Dave Barry

Classic '95: Lessons in gopher disposal

BY DAVE BARRY

Before I get to this week's topic, which is gopher safety, I wish to "set the record straight" regarding three matters:

1. EXPLODING GUAM SNEAKER -- Some months ago I discussed an article in The Pacific Daily News concerning a Guamanian boy whose NIKE brand sneaker reportedly exploded. This report turns out to be untrue. According to a later Daily News story, sent to me by staffer Mark Cook, the boy admitted that there had been a firecracker in his sneaker, and it was this firecracker, NOT the sneaker, that exploded. I wish to sincerely apologize to and smooch the buttocks of the NIKE legal department for any bad publicity that my column may have caused, and stress to consumers that NIKE brand sneakers do NOT -- repeat, do NOT -- explode. They merely contain firecrackers that explode. I hope this clears everything up.

2. HUNTING-LAW UPDATE -- A number of angry sportspersons have written to inform me that, contrary to the impression I may have given in a recent column about hunting, it is NOT legal to drop the frozen carcasses of large animals or Tobacco Institute scientists on hunters from helicopters. If you are doing this, I urge you stop, or at least send me videotapes.

3. CORRECTION -- Several readers have informed me that recently The Nashville Banner, instead of printing my column, printed this announcement:

"Dave Barry, whose humor column normally appears in today's Lifestyles section, is taking the week off."

This is not, technically, true. I did not take that week off: I engaged in my usual brutal work routine of laboring day and night for nearly 45 minutes to produce a column. What The Nashville Banner no doubt meant to say was: "We are not going to publish Dave Barry's column this week because it concerns a Hong Kong man who demonstrates the benefits of the Daoist philosophy by lifting heavy weights with his private parts, and we feel that the people of Nashville do not need to know about this."

I'm sure the announcement was an innocent mistake, because The Banner is a fine newspaper that would never knowingly print an untrue statement. In fact, I urge you to call The Banner and subscribe; if you act today, The Banner will give you, free of charge, a house. Speaking of houses, a question that homeowners as well as professional maintenance personnel are constantly asking is: "What is the correct method for disposing of a gopher?"

The answer is: "Not the method that was attempted recently by maintenance personnel at Fowler Elementary School in Ceres, Calif." I learned about this incident from a major front-page story in the April 5 Modesto Bee, written by Donna Birch and sent to me by many alert readers. What happened was, a student found a gopher on the grounds of the school, which has a chronic gopher problem. The gopher wound up in the custody of three custodians, who put it in a bucket in a small, poorly ventilated utility room.

I will give you 300 million guesses as to what they decided to do next.

Wrong.

What they decided to do was freeze the gopher to death by spraying it with a product called (I am not making this up) "Misty Gum Remover." This product is designed to be sprayed on the gum wads that are found on the undersides of all school desks (they are stuck on right at the desk factory). The product freezes the gum, making it easier to chip off. Misty Gum Remover is not specifically designed to send gophers to that Big Hole In The Sky, but the Fowler Elementary custodians had successfully used it for that purpose on more than one occasion, feeling that it was a more humane disposal method than others they had tried, including whacking the gophers over the head.

So at this point, we have nothing more than a routine case of three custodians trying to freeze a gopher to death with gum remover -- the kind of thing that (Ask your kids!) goes on in our nation's schools every day.

Then one of the custodians decided to light a cigarette. As an American, I place full legal blame on the Misty Gum Remover manufacturers for not putting a label on their spray cans stating: "DO NOT SPRAY THIS PRODUCT ON A GOPHER IN A POORLY VENTILATED ROOM AND THEN LIGHT A CIGARETTE."

You have probably guessed what happened next. That's right: The custodians' NIKE brand sneakers exploded.

No, seriously, the Misty Gum Remover fumes exploded in a blast that blew the three custodians out of the utility room and injured a total of 19 people. The gopher -- I am still not making this up -- lived. According to The Bee, it was taken into police custody and released in an empty field, where I imagine it will spend the rest of its days whimpering and gulping down tiny gopher Valiums.

The moral of the story, for both homeowners and maintenance professionals, is that if you must dispose of a gopher, you should use the method recommended by leading authorities such as the Archbishop of Canterbury, namely, mail it, in a secure package, to The Nashville Banner. Do NOT send it to me; I'm taking the week off.

© 1995 Dave Barry This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited. Ordinary links to this column at http://www.miamiherald.com may be posted or distributed without written permission.

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