Roger the Marmot
(pictured at centre: an elusive, furry face | photo by Tim Ford)

I’m not a hunter by nature.

I mean, some will likely say I’m a hunter-gatherer by ancestry, but what I mean is that socially, I’m not the type to trek out to the woods and murder an animal for fun. I also try not to slag too much on those that do, at least when it comes to making deer jerky or duck confit or whatever.

But I’ll admit that when I first heard about Roger, something instinctual took over.

If you haven’t heard that name before, I’ll explain as it was told to me.

Roger is a yellow-bellied marmot. The yellow-bellied marmot is not native to Vancouver Island. It is believed he came here hitching a ride on a truck, like some kind of rodent hippie.

Once settled in Victoria, he found himself a home at the Fairmont Empress — which, hey, totally reasonable, if I could just pick a home like that, absolutely go where the fancy folk go.

This was 2008. Staff at the hotel attempted to capture him. Multiple times.

They failed.

And now he just…lives there. He is a fixture of the Empress, with signage nearby his burrow and everything. Sometimes people feed him, but mostly he keeps to himself and bothers no one, and is hopefully unbothered in return.

When I heard this story, it awoke something primal in me. I decided then and there I would hunt Roger.

I would capture him.

On film, I mean.

Criminy, it’s the age of social media, not the middle ages.

Hunter’s log: Day One

I begin my hunt for Roger accompanied by a pair of co-workers. We are all eager for our chance to spot this majestic creature in his chosen hotel habitat.

We make small talk to keep our spirits up. I learn a lot from my companions. Is this the camaraderie of a hunt? Am I getting in touch with my primitive ancestors, sharing stories around the fire of a great wooly Roger hunt?

Will we, too, catalogue our success with the modern-day cave painting of a selfie with Roger?

Hunter’s log: Day Four

A series of subsequent visits to the site have proved fruitless. Roger remains unspotted, and not just because he is a yellow-bellied marmot, not a spotted marmot.

Are there spotted marmots? If not, why not? Must research further.

Hunter’s log: Day Ten

The small talk has dwindled away. Spirits are low. I greet fun facts about the area from my co-workers with scorn and irritation as I focus on the prize.

I play a marmot-call on my phone, confusing some nearby sparrows and causing a near-fatal midair collision. Roger fails to materialize to assess the damage.

“You know they raise honey here?” one of my co-workers says.

“Unless that honey is furry, adorable and also a marmot, I don’t give two bumblebee barfs,” I say.

“Yeesh,” they say.

Hunter’s log: Day 13

I am now visiting the site of Roger’s home alone.

A hummingbird appears to me. It is the first time I have seen a hummingbird in person.

Is it magical? Of course. It is magical AF. It is glorious and cool and trippy.

But it is no Roger the Marmot.

The sight of the hummingbird now repulses me. It’s like growing out of Coldplay.

Hunter’s log: Day 24

I have attempted to alter my thinking. Training may be required. Unfortunately, the video logs of similar incidents I can turn to — Caddyshack, Ratatouille, Mouse Hunt — largely portray human vs. rodent relations as a matter of lethal force. Not quite what I have in mind for my Roger moment.

I spend several hours on Pokemon Go. Slowly, though, a terrible thought begins to emerge: I may never catch them all.

I may never even catch one.

Hunter’s log: Day 32

Roger appears to me in a dream.

“‘Sup,” he says, ethereally, as only a dream-marmot can.

“Hi,” I say.

“Why you so worked up about all this?”

My mouth feels clammy. Maybe, back in the meat-space, I forgot to drink enough water before going to bed. “I don’t know,” I say. “I just really want to share in something fun.”

“I get that,” says Roger, idly floating overhead to rest on my bedside table. “But if you stress out about something, are you really having fun any more?”

“That’s deep, man.”

“Darn straight.” Roger bobs up towards the ceiling, on his way back out of my dream space. “Also, you forgot to water the plants today.”

Crap.

Hunter’s log: Day 42

I have stopped making regular trips to the fenced-in area where Roger’s burrow is. It is summer, and I’ll be off from one of my jobs for most of the next few months.

Idly, I pilot my bicycle into the Empress’ parking ring, and walk down the path.

The familiar sight of the little garden, the bees buzzing about, instills a sense of calm. I stand there in silence. This is fine. I am fine. It’s been a hell of a ride.

Then, I hear it. Not a marmot. But humans. Making distinct, “chi-chi-chi” and “here, Roger,” noises as only humans can do.

They are up above me, on the higher side of the path. I walk around to them.

Two men, equipped with broccoli, crackers, and fruit, are cooing into the bushes. I watch in rapt awe.

And then it happens.

He is about the size of a cat. He is rotund. Brown. Furry. And very, very cute.

He takes up some of the offered produce. Spots me. I can feel his eyes roll, even if they don’t do so literally. He shuffles away.

The two men are not offended by my presence. We chat. I learn that they have taken a long time to befriend Roger. Clearly, though, he does not yet trust or see me in the same light.

They, on the other hand, have done this for months. He knows them.

I am shook.

Hunter’s log: day infinity

I realize now what Roger has taught me. The things worth having in this life are not trappable. You can’t nail them down to a specific timeline, have them appear on cue and pose for pictures. You have to work at them, have patience. And accept failure.

This is the tao of Roger.

Also: be nice to your co-workers. And the hummingbirds.

Those guys are cool.

Also also: for real, don’t harass the marmot. He’ll come to you if you give him time, patience, space, and plenty of broccoli.

Welcome to Ford on Fridays: a weekly column where Victoria Buzz staff writer Tim Ford offers his thoughts on life, love, and the pursuit of the perfect joke.

This column is for comedic purposes only. Please feel free to send feedback, thoughts, and [constructive] criticisms to tim@victoriabuzz.com.

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