I’ve been gardening lately. I’ve been gardening a great deal, in fact, for myself and for others in the community who need a helping hand. It’s pretty cool, to dig into the earth, get a little dirt under my nails, and grow something I can eat or gaze upon and reflect on its beauty.
On this personal journey of gardening in a new area of the country, I have discovered a few things about Wisconsin that I did not know. I knew from last summer that they grow things bigger up here: squirrels, foxes, deer. They are extraordinarily huge in comparison to the wildlife down south. I also noticed last year that the molehills in our backyard were quite mountainous in comparison to the molehills in Mississippi. Olympic molehills. Vesuvial, even. But it wasn’t until today that I came face to face with one of our backyard molehill architects.
I was out in the flower bed, happily planting some $1.25 quart containers of creeping phlox. I love that stuff. It chokes out weeds like nobody’s business, and it has happy little pink flowers to boot. Skipper and Mary Ann were out with me, sniffing and poking about, as good dogs will do.
I had just gotten the first plant happily settled into its double-wide hole when Skipper started barking. So much for the “good dog” illusions that had been running through my head. She’s a barky dog, there’s no denying. I kept at my work, though, settling in my happy plant, backfilling the hole and pressing down the black earth. There was no need for alarm because Skipper barks all the time. Just ask the neighbor, who on our first day in Wisconsin, greeted us by screaming through the woods the joyous welcome of “Shut your dog!”
I reached for the second pot of phlox. It would look so nice crawling along this rock wall in a few years, I mused. Then Mary Ann started barking. This development was unusual, as I often think our two dogs, had they been male, might have been named Jay and Silent Bob. So I stopped gardening, looked over my shoulder, and saw them. They’d dug up a mole and were taking turns trying to pick it up in their mouths.
The myriad of emotions, thoughts, and the overdose of angst that coursed through me cannot be justified with mere words. I’m all about the circle of life. Dogs will be dogs. Live and let live. Many clichés come to mind. Unfortunately, the last time I allowed Mary Ann be a dog and live her circular dog life, her circular digestive system backed up a very large and very moist field mouse at the foot of my bed, still highly identifiable as such, as it was swallowed apparently in one gulp. It had taken all my wits and brawn to keep her from reloading said mouse and doing that circle of life thing again. I’m sure she still holds that against me.
“It’s a mole,” I tell myself. I’m pretty sure I said it out loud. The dogs look up at me, tongues lolling, eyes bright. Skipper barks and wags. “Look, Mom!” she seems to be saying, as she mouths the poor, blind creature again.
I tried to walk away. Really, I did. But the whole field mouse incident came rushing back to mind. I whirled on the dogs, and using only my shrill, freaked-out voice and the hand spade I wielded, I managed to keep the dogs off the rodent for, oh, two or three seconds. They weren’t going to give up.
So, I did what any normal person holding a sharp weapon would do when faced with a mole that has caused me to mar my witness on more than one occasion as I studied his handiwork. I threw down the shovel and reached, with gloved hand, to pick up the mole to save it from the dogs. It squeaked; I screamed; the mole fell to the ground. The dogs thought that was pretty cool. I could see them wishing they had thumbs so they could do that, too.
Now that I had realized that touching the critter that was a tad bit bigger than my hand was not going to be an option for me, and as I mentally blocked off time on my calendar to speak with the preacher regarding the emotional scarring this foolish act was surely going to leave, I paced between the dogs and the flower bed, simultaneously shouting, “Leave it alone! Leave it alone!” trying to devise another course of action. It’s times like these that you wonder if the Google street view cameras are nearby.
Now, I’d like to circle back to the neighbor. The shut-your-dog neighbor. You know the one. The one who, when I called to check on their RSVP to a neighborhood gathering, told me, “I want to thank you and your husband for single-handedly driving the property values down.” Yeah. That neighbor. The one who has somehow missed the headline that home prices have plummeted across the nation, and the fact that we capitalized on a fire sale was not actually US PERSONALLY driving property values down. That neighbor.
They live across the street, north (and a little to the west), and there is a lovely, pastoral, empty lot next to them, gone all midwestern prairie us. Dandelions abound. Beautiful wild flowers and grasses grow there. I’m sure that doesn’t help the property values, either.
But, back to the mole, and the dogs, and the angst. I’m pacing; they’re barking; it’s squeaking. Then I spot the answer. The little quart pot that I’d just emptied — it was just about the size of the mole. I grab it up, dash back to the melee, and with my hand spade and my quart bucket, I scoop up the mole and save it from the dogs. And I march.
I know you think I’m crazy. But I just can’t bring myself to kill the creature. It’s hopping and bumping around in the pot. I’m intermittently squealing and speaking to it as if it knows what I’m saying. And I march, across the street. Mary Ann stops at the Invisible Fence line. She sits and whines. Skipper follows me across the street. She watches, confused and aghast, as I release the vermin to the empty lot next door to our neighbors. I grab Skipper and carry her away, back up the driveway, back to the flower bed.
Two wide lanes of asphalt divide us now, and I do, sincerely hope that the road will be a deterrent for the little critter. I do not wish him harm, but I do not wish him in my yard either. The neighbors’ yard? Well, that’s another story.