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Electronic mail message from Mary Lynn Axtman, Fargo,
ND, native of Rugby, ND
This is a true tale among our family from the Flickertail
State of North Dakota about gopher tails.
In 1954, our Bickler, Buechler family was having
a family reunion near the village of Orrin, ND. Almost all of my
cousins had grown up in the North Dakota area and were more than
familiar with gophers and what a nuisance they could be. However,
one great-uncle had moved to New York City where he and his wife
were raising four sons. This would be the first visit "out west"
for the boys and they were primed with many cowboy and Indian type
stories along with other sights and experiences they might encounter
away from the big city.
Upon their arrival in North Dakota, the first thing
the sons wanted to do was catch a gopher and collect a tail. No
problem, there are millions in the state. With a trap in hand, we
helped them find the nearest gopher hole and set the trap. Within
minutes, a gopher was caught. Excitedly, the New York boys ran to
the trap, proceeded to cut the tail off of the gopher with their
new pocketknives and released the gopher from the trap! "Why did
you let the gopher go?" we asked in astonishment. To us, the only
good gopher was a dead one. They had thought that gophers were such
a rare animal [rodent] that they should let it go without doing
So, the joke in the family after that was to look
for any "tailless" gophers who might be descendants. At our 1999
family reunion, one NY son still has among his possessions that
same "North Dakota gopher tail."
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael