National Geographic : 1931 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE CAMOUFLAGE! A gopher sneaks through the undergrowth of weeds. It is amazing how quickly he can hide in such a tangle of sunshine, brown twigs, and dead grasses. with a leap of their own, so well aimed and so quick that they are on the grass hopper before he can move or know what has happened. Clasping the insect in their hands, they devour him humanely, head first. Hence, no doubt, comes the trick of leaping up and pouncing on the thrown pieces of bread. To illustrate how tame they grew: One day a gopher climbed into my lap and made off with a big Graham cracker. I explained to him that he couldn't have a whole cracker and took it away. He made no protest, nor did he run away, but followed my hand docilely and nosingly until I broke off a piece of the cracker for him. BATTLE SCARS SERVE AS DISTINGUISHING MARKS Not only did each species differ widely, but the individuals of each could in many cases be distinguished from one another. This might be due to a variation in mark ing. Spot had a deep black smudge on his nose. Development played its part. Tiny was an undersized dwarf. Usually the difference was an accidental one, due, alas, to too much fighting, which I never was able to convince them was going out of style. Little Bobby and Big Bobby had both lost half of their tails; Nick had a "nick" out of one ear. Then, exactly like human beings, there were those so markedly dif ferent by temperament-tamer, more ag gressive, or friendlier-that they could be recognized even at a distance. One or two gophers always stood out from the rest because of keener intelli gence. For instance, one day I was com ing toward the back door. On the step sat a gopher watching me. Within fifteen feet of the house a water snake wiggled across my path. I stopped to watch him stick out his tongue. We were having a lively con versation when suddenly the gopher (he had evidently stood the nonsense as long as possible) dropped on all fours, dashed up to me at full speed, grabbed my shoestring with his teeth, and, propping his two front feet against my foot, gave several quick, vigorous tugs. He started off, changed his mind, ran back to give a few more tugs, and then, turning with lightning rapidity, he raced back to the step and his original position.