There is a short, bumpy country road that leads to our driveway. On one side is our neighbor whose apple trees attract the annual deer family. On the other is our neighbor whose horses I can always get to come see me at the fence with a handful of greener grass than exists in their pasture.
Tonight as I was driving in, something about the three strand barbed wire fence that contains Mike's horses caught my eye. A blob hanging from the middle strand - oblong, brown, just big enough to disturb the familiar picture and make me look. I was almost past the thing before the wrongness registered. Brain said, "mole." Eyes cast over my shoulder said, "mole." Reason said, "Moles don't climb fences."
I continued home, trying to find something in my brain that might make sense of what I'd just seen. Mike is a bit unconventional, in a really cool way. He looks like ZZ Top, loves his Harley and his wife, and tells the greatest stories. He's kind and generous and protective of the neighborhood. In all these years, he's never given us reason for concern about his mental health.
It didn't take me long to walk back for a closer look, with camera in hand.
Mole. Big, full grown, handsome mole. Hung from the middle strand of barbed wire like a horse thief. All the mole hills along the fence line had been driven over. A small crater along the line of crushed hills made it clear that the mole had not been captured without a tussle.
This mole was clearly hung to send a message to the rest of his gang: "Dig at the risk of your lives. There is a serious hunter here, who won't give up until the last mole is dead. Tunnel for the hills."
Except moles can't see. They don't even come above ground on purpose. Mike didn't seem to care. When I hollered into his yard because I wasn't going to be able to rest without the real story, he all but pounded his chest in pride at having captured that mole. His laugh was just south of jolly when he said he hung it as a warning. His smile was nearly feral when he said he'd be hanging more there when he caught them. Leaving no doubt at all that he intended to hunt until they were all dead - or moved on to someone else's yard.