Today’s post comes from Crystal Bay.

In the late 50s, the U of M commissioned Dad to create their mascot, Goldie Gopher. He had no idea what a gopher looked like, so on his way from our hometown, Ames, he saw some critters scurrying around the border of Minnesota and Iowa. He got out of his car and madly scribbled drawings on a sketch pad.

He was in his 80s when my 20-year old son asked him, “Did you really design Goldie Gopher?” Then, for the first time, the story came out. Yes, Dad created him – but – not knowing the difference between a gopher and a chipmunk, he made a hybrid of the two. He drew a chipmunk body and slapped some big front teeth on the model.

To this day, Goldie Gopher remains a gophermunk. His original sketch is pictured below this post . My son wrote up the story and it headlined in the Minnesota Daily. Just think – he got away with this for more than half of a century. You’ll never look at him the same way again now.

How do you think sports mascots make a difference to a team?  What teams do you follow, and why? Know any good gopher, squirrel, or chipmunk stories?

37 thoughts on “Gophermunk”

  1. I don’t know anything about sports teams or sports mascots but I once had to design the image of a blind weasel for the label of a beer brand I was proposing. Blind Weasel beer was one of a series of names I suggested when we were given the task of coming up with a name for a beer. This was in the ‘80s, long before the rise of craft beers with fanciful names. Back then, all the beers were pretty much the same and had “fancy” names like gold and silver and the champagne of beer—all pretentious names for an unpretentious product. I thought that a wacky name would be more fun to order and would stand out against the self-consciously snooty beers. Other label suggestions were “ Belle of Bulgaria” and “Vince B/eer”, the beer for artists.

    I could have gone on with other suggestions, but the client wasn’t ready for it. It would be another 20 years before beers with names like that started showing up.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Someone who didn’t have the vision to recognize a breakthrough concept at the time probably wouldn’t remember my proposal from 20 years earlier. They ultimately went with something utterly forgettable like super ultra golden premium beer.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The only story in my repertoire that fits today’s question is one I told years ago. But people are probably too busy shopping to post today, so I’ll do a quick reprise of my chipmunk story.

    My parents enjoyed wildlife living near their Crystal Bay home. They fed various critters, including a chipmunk family. My mother had a BCF (Best Chipmunk Friend) she named Chippy. Chippy and his family lived under their home. Another family of chipmunks lived down by the dock. Mom didn’t like them and never fed them. They were led by a chipmunk she named Ivan the Terrible. What was so terrible about Ivan? All she ever said was, “He has mean eyes.”

    Chippy got so friendly he would eat nuts off my mother’s hand. Then he began walking into the home, seeking more nuts. She fed him for months.

    One night my parents heard a ruckus below their living room floor, down where Chippy and his family lived. My dad offered a guess: maybe Chippy was in a fight. It sounded like a terrible fight.

    My mother was in a panic. She couldn’t wait to go to her front steps the next morning to confirm Chippy was still there. And he was. He came up on her hand and ate nuts. But–cue the ghastly music soundtrack here–Mom was horrified when she discovered that the chipmunk on her hand was not Chippy. It was Ivan the Terrible! She never saw Chippy again.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Me neither. Sitting on the sofa with the tree lights on, reading and watching yet another really dreadful holiday movie… I think this one is worse than Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I don’t know anything about sports teams or mascots, but squirrels were always the bane of my dear father’s existence. We always had a garden and when he retired to a lovely home in the country, he had many bird feeders on the deck. He either bought or made many contraptions to foil the squirrels from eating all the bird food, but those cunning critters always found a way to get at the goods.

    On occasion, he would get frustrated and get out a little BB gun to shoot at the squirrels, but it never lasted. Their acrobatics and tenacity always got the upper hand. Whether hanging from their toes to reach the food or jumping precarious branches, they were always well fed despite my father’s best efforts. We always found it humorous to see him get so cranky about squirrels when he was normally a very gentle, even tempered man.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I follow the Minnesota Twins. Don’t ask me why, but I like them, so I’ll probably keep following them until the day I die. Their mascot, TC Bear, is funny. I believe he can hit homeruns. He’s also often involved in their charity events. I don’t know how he can do some of what he does in that costume.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The Timberwolves used to have a mascot called Crunch. Various guys performed as Crunch, wearing a full wolf suit, so we never saw their faces. One of the Crunch actors was a terrific athlete. He’d run, hit a little trampoline and jam the basketball with a mighty dunk.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The Saints have a had a series of pigs. I think the first one was named Saint The Pig. After that they had funny names like Mudonna, Kevin Bacon, Alternative Fats, Hamlet, Hamilton, the Great Hambino, Ham Solo, Garrison Squealer, Notorious P.I.G., and so forth. As far as I know none of them ever hit a home run, though.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. I live in a house like a lot of SW Minneapolis homes: it includes a chimney (and several other minute openings that allow critters in). We have had field mice – though the cats that have lived with us have been pretty good at dispatching those. Squirrels nest in our garage about every other year (some likely regret dining on the fiberglass insulation stored there by a previous owner…). No bats (yet). One bird. And a squirrel that found its way down that chimney to our fireplace.

    The fireplace has glass front doors that don’t quite close all the way (another gift from a previous owner). They work well enough that we haven’t bothered to replace them, but on this occassion I really wished they worked better. Daughter was small – probably a toddler – memorable because I recall trying to figure out how to deal with the situation and manage her at the same time. I needed to get to work, it was early morning (I don’t function well in the wee hours), and my mighty huntress cat was overly interested in the fireplace. There were strange noises coming from the fireplace as well – noises too loud for a mouse. Peering into the dark shadows of the fireplace I could see I had a squirrel. With only one adult at home, I was entirely unsure how to handle this. So I found I big piece of plywood and braced it against the fireplace (knowing that those glass doors would not contain my furry invader), called a pest control company that claimed to be able to handle squirrels and set an appointment for midday, left for work and crossed my fingers. At the appointed hour, I returned home (kidlet still safely tucked at daycare) and discovered my squirrel containment solution was not good enough. Crap. Squirrel footprints on my dining room wall (and a broken piece of pottery) showed there had been a game of tag while I was gone. No idea where that critter is. Could be anywhere. Standing still and listening (and following the movements of Huntress Cat) I discerned My Nemesis was under the couch. I just needed him/her to stay there until the pro showed up. Which mostly worked. He arrived with a trap and we both quickly realized it would be useless. Our best bet was to get the critter out the front door. Have you ever tried to herd a squirrel? They don’t herd. Also to be noted: except for a door between the dining room and kitchen, there were no doors to close to keep the Nemesis from running upstairs or anywhere else in the house. The former fireplace plywood was dispatched to block the stairs. A bit of rummaging in the basement found some big pieces of cardboard that we pieced across the arch between dining room and living room (meanwhile the Professional was trying to keep the Nemesis under the couch so we would know where she/he was…he was moderately successful…). And then a couple more pieces so that when we moved the couch we could create a chute of sorts to direct the squirrel outside. 1. Get the Huntress Cat out of the way 2. Open the doors. 3. Stand with my chunk of cardboard at the ready. 4. Professional moves the couch. 5. Squirrel freaks out. 6. Much shooing and noise making happens. 7. Squirrel freaks out more. 8. We try desperately not to laugh. 9. Cardboard is used to herd a squirrel. 10. More freaked out squirrel. 11. Eventually the Nemesis finds his/her way to freedom. I paid the professional – who thanked me for my participation in our tragicomedy – and arranged to have a better screen put on top of the chimney. Once outside I’m not sure if the Nemesis had a little squirrel heart attack from the stress or if he/she returned to their tree never to venture near a rooftop again. The Huntress Cat continued to chitter at each and every squirrel who ventured onto our lawn as if to say, “I got your number, now get off my lawn…”

    Liked by 10 people

      1. Finally had time to listen to this. Hilarious, although at the time, it probably didn’t seem that funny. Thanks for posting this, Bill. What a hoot.


  6. I was waiting in the Bismarck airport, eavesdropping on conversations, when I overheard a married couple and their 20-something daughter talk excitedly about the football game they were going to in New York. I believe that it was a Vikings game, and they talked of going to every out of town Vikings game they could. I just don’t understand that sort of devotion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t do sports devotion myself, but for one of my family of cousins, this is a significant part of life. The 4 adult children have all stayed in the greater metro as have the adult grandchildren. You don’t see that much these days in a family of their demographic (college eduated white folks).

      If that’s part of what makes them a close-knit happy family, I’m all for it.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. A few days ago, I noticed that my two cats were intently staring at something on the rug. It was a tiny house mouse. I picked it up by it’s tail, believing it was dead, and dropped it in the toilet. It wasn’t dead and started frantically swimming for its life. I couldn’t stand it, so I scooped him up and found a container to put him in. I then filled a bottle cap with water and dropped some grated cheddar in the container. I had no plan for what I’d do the next day with this little guy.

    Later that night, I went to check on him. There he laid, dead with a piece of shredded cheese hanging out of his mouth. I guess that I overfed him. Or maybe the cats had injured his internal organs before I even saw him.

    Finally, I did flush him down the toilet. It made me sad.


    1. reminds me of the happy story of my friends dad the retired airline pilot. he died on the 14th hole of the golf course with his friends he played with every friday they asked his friends what they did
      hit the ball dragged bob, hit the ball drag bob .. there were only 4 holes left in the round. bob died happy

      Liked by 3 people

  8. I know more about animal sports’ mascots than I care to think about, having had a career that included making those fur suits. Part of going to the State Fair parade for us was counting up how many in the parade were my work (including the State Fair Gophers- it’s been fun to watch how they have evolved over the years- trust me, the ones they use now are much less complicated than what was originally asked for).

    It takes a special person to be a good mascot. Despite our best efforts, a lot of those costumes are hard to move in, hot, and have limited visual range (which is why you almost always see a “handler” near the character when they are in a crowd – “the public” also has a fair share of awful people in it who see this as an opportunity to display their flawed characters, as if there isn’t a fellow human being inside the suit ).

    The best of them are great entertainers and do a fair amount of compassionate visits to young fans with health challenges.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. tigger attacked one of my kids at disney world when no one was there to cover for him
      we bitched and never saw a character without a handler again
      they started out building a spot where chatachter stood behind a counter and signed autograph books then decided ed it was better if you could see their feet and sent them out with a handler


    2. When I was working as a stage hand in Rochester, we would often get the Sesame Street tours as they were going through rehearsals before hitting the road. They would be in for 3 weeks setting up and rehearsing. It was common to see the dressing rooms backstage with the characters half dressed. Big Bird ‘hanging’ by a loop in his neck isn’t something you’d want a child to see.
      Or any of the characters, minus a head, was startling. And boy, did all those actors look hot and uncomfortable in those suits.

      The best story comes from a tour called ‘Wimzie’s House’. The tour closed with a Sunday matinee. Saturday night they evidently had quite a closing cast party. That cast looked especially rough during intermission backstage.

      Our college mascot is a ‘Yellow Jacket’ named ‘Sting’. You have to be a certain body shape to fit the costume in the first place. Sometimes during a meeting you’ll hear they’re looking for people to be Sting for parades or events.

      I saw a PBS special about people trying out for, I think, Bucky Badger. It is pretty intense.

      Happy Festivus!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. My Duke University team has a Blue Devil mascot, a masked man. When football was finally allowed after WWI, the team was referred to as either The Trinity Eleven or The Methodists. The Blue Devil’s was selected as a nod to the fighting spirt of a French Army unit that had blue uniforms not as an endorsement of Satan which would have required ‘Red Devil’s’. The people in the costume work hard as crowd motivators.
    My gopher story is about a temporary worker named Tom who was a zoology student. I assigned him the job of gopher and used the scientific name, thomomys tailpoides, to summon him, TommyTalpoids. He liked it

    Liked by 5 people

  10. OT – Blevin’s page is updated:

    February 17
    2 p.m.
    Occasional Caroline’s

    Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith)
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)

    Liked by 3 people

  11. i play fantasy sports and to name teams every new season. baseball football basketball. usually 3 or 4 teams per season. years ago i was in a league of wolves and typhoons and viscius names . i namedmy team the brussel sprouts and won the league. i now name teams that strke me my current football season ends today and 16 sundays,purple, and dear mr fantasy areall done , my basketball teams mud slide, the pines, 6 monthsm of glory and last team are all heading for april playoffs, baseball starts again in april and my boys of summer, bushwhacker and a new name or two will surface

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My wife (then girlfriend) had a squirrel climb up her leg while walking to class through the East Bank campus at the U of M. That forever tainted her worldview of rodents forever.

    Fast-forward several years to a camping trip to the UP of Michigan. At our campsite, we encountered a brave, pesky chipmunk who was bound and determined to filch some of our food. My wife tried the usual foot-scuffling, clapping, and yelling to no avail.

    So my wife decided that “Chip” might go away if she started throwing pebbles at him, thinking if he got nicked by a small pebble, he’d take the hint and bother another camper. But the pebbles, combined with my wife’s poor aim, didn’t deter him. So she ups the ante and starts throwing small stones at him. Think something about the size of a jawbreaker compared with an M&M.

    After about a half-dozen tosses, she actually HIT the little bugger . . . in the head! Chip was stunned for a full minute. For part of that time, my wife thought she had killed him. *sniff* But miraculously, he woke up and started chattering like crazy and running around in little chipmunk circles. (I am NOT making this up!) After 15-20 seconds of that behavior, he zipped away into the underbrush and we never saw him again for the rest of the weekend (This happened on our first night, shortly after we’d arrived and set up camp)

    The even weirder part is that for many years after that, we never had trouble with campground squirrels or chipmunks trying to get a free lunch from us, no matter where we were camping. (Although we had a run in with a seagull who tried to steal my hamburger patty right off the campsite fire grate. 😦 But that’s another story.)

    It’s as if Chip sent out a telepathic email to all wild rodents to stay away from the Norbury campsite or risk getting beaned by a fraidy-cat woman. 😉

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 4 people

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