A mole is a creature we all know as being depicted in children's books many times and kicking over their piles of fresh dark soil that appeared on the school field overnight was a regular pastime for myself, but few people have ever seen one. Adapting to a life in the dark, its eyes are virtually none-existent, relying totally on his nose to find juicy earthworms, huge front paddle shaped hands with long sharp nails, tiny hind feet and the cutest rounded bum, shaped like the end of a plum tomato with a short stout tail stuck on the end, covered in bristle type black hair that looks pig-like even though its not curly.
As a young lad I had never seen one dead or alive until the old man had brought one home he had found dead while out walking with the dog. Being a proof-reader for a national newspaper he had taken the animal to work in the morning to show the old boys who were all stooped in long lines over wooden bench-desks, huddled under a reading lamp with plumes of smoke rising from either a fag butt or pipe hanging out of their mouths, filling the dark room with a rich aroma of tobacco and printers ink. Of all the men present that morning not one could name the animal which is hard to believe, all manner of remarks thrown at the old man " it's your lads pet hamster" or it's a rat or mouse, but these city men were born of steel & brick, never breathing or visiting the countryside, preferring the men's social clubs for contraband over a country walk!! So home the mole came, so we could all ponder over its tube-like body shape, fur so fine and soft which could be brushed both ways like a fine tailored suede jacket. Where are its eyes dad? how can it find food?, do they bite? the questions coming thick and fast, can we hold it?, does it smell?, let's put it back in the ground for its mum to find, the memory remains vivid, an animal of the underworld brought to life for the first time.
This summer we have had a mole in the garden, throwing mounds of fresh soil daily, but not once has it ever been an issue. Never one for wanting a perfect manicured lawn, the lawn mower only spreads the soil around anyway ready for him to make a new one the following day!! I feel privileged to know they are here, well before we looked after the land and here when we leave, so Mr Mole does have his right to this patch, so for the vanity of a bowling green lawn you can keep it.
Moles have been trapped for generations for many reasons, the old trappers would use a manual mole trap which would be set in a mole run, killing him instantly and they would be paid per mole. The poor creature was not wasted, with his fur being used to make clothing from trousers to hats. These days gas or poison is used , which for me shows complete disregard for an animal that is viewed solely as a pest, a menace to the modern garden, but sometimes it pays to stop and think about his role in nature, surely a quick rake or letting the children kick the mole hills around is better than a sterile lifeless garden that is more suited to a city lifestyle than a country one?
So one sunny evening I was walking back to the garage with one of my young sons when right in front of us the ground started to rise with fresh, dark soil bubbling up, we both paused, frozen with fear of banging our feet sending him back into the abyss. By pure chance a spade was leaning against the garage wall, so without lifting my feet I lent over grabbing the spade, waiting for the next arrival of topsoil. Now I have heard of this technique before but timing is crucial, too slow and you miss him, too fast and you cut the poor mole in half, so I waited until the earth started erupting again and he came to the surface pushing out more soil and making a new underground tunnel linking one bypass to another. "He's coming" whispered Lucas, "wait for it" I said , then I thrust the spade deep into the earth as far down as I could force in one motion, scooping at the same time to hopefully bare the prize. At first all we could see was a pile of earth, but as we rummaged through the spade-full of soil there he was!, frozen and exposed to the bright sunshine, he remained so still, almost as if he was trying to hide. We picked him up and put him inside a bucket for a brief minute, allowing myself time to explain to Lucas what he was & why he was there.
Of all his adorable features the two things that struck me most was the immense power and speed, it completely shocked me how fast he could shuffle, & I mean turbo fast!! His power was incredible too for a creature of this size, being one of muscle and limbs he set off like a scalextric car across the lawn, across the gravel drive and literally upended and tore through the gravel like some earth burrowing robot in a kids cartoon. I could not have dug that fast with a trowel, and we both still laugh how fast "Turbo" mole disappeared, it boggles my mind to think how he did managed to evaporate in front of our eyes, through a bone dry gravel parking area, back into his underworld, unbelievable!.
Mr Mole really did leave his mark on Lucas and myself, so that night I decided after the encounter to draw him, it's not easy drawing an animal that has no obvious hard lines or contours, just a sausage shape with a sticky out tail , rubbery long snout and huge front baby pink hands. I decided to depict him when he first froze in the daylight, with a strong cast shadow from the sun, adding a little colour to his hands, feet and nose.
I hope you like this endearing little creature, you may never get chance to see one, but hopefully this drawing brings one to life in your thoughts.
The drawing is for sale £180. (actual drawing size is 190mm x 80mm
A.J.E Artwork copyright (R) on all images on this blog.