Bad news, guys: I didn’t marry a prince last month. Unlucky, I know. But I’m not sobbing into my pillow (anymore). Nope, I am now in the happy embrace of memories from my trip to the GREATEST PLACE ON EARTH. Would you like to go there with me? Of course you would! It’s the GREATEST PLACE ON EARTH! So forget the entrancing history of European cities or their more affordable American counterparts, because Canada has something even better: The World Famous Gopher Hole Museum (TWFGHM)! TWFGHM is a place so magical that it trumps all other rodent-based theme parks in the known universe.
TWFGHM is located in a small town by the name of Torrington, Alberta, which boasts a population of fewer than 200 and a fire hydrant population of 11 — a fact I know because they've painted each of them to look like gophers and then given them names and personalities. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the museum.
TWFGHM is identifiable by the mural painted on the exterior of the building, which is roughly the size and style of your Aunt Judy’s house. After you’ve entered through the gift shop (also the exit point) and paid the volunteer curator — who is very old and very nice, and also might actually be your Aunt Judy — you enter the museum space, which is really just one regular-sized room, sort of like a living room. But don’t let your eyes fool you: None of the things in here is living, they are all merely in life-like tableaux!
Warning: From this point on your life will never be the same, because nothing will ever compare to the roughly 40 dioramas of stuffed gophers in human guise. There are gophers in church complete with a pastor gopher, a gopher angel overhead, and a sleeping choir-robed gopher in background (“Zzz Amen zzz” haha); gophers at the pool hall where a waitress gopher carries two beers and a pool jockey wears a leather vest; gophers at the salon featuring a speech bubble that reads, “I’m a beautican, not a magican” (sic); and, my personal favorite, the bearded hippie gopher and the top-hatted politico gopher playing tug of war with the body of yet another gopher while debating the merits of the very museum in which you're standing (the hippie’s placard reads: G.A.G.S. Gophers Against Getting Stuffed). Sooo meta.
But by far the most haunting of all is the hunting gopher. You approach it and become lost in its eyes, which penetrate to your very soul and pull you into an an existential black hole so deep that you emerge on the other side as a stuffed human in the gopher’s museum of human life.
When at last you awaken you’ll be back in the gift shop/entry/exit room where you can purchase an almost equally mind-boggling assortment of gopher-themed memorabilia. Be sure to ask the curator for the pamphlet on the 11 gopher-painted fire hydrants, as it gives you all the information you’ll need for a tour of Torrington’s emergency fire equipment, including information about the likes and dislikes of each gopher/hydrant, and details of the gopher/hydrants' familial connections.
And then just as you ready yourself to leave the magical hamlet of Torrington, you find out that the “gophers” aren’t really “gophers” at all but ground squirrels that aren't even related to the “gophers” you had been led to believe you were visiting all along. And it is in this moment that the earnest museum effort of a town reveals its full truth to you and you realize you are in an Inception-like world where dreams and reality become so intertwined you cannot distinguish one from the other.
And then you marry a gopher prince!
Leigh Bryant is "self-employed" and spends most of her days "working" on crosswords in the hope of impressing her parents. She plans to save enough money to visit the opposite side of the country, where all her worldly possessions currently reside.
Photos via JKY