Whine. Whine whine whine.
The puppies were whimpering downstairs. I squinted at the clock: 6:02 A.M. Ugh, I mused. Maybe they will go back to sleep.
I closed my eyes. The whimpering continued. Wendy and Gretel were nearly housebroken. Ignoring their whining could cause a setback. And Joe, my husband, was away on business.
I swung my legs over the mattress, reached for my robe, and glanced out the window. Snow had fallen, the first of the season. It looked rather pretty. Scanning the frosty overlay, I saw no indication of overnight mole activity. Good, I thought.
Our property on Bull Mountain offered a distant view of Mt. Hood. Bull Mountain, though, was not my idea of a mountain. It was more like an oversized hill—an oversized mole hill.
The pups increased their pleas. My night-gown fluttered as I quietly descended the steps. Maybe the children won’t wake up and I can sneak back to bed for a few more minutes.
We had moved to Oregon right at the beginning of the school year. It had been tough on our kids. We bought the puppies to try to divert their attention from their old friends. I had left my friends behind, too. My own diversion therapy was working on establishing the landscape.
Our new lot featured a double-decker backyard. The flat upper lawn led to a steep slope, which bottomed out to create the lower lawn. We hired a contractor to lay sod on the two lawns. Installing groundcover plants on the slope was my project. Digging, planting, and mulching the slope required a true balancing act, but working the soil comes naturally for me, so my part went fairly smoothly. Soon after the sod was down, though, molehills began to appear. For some reason, the lush instant grass was irresistible to the Bull Mountain mole population.
We tried home remedies and commercial mole repellents. Neighbors recommended everything from fruit-flavored chewing gum to a shotgun. Nothing worked. New molehills cropped up daily. Exasperated, we searched online and discovered the website of someone called The Mole Man. We called him immediately.
A few days later, a ramshackle van emblazoned with the words “Mole Control My Goal” showed up in our drive—and out stepped The Mole Man. He looked like a trapper from the pages of American history. Burly and slightly hunchbacked. Leathery face and jagged brown teeth. Long scraggly hair and beard. He even wore a coat made from some type of fur. (Mole?)
The thought popped into my head that he resembled Bigfoot, the elusive legend of the Northwest. When I told Joe, we tried to suppress our laughter. A decades-old mystery had been solved!
The Mole Man ignored our amusement—he was used to it. Customers quickly learned to not mind his looks: Mole eradication was his passion and he had a reputation for success.
The Mole Man walked around the yard, exploring the hills and tunnels established by the burrowing varmints. At various spots, he stooped down, muttered the words, “Confounded moles!,” and inserted bullet-shaped capsules into the ground. When the job was complete, Joe and I followed him to his van.
“You might find a body or two before long,” he said, deriving obvious pleasure at the prospect. Spittle bubbled as he spoke. “Them that survives usually runs off to bother somebody else. I don’t expect I’ll hear from you again.” Joe handed him a check, then he climbed into his mole-mobile and drove away.
We looked at each other, both said, “Confounded moles!” and exploded into laughter. But the real joke was on the moles. Ten days later, new molehills had all but disappeared.
Inside their pen, Wendy and Gretel wiggled with excitement. I slipped on my moccasins, scooped up the pups, and carried them out through the garage. Then I stood in the doorway watching them scamper and squat. Cold air infiltrated my bathrobe.
Suddenly something caught my eye. Lying in the grass by the deck was—what?
I retrieved the pups, placed them in the garage, and cautiously stepped over to investigate. It’s a beaver, I thought. No, it wouldn’t be a beaver, not up here. I leaned forward for a closer look.
Good grief! It’s an enormous mole. Do they really grow that big in Oregon? No wonder they live underground. They’re dreadfully ugly! Then I remembered The Mole Man’s warning: “You might find a body or two.”
Or two? I thought. I think one is more than enough.
Why was Joe always out of town when things like this happened? I grabbed a trash bag and shovel from the house and returned to the scene. I prodded the body with the shovel. No response. It’s dead, all right.
Stretching my arms and holding my breath, I lifted the carcass with the shovel and flipped it into the garbage bag. As I closed the bag, I noticed tracks in the snow.
More Moles? I grabbed the bag in one hand, picked up the shovel, and followed the tracks. They led to the slope. I stopped and leaned over to examine the lower lawn.
Warning To All: Moccasins don’t grip damp ground.
In an instant, I was skidding down the incline on my rear. I rolled onto my front to try to brake myself, but that only smeared my front side as well as my back. At the bottom of the hill, I stopped—spread-eagled, with my robe and gown scrunched around my waist. I lay there, covered in a slimy mix of snow, mud, mulch, and uprooted plants.
My mind raced. Oh, dear Lord, am I dead? No, I think I am alive, but is my back broken? I don’t think I can move. I’m stuck, lying half-naked on this blasted hill, holding a shovel and a large dead mole in a plastic bag. The kids will never think to look for me out here. If I can’t move, I will freeze to death, and this is the way the neighbors will find me. I’ll die of embarrassment!
I couldn’t stand for that. So, groaning, I struggled to my feet. Using the shovel as a cane, I inched my way up the slippery hill, moccasins squishing in the gooey mud. Leaves and muck covered my nightwear, my hair, and my body.
I staggered onto our deck, stopping outside the family room window. The children were seated on the floor, bowls of cereal in their laps, eyes fixed on the television.
I tapped on the glass. The children turned their heads—and shrieked! I pulled the mole out of the trash bag to show them. They dropped their cereal bowls and ran from the room!
I caught sight of myself in the window glass. I’m the one who could be mistaken for Bigfoot, I realized.
I trudged out to the yard, dug a hole with a shovel, and buried the varmint that had caused all this. Then I went back to the house, turned on the hose, and began washing myself off, clothes and all, with the spray of—very cold—water.
“Confounded moles!” I muttered. ❖
This article was published originally in 2015, in GreenPrints Issue #103.