacking! I barely survived that son. If you hadn't come as a ghost I would have died."
Ferd smiled and wondered what all this meant. After all he was only a young gopher in the end, not some magical creature. Ferd started to think about all this as he ate the roots his father had gathered for him. Dad had even brought his own favorite roots to eat for Ferd as Ferd had just saved his life.
Ferd decided that The Great Gopher in the Sky (Gopher God) had made him special in order to better protect the Gopher people in his family and all around. So Ferd decided to honor the Gopher God by praying to him. He said, "Oh. Great Gopher God I really want to be a good gopher and help my gopher people so they can better survive and have a lot of babies and our gopher clan can grow. Will you help me Gopher God?" He felt like Gopher God had sent him as an answer to his prayers and the prayers of other gophers.
The next morning after praying to the Gopher God in the Sky Ferd set out before sunlight once again up into his Squirrel's nest. But the cry of a hawk startled him and he fell all the way from the squirrels nest entrance to the ground. He heard a sickening "Crunch" as his body hit the ground. However, he didn't feel any pain at all. Instead he got up but then noticed his physical body was there next to him. He looked onto his back and there were wings. Then he noticed that Woodpecker was watching him.
Woodpecker said, "I'm Angel Woodpecker. When you prayed to Gopher God in the Sky he decided to make you a special Angel Gopher. I'm Angel Woodpecker. I'm like you. I only appear to be alive as a woodpecker. You asked to help all your gopher people stay alive. Now you can. Go to your father and tell him you are now Angel Gopher and that you will always protect your Gopher People."
Ferd should have been upset about his body dying, but he wasn't. Because his prayer had been answered and now he could protect his people all the time and no hawk or cat could eat him or stop him anymore. Ferd was now Angel Gopher or I suppose Angel Ferd and now could always protect his people from harm. His prayer had been granted. He could help save his people now.
He went to his father and said, "Dad, I'm angel gopher now. I can always protect you and Mom and all our people. Maybe I could have prevented Aunt Maude from Dying if I was Angel Gopher before. But now I can help all our people. His father cried because he would miss taking care of his son. Dad's son had been not only his son but also his best friend. Dad said, "Will you come when I eat my roots and talk to me at least once every day?" Angel Ferd said, "Of Course, Dad. I'm an angel now. I can help all of you all the time." Then he went to his mother and she cried and said, "Though I will miss you my son. Maybe you can help us not get eaten by Hawks and cats and dogs and other things that eat us and kill us. So maybe Gopher God made you an angel so you could help us vulnerable Gophers.
Angel Ferd said, "I'm your protector now and the protector of every gopher in our family and beyond. And he was.