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Termites and Gophers

     Across the street a carnival tent rises from the lawn. Patches of blue and green canvas cover the two-story house, with the arch of a doorway stitched on the front. Not sure why it’s there; no one goes in or out of it.

     Termites ’most always make their first appearance shortly after the sale of a home. The requisite termite inspection takes place and the inspector confirms it: “Yes, there are termites. You’ll need to tent the house.” This was the case across the street.

     My termites didn’t wait for me to sell the house, since I’d just bought it not so long ago, but they slipped up. They dropped their shavings in plain sight, straight down from the broad wooden beams in the TV room onto my pristine tiled floor—right where the morning sun shines brightly. If they’d been more careful, they could have gotten a few more meals out of me—or more correctly, from my broad beams. Not a pun.

     Aardvark got the job; not a real aardvark—although that would probably be cheaper—but a company that chose to name itself after the infamous ant-eating animal. Aardvark keeps my gophers away, too. The only difference between the two is the size and sites of their tunnels; one prefers dirt, one prefers wood. Inside, outside. Something for everyone.

     Termites and gophers: they’re a mainstay of our economy. Every home sale requires a termite inspection, making jobs for inspectors, termite exterminators, and purveyors of Aspirin, Advil and Aleve—to handle the uptick in headaches incurred by the appearance of these pesky critters in one’s home, or out on the lawn, as the case may be.

     The gophers, bless their souls, seem to have gone underground during the recent heat spell, but they’ll return for sure. The pitter patter of recent rains interrupted by bursts of booming thunder surely rattled them awake in their underground tunnels. Joyful gopher cries of “Good news! The soil is ready, soft and moist, ready for us to tunnel through to the surface where—ah! air to breathe! Return of the gophers is coming!” could be heard across town. It won’t be long now—holes surrounded by mounds of dirt will pop up everywhere. 

     Which will then produce more jobs for Trapper Dan and Aardvark and all those other people who love to rid the world of pesky critters, keeping their customers happy until the next onslaught. The website for Pest Control Employment had 100 million visitors, according to, so there are plenty of people out there looking for pest control jobs. It’ll take a lot of termites, gophers and assorted other pests— not including that obnoxious fellow at the Charger game— to employ a hundred million employment hopefuls.

     But. . . Five billion dollars! That’s how much property damage the National Pest Management Association claims is caused by termites each year. And that’s just termites. So the next time you spot termite droppings—technically “frass”—or gopher mounds, don’t think “Pest!” Think “Jobs!”

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