Last week I finished indexing Arthur Randell's haunting little memoir Fenland Molecatcher (1970). He describes how moles were once considered an effective cure for fever: the animal was skinned, baked in an oven, then crumbled up into a powder. One teaspoonful per day for nine days, and your ague is gone.
WH Hudson beautifully describes a mole as being no bigger than a lady’s gloved hand, yet goes on to relate how, in the rutting season, they will fight each other to the death, until the floor and walls of their runs are awash with blood.
The common garden mole (Talpa europaea) has a truly foul and nauseating taste. Only bluebottles taste worse, apparently. I’ve seen for myself how a row of moles strung up on a fence remain there for ages – no bird or animal (except the grey crow) seems to want to eat them. And even maggots appear curiously reluctant to feast.
Arthur Randell’s memoir offers a sad portrait of the lonely, wind-swept Fens, and the solitary mole-catcher with his sticks and traps walking home across the marsh and peat fields.
David A. Green is a freelance indexer living in Petersfield, Hampshire.
The Indexed Word
Random thoughts about books, indexes, and book indexing.