Today while driving home from the college I saved a mole.
I was driving along a four-lane stretch when I saw what looked like a leaf in the highway — or was it a small animal, a mouse? It looked injured if it was. I slowed down and pulled right up to it. It wasn’t moving right, with the almost cartoonish centipede-like scurry of a mouse. It wandered unevenly in circles with a lurching gait, as if hurt or confused.
It was a mole, unharmed but completely unsuited for movement above the ground, on macadam. Like the penguin that waddles on land and speeds like a bullet in water, it was out of its element, lumbering like a tiny seal. Its pink, clawed, paddle-like feet gave it the shambling grace of a hatchling turtle making for the sea.
I’ve learned you don’t take chances with life and death when you have the wherewithal not to. I stopped my car, grabbed a reusable shopping bag, flicked on my hazards and stepped out to see what I could do. The mole was pale dove gray with velvety-looking fur, not quite as long as long as my hand and blindly wandering four lanes of highway in the middle of the afternoon.
Before I saw the danger coming, a huge green pickup rolled right over the mole — but the wheels missed it as I stood frozen with panic and hope. It kept going at a blind shamble.
There wasn’t another car coming, so I walked over, leaned down and put down the bag in front of the mole, holding it open and hoping it would walk in so I could carry it to the grass. But it avoided the lip of the bag each time with its sensitive nose, turning away, refusing the trap.
I tried putting the bag on top of it, using the bag to protect my hand from a bite and carrying it to the side of the road. But it was wriggly and small, hard to catch.
Then I realized in my attempts to catch it I’d turned it back around towards the roadside, and we only had a few feet to go to get to the grass and dirt. I herded it with my feet over the road and into the dirt, guiding it in a relatively straight line to where the road ended and dirt and grass began.
When he hit dirt it took him about three seconds to disappear. I didn’t even see him dig. It was like he just pushed himself into the earth, and it yielded to him because it was where he belonged.