Monday, April 6, 2009


“Under the leaves, under
the first loose
levels of earth
they’re there – quick
as beetles, blind
as bats, shy
as hares but seen
less than those –
among the pale girders
of appleroot,
rockshelf, nests
of insects and black
pastures of bulbs
peppery and packed full
of the sweetest food:
Spring flowers.
Field after field
you can see the traceries
of their long
lonely walks, then
the rains blur
even this frail hint of them –
so excitable,
so plush,
so willing to continue
generation after generation
accomplishing nothing
but their brief physical lives
as they live and die,
pushing and shoving
with their stubborn muzzles against
the whole earth,
finding it
–Mary Oliver–

Writers of contemporary fiction are more-than-often asked to pen sequels to their work as we live in a world of “readers want sequels” (witness the Harry Potter series). The response of several people to my mole vignette has prompted me to compose a blog “sequel “to “Much Ado About Moles.” For late readers, I’m referring to the small mammals who live in underground burrows (most of them concentrated in my yard here at Sewanee, it seems) and not to those brown spots that pop up on head, neck, and arms and require skin applications to remove them from human bodies.

In the case of this mammal and its removal from my yard, the advice from readers has been plentiful. The first response from a friend at ULL in Lafayette, Louisiana, probably tops most of the typical counsel about mole removal. This friend wrote that she ordered a special concoction of crystallized bobcat urine and asked a good friend to sprinkle it on the lawn while she was on vacation. I know that the friend who applied this concoction still has a strong tie with the owner of the garden even though I have to comment that the assignment of such a yard task would strain the bonds of most friends! She should write me a sequel e-mail because she didn’t tell me if the crystals caused the moles to disappear. The “ridding mole” process evoked a lot of conversation from the biscuit bunch gathered at St. Mary’s Convent yesterday morning, and the major question arising from the conversation : “Who crystallized this potion?”

Following the counsel about crystallized bobcat urine, I received a call from my good friend, Anne Boykin, after she read my blog. “I’m coming over to deliver a mole pill,” she said, and was at my door before I could answer. In her hands were an empty plastic container that had conveyed Eggplant Parmesan to her table on her recent birthday and another plastic container filled with pellets (zinc phosphide) guaranteed to rid the yard of moles. “My mother taught me never to return a container that had been filled with food and brought over as a gift,” she explained, “but these pills are poisonous and I felt I should bring them in a different container.”

At St. Mary’s Convent, I was advised to get a cat as they sometimes corner moles at the entry to their burrows. One of the biscuit bunch advised me to purchase a harpoon trap that has a sharp spike which impales the mole when driven into the soil by a spring. Another adviser suggested a mole repellant that contained castor oil, and yet another advised mothballs that could be poked into the opening of the burrow.

The more remedies I hear for getting rid of moles, the more sympathetic I become toward these creatures I’ve not seen. From research and former readings in Beatrix Potter literature, I have some idea about what they look like and know they have paddled forefeet and long toenails which help them swim through the soil, that they’re brown to grey in color with glints of silver in their fur. Right about now their litters are coming into the world, and I think of all those mole babies I might be sending to mole heaven with mole repellants. I can’t even begin to envision impaling any of those mole infants.

I seem to be getting sentimental about these earth movers who make their tunnels up onto the surface of my yard and cause general soil upheaval. So, I think I’ll relax with the advice: “Moles in the natural environment cause little damage…and are more a nuisance than a financial liability” (Just forget the cost of eight boxes of pansies!! Or maybe the rabbits ate them).
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