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Ho-nee-um trail in the fall

Heinold, George
Mighty midget of mining,   pp. 7-10


Page 7

 
by George Heinold 
EARLY ONE SUMMER morning several years ago, my 
telephone jangled urgently. The caller turned out to be a 
neighbor, a retired architect now dedicated to maintain- 
ing an immaculately groomed lawn and flowerbeds. He 
guarded them so zealously that they rarely had a chance 
of striking up acquaintance with a weed, a beetle, or a 
wilted leaf. Though I'd regarded him as a serene, soft- 
spoken old gentleman, he was now so emotionally over- 
wrought that he was nearly hysterical. 
   "Your Bruno's tearing up my lawnl" was the gist of his 
 ranting. "If you don't get right over here and stop him, 
 I'll call the police and have you arrestedl" 
   Bruno was my dog, a huge but affable German shep- 
 herd on whose ox-strong back the local tots often rode. 
 The neighbors doted on him, many of them pampering 
 him with doggie candies and other tidbits as he made 
 his morning visits collecting loot. Bruno was the least 
 harmful and the most playful dog I have ever owned, a 
 born clown. So it was impossible for me to imagine what 
 the big buffoon could be doing to arouse such flaming 
 ire in the old man. 
   I soon learned what it was. Barking as excitedly as if 
he had treed a panther, Bruno was using his big and 
powerful forepaws to rip trenches in the velvety lawn. 
Turf flew in all directions as he frantically pursued a 
creature which was tunneling so close to the surface of 
that sacred lawn that I could see the ground rising. 
Bruno soon captured it - a common ground mole, a mere 
six inches of luxuriant gray fur. Then I spied at scattered 
points of what looked like a disaster area the bodies of 
three more moles which my mighty hunter had already 
unearthed and slain. 
   Only casual interest. Prior to that unfortunate episode, 
my interest in ground moles had been merely casual. I 
knew that they were mouse-like little animals that lived 
underground and disfigured lawns and gardens by rais- 
ing unsightly mounds as they tunneled along. There were 
times when I had even swatted some I caught elevating 
the turf in my own lawn with the flat side of a spade, the 
simplest, most humane and effective way I know for get- 
ting rid of them when one hasn't the time to flatten their 
tunnels with a ground roller until they become discour- 
aged enough to vacate. And I vaguely recalled reading 
in the Fables of Aesop when I was a boy the scant para- 
graph about a mole and her dam, or mother, the moral 
of which was that other people wouldn't notice so many 
of your faults if you didn't go to so much trouble trying 
to conceal them. But it wasn't until ground moles" be- 
Reprinted from the April-May 1968 
National Wildlife Magazine, Copy- 
right 1968 by The Reader's Digest 
Assn.,, Inc. Condensed in The 
Reader's Digest. 
came the indirect cause of costing me more than a week's 
pay to compensate for Bruno's indiscretion and also keep 
me out of the clutches of the police that I began to take 
a serious interest in them. I found them to be uniquely 
interesting little chaps. 
   Although I doubt if he would have looked at it in this 
light, my neighbor had also been done another, even 
more important, disservice by Bruno. The big dog had 
killed four extremely valuable control agents of destruc- 
tive insects. Belonging to the order insectivora, the com- 
mon, or Eastern, ground mole appeases an appetite so 
voracious that he must consume nearly his own weight 
in food about every twenty-four hours, or quickly perish. 
Insects are of high importance in his diet. Not only does 
he devour astonishing quantities of Japanese beetles and 
the underground larvae from which they develop, but 
also this burrowing trencherman consumes cut-worms, 
wire-worms, grubs and other garden enemies in great 
numbers. He also relishes earthworms, and any field mice 
that he catches trespassing in his underground tunnel 
complex are killed and eaten with gusto. 
  Death on insects. William A. Hornaday, one of our 
most eminent naturalists at the turn of the century, was 
among the first to put into widespread print the ground 
mole's value as an eliminator of harmful insects. Wrote 
Hornaday, "But for the enemies which keep them in 
check, there would be a hungry grub for each sprouting 
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