A confession…

I think I killed a mole this morning.

This might not seem that strange. Or maybe it does. Some explanation, possibly…

About four years ago, my brother moved in next door. The thirteen-lined gophers that previously inhabited his land staged a revolt. His acres of lawn were pocked with earthen mounds, and the gophers themselves taunted him from within his own downspouts, chuckling at him as he loaded his BB gun. From our perspective it was rather humorous, until they called their cousins and sent them down the road to our house. The cousins were something different – moles possibly – something that punched tunnels up all over the place, yes, but they rarely broke sod, and never chucked dirt about into the piles that dotted the landscape over on East Hill. Just tunnels – miles and miles of tunnels – lying in wait to break unsuspecting ankles, or for the lawn mower to shave off their tops and every bit of sod that capped them.

This year, there has been a morphing of the gophers/moles/pocket critters… While they had previously been a nuisance, they were at least livable. As long as you sent the army of kids out ahead of the mower to tamp all the tracks down, things were OK. But this summer, they’ve evolved into some hideous hybrid. This year, they not only tunnel aggressively, they feel the need to explode the ground into those attractive mounds of dirt that have so long plagued my brother.

Well, not on my husband’s watch will our lawn be descimated – No’sir. As soon as he looked out the bedroom window one hot July morning and found earth where grass should have been, he became a man on a mission. He was no longer content to settle in with his paper when he got home from work, no longer able to enjoy a relaxing day doing nothing. He had become…

2015_0801_019 (1).JPGThe Mighty Mighty Mole Hunter.

It’s become a standing joke in our house that if we can’t find Dad, we only need look out the window. He’ll be there somewhere, scanning the ground with spade shovel in hand, stalking his prey. Usually in nothing but his pajama shorts. Always intent. Never quite stable. We have known all summer that we are only one step removed from visiting him in the mental hospital, still trying to convince him to put down the shovel and ignore the voices.

One day while watching the news (he almost let his guard down), the MMMH launched off the couch and bolted out the front door, eyes crazed. It should tell you something that this didn’t even alarm me. I didn’t even really register it, until moments later when he was knocking on the window to show me his bounty. He held his spade proudly as a tiny blind mole scrabbled around the rusty steel with his shovel feet. Vindication was the expression my dear husband wore as he juggled his little friend at spade’s length.

There have been several other triumphant moments in the mole season of ’15, but still, we needle. The muttering and incessant shovel carrying has given our household more than its fair share opportunities to ridicule the Ottinger patriarch for his new ‘hobby.’ The fields are just too ripe for the picking to not get in a few jabs here and there.

We have, more than once, been woken by the glare of headlight and glinting steel outside bedroom windows, the mole (and his sleepless Hunter) being no respecter of circadian rhythms.

We have taken ice water out to the backyard to hydrate the Hunter. For what good is a dehydrated predator? We have postponed movies, bedtimes, meals and roadtrips, all to accommodate the protection of our land.

During a particularly intense onslaught, we were all piled into our sweltering van, packed in like sardines and headed out the driveway and North to the Boundary Waters, only to hear said Mighty Mighty Mole Hunter inform us that he just needs to make ‘one more round’ before we go. “It’ll be quick.” The suffocating whimpers could be heard round the world.

This is the current atmosphere in our home. The mere mention of subterranean rodents sets eyes a’rolling.

So you can imagine how chagrined I am to tell you that the little buggers were taunting me today. I was snatching twenty minutes of read-in-the-sun time this morning when I heard grass ripping. It sounded a lot like I would expect it to if Larry the Lizard were out basking with me, tearing at the grass for his daily nourishment. But Larry was tucked safely into his aquarium.

Crazed birds, thrashing through the garden, collecting herbage for their winter bunker? Rabbits eating their way through the chicken wire fence, desperate for tomatoes? Chickens eating their way through the rabbits? (You laugh, but a teenage chicken ran by me today with a gopher’s head hanging from it’s beak. Apparently the cats had discarded it, but his eleven brothers and sisters were hot on his trail in pursuit of that delicious morsel.)

All these things and more went through my head as I tried – so hard – to ignore the incessant r-r-rip, r-rip. I really just wanted to read (Curse of the Spellman’s, if you must know). Is twenty minutes too much to ask?

Begrudgingly, I averted my eyes from the page, and what I saw made me instantly stop questioning my husband’s sanity. The grass was bulging up, over and over, as that blind little auger made his way across my lawn. I silently laid my book on my chair and tiptoed to the house. (The spade was there, because it is always at the ready, and the tiptoeing was a technique a wise old Mole Hunter once told me about.)

Weapon in hand, I crept back to the scene of the crime, assumed the position (I’ll allow your imagination free reign here), and waited for the next bulging. They were so fast. I couldn’t react fast enough. But I was patient, and once I had committed to the pounce, I poured the coals to ‘er. The scene, I am sure, looked like a slasher movie as I stabbed into the earth repeatedly through gritted teeth.

I killed a mole today.

My husband, working hard to wiggle his way back into ‘certifiably nuts’ status, insisted on digging up the plot of land where the massacre occurred. He ‘had to confirm, to add to his tally.’ I kid you not. The body was already removed by grave-robbers it seems, but I definitely killed a mole today.

If you need me, I’ll be by the shovel.

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