Making mountains out of mole hunts

Blue skies, breathtaking glimpses of Mt. Rainier. Nothing wrong with this winter day. But a dormant garden showcasing a row of perfectly aligned ... molehills? This winter picture was all wrong!

Are moles out early because the ground never really froze? Or because all the new housing construction rousted them from hibernation and chased them to greener pastures? No one seemed in a hurry to be rid of the molehills. Was there a value to moles I’m unaware of? Was I making mountains?

My parents were great and fearless mole boppers. Mom would go around with the garden hose and jab it down each hole. Once the tunnels flooded and the mole dared to peek out, dad would be waiting with rake or snow shovel and clobber the heck out of that poor mammal.

Come spring, dad was ever-vigilant against these vile critters. One tiny creature could undermine and sink our house –– or, as dad put it, “Next thing you know we’re waking up in China.” Secretly I hoped to wake up one morning surrounded by Pandas.

Other neighborhoods held block parties, barbecues and garage sales. On our street we jokingly held the perennial salmon hunt and mole bake.

Some years we were spared the mole parade. Two summers ago we were riddled with them. Dad no longer around to protect his yard, the honors were left to me. Mom, frail and in her 80s, is around and still a believer in the flood-and-bash philosophy. I remember seeing one of dad’s trophies before he threw it into the trash: A tiny, silky furred thing with huge paws. I felt terrible about playing exterminator, but seeing the mounds on their perfect lawn drove me crazy. Could I do dad proud and bop one on the head until dead?

There had to be a saner solution. Pest control services charged a fortune to set traps, install monitors and, for a fee, keep returning as often as the moles. There were pricey devices in catalogs: Sonic Rodent Repeller, Mole Pole, Solar Powered Mole Evictor. I could hear dad scoffing.

One evening I took hose in hand and, looking around to make sure no neighbors could witness my private war, I started sticking the hose down hole after hole, water on full-blast. Who was the worse criminal, the mole or me? Mom tottered out, thought she spotted the mole, grabbed a rake and started screaming and bopping like a gleeful contestant on some bizarre game show. It didn’t take long before neighbors were hanging over the fence, cheering us on and offering advice.

The next morning, our lawn service spread a yearly 3-in-1 treatment, which either killed the mole or sent it packing. Wahoo! Our lawn sort of dips and rises but appears to be mole-free.

Tiny mounds are beginning to cover our side lawn. While I ponder their origins, another thought creeps in: The mountain ranges surrounding us –– were they once molehills left unbopped?

Julia Cousineau is a freelance writer. She works in Federal Way when not battling moles.

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