Flunky Jim and Gopher Tails with Grandpa

gopherFlunky Jim was one of the pieces featured in a Winnipeg Singers concert I attended on June 30 in Gimli.  The lyrics of the Western Canadian folk song talk about a man called Flunky Jim whose wardrobe is in tatters.  His hat has no brim.  He wears shabby overalls and doesn’t own any shirts. But the song says this will all change in the fall when he sells his gopher tails and buys new clothes.  

The song is referring to the fact that starting in the 1920s the government gave people a bounty payment when they turned in the tails of gophers they had killed.  There were so many gophers on the prairies they were destroying millions of bushels of grain a year and the government wanted to provide an incentive to get rid of them so they rewarded people for killing them. This continued for decades. 

grandpa and meThe song struck a personal note with me.  I remember as a child going gopher shooting with my grandfather in the village of Gnadenthal, Manitoba.   He would give me the tails of the gophers we shot and I could get seven cents for each one at the village store. If I had several I could buy a bottle of pop and a chocolate bar. Like the Flunky Jim of the song the gopher tails were a kind of currency for me courtesy of the provincial government. 

I am the flunky of the house, they call me flunky Jim,
You’ll find me knockin’ around the yard, me hat without a brim.
Me overalls are shabby, and I have no shirt at all,
But I’m goin’ to get a new outfit with me gopher tails this fall.

Other posts……..

On My Grandparents’ Farm

A Unique Discovery Along the Banks of the South Saskatchewan

Rural Roots



1 Comment

Filed under Canada, History, Music

One response to “Flunky Jim and Gopher Tails with Grandpa

  1. Terry McNamee

    This is not a song about a man. It’s about a small boy trapping gophers to collect the tails for bounty so he could buy new clothes to go to school. It was written by my grandfather, Daniel Ferguson, and the real “Flunky Jim” was his little son, Gordon. They lived in rural Saskatchewan. My grandparents homesteaded around 1907 (I don’t have the exact date handy). The lyrics here are partly incorrect, too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.