Who is the champion gopher trapper of the county? Two Escondido ranchers started something when they put in a claim for the title, announcing that they had trapped about 250 together.
Then came Gilbert Shamrak of Ramona who clipped 538 gopher tails in 1926 and figured that number sufficient to rest all other claims of big catches of that year.
But, now, comes information to Escondido, birthplace of the gopher trapping contest, of the original Pied Piper of gopherdon. His name is Henry McPherson. His home is at the Edgemoor Farm in Santee. According to news from his home, he is at present in the county hospital suffering from a slight stroke of paralysis. However, he is expected to improve sufficiently within a few days to resume his occupation of catching rodents in this neighborhood.
McPherson is 61 years old. He has been at the farm since January 1924, and during that time is reported to have caught and been paid for nearly 5000 gophers. This is only an estimate, however, as the clerk of the farm, H.A.Vance, did not look up the records, but he did go through the files for the last year. McPherson caught and was paid for 2000 gophers. The county pays a bounty of 5 cents for each gopher tail.
McPherson keeps his daily catches until he has them in lots of 50 or 100 and then sends them to county officials. Chester Gunn, superintendent, counts the tails and vouches for the number and the supervisors accept his figures.
There is no doubt about the 2000 caught during 1926, as the records show it and the tails are all tied up in the tobacco sacks and kept in the office at the farm.
McPherson is so badly crippled by paralysis that he has no use of his right hand and can walk only with difficulty. However, by the use of his left hand and his teeth, he manages to set his traps. He uses the ordinary spring traps and set them so skillfully that the gophers find it necessary to crawl over them to get in and out of their burrows. He keeps from two to three dozen traps in use at all times and reaps a harvest of from a dozen to 20 gophers tails each day.
During March and May, last year, he did a comparatively light business, sending in for county bounty only 100 tails each of those months. The rest of the year, his average was about 200 a month.
PROUD OF RECORD
McPherson is proud of his achievements in this line of work and thinks that if it were not for his work the county farm might have been overrun with the pests. He keeps tab on the number of animals of each sex he captures and is fond of estimating the number there would have been there had he not killed so many. His crop of prospective gophers, considering their breeding capacity, runs in to the millions and he thinks of himself as having saved the farm from a devastating plague.
The trapper places his earnings into a fund which he is acquiring to pay his funeral and burial expenses. He has a decided aversion to being buried in a potter’s field, it is said, and is making provisions against that contingency. He now has more than $200 in the fund.
Already McPherson has succeeded in besting the most aspirants of the county for gopher-trapping honors. However, that is what H.R. Greaves of this valley thought when he announced he had caught 102 during 1926. There is still a possibility that other trappers will put in their bid for the rodent extermination crown.