A Regrettable War

I used to think I was a pretty good mole trapper. At all the other places I’ve lived and had the happy little dwellers of darkness as a perennial foe, I’ve done pretty well. I used the same style trap and techniques that my pappy used before me and that his pappy used before him.

I learned to tramp down those tell-tale tunnels and then check back to see which ones were the active runs. “If you see that dirt’s pushed back up the next day, then you know that’s the run they’re using and that’s where you set your trap.”

Knowing where to set the trap is part of it, a key part to be sure. Another part is knowing how to set the trap. Leave too much dirt between the trigger plate and the tunnel and those spikes only annoy the little critters, accomplishing nothing more than a forced detour.

The detour I have in mind is one that keeps the varmints out of my yard on a long term basis. Hence the traps. My war is not without misgivings. Moles are not malicious; they’re just moles. And there’s the rub.

That tunneling habit is not just annoying from an aesthetic perspective. In addition to creating unsafe walking terrain, it kills grass, flowers, and vegetables in a couple of ways. Most immediately, the digging tears through the roots of the plants. On longer term, the tunnels can also drain away the water I had intended to nourish plants, especially ones only recently set in place.

Last summer, we put in a couple of hydrangea plants beside the small stoop on the south side of the house. They did okay for a couple of weeks, then started wilting down within two days of being watered. “I don’t get this,” I griped to Randa. “I soaked both of those plants Tuesday evening. It’s not even Friday yet and they’re already wilting again.”

On the next watering, I noticed how quickly the water would soak into the ground and disappear, especially when I directed the stream toward one side of the plant. Probing for explanations, I uncovered a muddy mole run. Most of the water was simply running through that cheerful little conduit. “Great!” I muttered to myself, “Not only are you little heathen ruining my yard, now you’re killing my flowers.”

That insult only added to the injury my mole-killing ego had already taken. You see, in my fourth season of anger and animosity, I have yet to successfully trap one mole. In spite of having dutifully tramped down run after run after run, I have yet to see a single one of them re-used. It is baffling, bewildering and frustrating. These confounded south Kansas moles don’t operate by the same rules. Apparently they’ve been reading The Mole Trapper’s Guide, too.

“I’m telling you, Benny, you need to trust me on this. You come back and find dirt pushed down in that tunnel, you stop right there. Don’t shove your nose forward one more millimeter. Just back up and start digging a new tunnel.”

For over forty years, I’ve refused to use the “grub killer” pesticides. For one thing, it required admitting defeat and until now I’ve never been outdone by those smooth-stocking, slow-walking critters. For another, even though they don’t list it on the package, I’m right sure that stuff also kills nightcrawlers, too. According to the company that offers poison worms to kill moles, nightcrawlers compose as much as ninety per cent of a mole’s diet. So, if I want to get rid of the moles, apparently I also have to get rid of The Best Fishing Bait Ever.

Until now, that was a level of collateral damage I was unwilling to accept.

It’s tough to admit you’ve been outsmarted by an animal with a brain the size of a black-eyed pea and front feet as big as its rear end. They’ve won on these terms and so, I’m finally embracing the horrific evils of chemical warfare. Sorry, earthworms, but it appears that the only way I’m going to be able to get rid of the moles is to get rid of you. Hopefully you’ll find refuge in an adjoining yard.

I’m not proud of it and I sure hope I’m not stepping onto a slippery slope with this.

Once our hate for our opponent gets strong enough for us to begin accepting actions we once condemned, there’s no telling where we might end up. We should never forget that when we choose the lesser of two evils, we are still choosing evil.

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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