Following on from other readers’ ethereal and magnificent encounters with elusive and mighty beasts, my own close brush is on a smaller scale and strikes a different note.
It was a summer’s afternoon when my attention was called by the distinctive sound of our cat with its mouth full – a sort of muted yowl that signalled he’d got something interesting that he was more keen on receiving congratulations for catching than actually killing. Dangling from bared teeth was a beautiful velvety mole, an unexpected sight on a patio in broad daylight. I gave the cat the customary futile telling-off for following its natural instincts, admittedly tinged with some admiration for the unusual nature of the quarry, and wondered how best to get the mole from the cat and back to its home.
I knew – and could clearly see – that moles have very long and sharp claws. What I failed to appreciate as I carefully positioned my hands around the mole’s silky body, away from its claws, was how long and sharp their teeth might be, and how flexible it could be. The cat let go at the moment that the mole curled in a ball and clasped on. I dropped the mole and it hung from my thumb. Through the pain I retained enough presence of mind to work out that it was unlikely to reverse the reflex while terrified so placed the mole/my hand on the ground and waited – and hoped – for it to let go. Some very long seconds passed and it eased its bite, allowing me to remove my bleeding digit.
I feel it’s to my credit that I used the shovel only to courteously scoop up the creature and deposit it whence it came, the cat’s glorious hunting ground alongside the churchyard. I then called the surgery to seek advice on what to do about the wound. When the receptionist had finished laughing, she told me to come in for a tetanus booster and some antibiotics. Ten minutes later I arrived at the surgery in Milton to find a handful of staff waiting to see the bite and to find out how on earth I had sustained it. I think they had visions of me up to my shoulder in soil as I stuck my arm down the middle of a mole-hill. Having disappointed them with the comparatively prosaic circumstances of my injury, I was in turn disappointed that this wasn’t the most unusual animal bite they’d treated – they had once attended to a tiger bite while the circus was in Burford.
August – September 2020