This is a true story from the summer of 2000. I was 16 at the time, and my sisters Jen and Kate were 14 and 9. They’re still scarred. 

We stared at the gopher — Kate, Jenny, and I,

Our shovels relaxed where they leaned at our sides.

It waddled through mud, neither dauntless nor shy,

Just putzing around with the mud at its sides.


“Don’t kill it,” begged Jenny, with fear and a frown.

“Dad said to,” I said, and then holding my breath,

I swung high the shovel and brought it straight down,

And promptly proceeded to beat it to death.


It squashed in the mud with a sickening sound;

I drew back the blade and I hoped it was dead.

The gopher lay trampled, a mud-covered mound,

The fur peeling back where I’d cracked through its head.


But dead it was not, only tortured and beat,

Its skull like a walnut, all wrinkled and bare

As slowly it rose on its flattened hind feet

And stared through the blood pooling down from its hair.


Well, now that I’d done it, I couldn’t just leave,

So over and over, I hit the poor stuff,

And each time my shovel came down with a heave,

Kate cried, “That’s enough! That’s enough! That’s enough!”