On the Art of Being Still – And Eliminating Moles


I learned how to be STILL in church. I also learned how to be sneaky and get away with being touchy-feely with girls in church, but that’s a completely different story for another time.

Church in the South is not to be taken lightly. It happens multiple times per week and if you’re “lucky,” a traveling preacher will come to town and he (it was always a “he” then) held a revival, often in a tent, outside. Revivals lasted a minimum of three days and if the fervor was strong enough (or I suspect, the donations), it could go on indefinitely.

Our pastor liked the youth to sit in the front rows. No doubt, it was so he could adequately instill the fear of God in us. But, kids are nothing if not inventive and we turned sitting in the front row into a social status symbol rather than a burden. Anyone who was anyone sat in the front row and if you were “going with” someone, you sat with them and maybe you could hold hands without your parents being the wiser.

Whatever you did however, it had to be done quietly and with a minimum of movement. Limbs were moved slowly. Notes were passed on the down-lo’ from hand-to-hand while each human-child link in the note-passing chain kept eye contact with the pastor, never looking directly down at what was being passed. If you were the final recipient of said note, it was only under the most careful circumstances that you opened and read the note. That circumstance being that the pastor had turned away from you and was striding across the stage to address the far side of the church.

Experienced church-youth could recognize when the pastor’s voice was moving to a crescendo and it was only then that you could unfold your paper–or candy wrapper–so as not to be heard doing so. That was the only safe way to open and quickly scan what was so secretively delivered. Surely it was something juicy?

But over the years, I became adept at stillness. I could (and can) sit extremely still for long periods of time, as long as my environment is comfortable. I also developed this interesting “tunnel vision” whereas, if I stared ONLY at the preacher pacing across the stage, moving ONLY my eyes, everything else faded to black.

Little did I know how that training would benefit me as an adult. To this day, I use this technique in meetings at work when they last far longer than usefulness would dictate.

And I’ve found a new purpose for my abilities; “I’ve Got Moles.”

Moles/Voles, whatever you call them–they are, in fact, a bit of an epidemic on my street. As you walk along the sidewalk, you can’t help but see the tell-tale meandering, raised tunnels of slightly dead grass  where the moles have burrowed and the grass roots have begun to dry out and die off.

In the past, I have used varying methods of mole-control. I have the spike traps that you insert just over an active mole trail. The idea being that as they burrow under the trigger plate, it trips the spikes which slam down into the ground, spearing the mole.

I’ve never actually caught/killed a mole with one. I’ve come out of a morning and found them triggered, their spikes jammed into the soft earth, but upon pulling them up, found them empty as usual.

I’ve tried water hoses in their trails trying to drown them out (CaddyShack style). I’ve tried baits and poisons, to no avail.

But, I have a Weimaraner. Her name is “Shiner,” and as it turns out, she is the consummate mole hunter. In this picture, she’s happily sniffing the mole she killed. I’ve erased most of the gore, but you can clearly see the little feet. Like most hunting dogs, her natural instinct is to catch it and juuuuust bite down enough to break its back/neck. And then she’ll just carry it around, or put it down so everyone can admire her kill and praise her for her prowess.

(This is one of her kills. I erased the gore.)

Her only flaw is that she drools when she is close to her prey. This is particularly troublesome when she’s standing over a chipmunk burrow waiting for them to pop up. Her drool tends to fall straight down into the hole. Jig’s up.

But Shiner taught me how to use my ability for stillness, to take care of my mole problem far faster, and more simply, than any product on the market.

Here’s what Shiner and I developed.

  • Once you see mole tunnels, go ahead and tamp them down. You’ll typically find them in the morning, and more often after a good rain. Moles are looking for worms and wet soil makes for easier digging.
  • Now that you’ve tamped down the tunnel, periodically re-inspect the area for fresh tunnels. If you have the ability to check hourly, more the better.
  • As soon as you see a fresh tunnel, get a pitchfork.
  • Slowly and lightly approach the area and then squat down. This gives you a better view of the ground when it moves. And I firmly believe moles sense the vibration of you walking, and will freeze in response.
  • If the mole is there, after a few minutes you will see the ground heave slightly. Now, before you pounce, be sure and note the direction of the tunnel because you will need to move quickly and precisely.
  • As sure as you’re certain it’s there, jam your pitchfork as deep as it will go. Make sure and align the teeth of the pitchfork in the direction of the tunnel. Assuming you don’t pull up a stabbed mole, immediately begin poking your pitchfork into the ground to the right and left of where it was. They will run and you have to be quick.
  • IF you got it, one of three things will happen; either you pull it up on the end of your pitchfork and you’ll know; it will die quietly underground and you’ll never know it other than a lack of new tunnels; or it will come out of the ground some time later and die and you’ll find it.

It’s not glorious, but it works.

If left to her own devices, Shiner will sniff out the moles and dig until she finds them, destroying the yard in the process. Since moles can move quickly, I’ve abandoned trying to dig them out when we “find” them and instead, just try and kill them underground. Even if I were to get him out of the ground, I’d just have to later bury him anyway to prevent the dogs from rolling in it its decaying remains, so why not just kill it underground?

As I got older and moved away on my own, I often reflected on this ability I developed as a child, to remain so still. I thought about how I might have used it in the military, or the CIA. And then I remember how I have no composure when it comes to ant bites and I realize I would never make a good sniper where a pretty important skill is the ability to ignore everything happening to your body in order so you can remain perfectly still

No, I suppose I’ll have to be content using my powers in the lawn-maintenance realm and be satisfied. May what I’ve learned, help those who follow behind.


One Year Ago

For a moment, I forgot I was grown up.

Life is a timeline of events that affects us in ways too small to notice in the moment, but in a retrospective, taken all into account, undeniably establishes who and what we become.

One day you’re riding your “Space Invaders” Huffy bicycle, wearing red-ringed tube socks. The next day, you’re mourning the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

Losing a parent is perhaps one of the last chapters in that timeline, at least in the normal current of events. Like everything else, no one is the first to go through it, but it feels like it is to each of us when it happens.

My father died one year ago today. He was my “adopted” dad, but he never said that. I was always his son. He was not perfect, and I’ve found out how even less perfect he was since he passed.

But he always was, and always “shall be” (to steal a line from Spock), my Dad.

We miss you Paw-Paw.

Dad Bowling for blog

Robert Raymond Souther, 83, of Mills River, passed away Wednesday, October 17, 2018. A native of Henderson County, he was the son of DeWitt Talmadge and Reba Case Souther. He was preceded in death by his brothers John, Thomas (Tommy), and Floyd Souther, and two sisters, Florence Clay and Louise Houk.

Robert attended Mills River High School and in 1953, his Dairy Team scored 1100/1200 in the state dairy show, a record that may stand to this day. No is quite sure what they did with the $400 they won, but they didn’t use it to go to “Nationals” in Iowa–we do know that :).

After high school, Robert spent 8 years in the U.S. Air Force, but got out early to care for his ailing father, who passed soon after.

Professionally, Robert worked as an instrument and electrical engineer most of his life. He never met a problem he couldn’t (at least attempt to) solve, nor something broken that couldn’t (at least attempt to) fix. Robert was a quiet man, but possessing a great sense of humor. Few who met him didn’t immediately like him, and when together with his siblings, would happily recount stories of “four of us on a bicycle,” “wildcats following us through the woods at night,” and other childhood tales.

He is survived by his two sons, Robert J. Souther, of Franklin, NC, and Christopher D. Souther and wife, Megan Souther of Roswell Georgia; his brother Frank Souther and wife L.E. of Hemet, CA.; three grandchildren: Ethan, Aiden and Marissa; and numerous beloved nieces and nephews.

He is remembered fondly by his first wife, Carolyn Souther, also of Henderson Cty.

Robert asked that there be no funeral or memorial service. Instead, the family asks everyone to take a moment and think of the loved ones in your lives, give them a call and tell them you love them.


Why I’m OK Without Facebook

I wrote this a few years ago when I left Facebook the first time. I’d since gotten back on Facebook–clean slate. I started over with a new list of friends; some old, some new. But, I still wasn’t spending more than a few minutes at a time scrolling through whatever meager posts the site offered me.

And then, a week or so ago I posted something very benign. A “Friend” of mine that I’ve known since high school responded. He was “picking” at me, much as he did in school. I didn’t like it then; don’t like it now. But, he didn’t stop with just one post, but rather 5 more posts. Finally, I deleted the post and shut down FB. He messaged me a few minutes later apologizing. Even said he wife said he was being an “asshole.” Yep, he was.

But, the older I get, the less I need additional, unwarranted drama in my life. And if my so-called “Friends” on FB are causing unnecessary drama, well guess what? There’s something I can do about that.

I’ve shut down my account again. Maybe permanently, maybe not. But this post from a few years ago summarizes my feelings about FB (and other Social Media)


Before Facebook, I knew that I was often irrational. That my feelings sometimes got the best of me and that I often said things that maybe people shouldn’t say to other people. But then I realized that my parents did it and my parents’ parents did it and we all turned out OK.

Before Facebook, I knew who my true friends (and family) were. I knew that I could pick up the phone and call a select few people and they would be there day or night. And my Friend list didn’t comprise 400 people, most of who have to rely on Facebook notifications to know when my birthday is.

Before Facebook, I knew that, as a father, I am flawed. I knew that I could be myopic about projects; often ignoring all else in order to finalize something I was working on that would benefit my family. But I also knew that I spent a lot of time with my kids and my wife. That most of my weekends I spend running back and forth from one sports game to another and when not doing that, often playing with my kids in the yard throwing balls, riding bikes, you know…family stuff. But I also knew that I hug my children–a lot. A lot more than I was hugged as a child. And I tell my kids how special they are and how much I love them. And I have to believe, that no matter how I might yell sometimes, my kids can’t help but know how much I love them–because I’ve shown them.

Before Facebook, I knew that 14 years of marriage can make things seem a little stale–that maybe it’s not quite as exciting as it is when you’re first dating. But I also knew that my marriage was strong. That what we have as a couple is the envy of millions of single adults. And maybe we don’t have date-night as often as we’d like, but it’s not because as a man, I don’t care about my wife–that’s just life. You make sacrifices and you live with it. Period.

Before Facebook, I knew that I had a mild case of body dismorphic disorder. Despite being more active and fit  than the majority of men I know, I still felt as if I’m somehow not skinny enough, or strong enough, or active enough.

Before Facebook, I could enjoy a person’s company, unfiltered by knowing every proclivity and every opinion they’ve voiced. Their personal political views, or sexual orientation or the crazy things that went on in their heads that they kept to themself didn’t interject itself into our relationship. Who cared? We’re friends because we “jive” not because we agree.

Before Facebook, I could pretend that the people I thought cared about me, actually cared. I didn’t have to wonder why someone I grew up with never comments on my posts, or why they act like I don’t even exist online. If I called and got your vmail and you never called back…I knew to let it go.

Before Facebook, men were men and women were women. However ‘wrong’ society might feel our actions to be, the consequences were ours alone to endure. We didn’t have memes telling us that traditional gender roles are outdated and that we’re somehow wrong if we feel that men should still do these sorts of things and women should do these sorts of things. And if a couple doesn’t adhere to gender roles…great…they’ll work it out between them and live a happy life.

And on that note, before Facebook, I knew that my wife worked hard. That her full-time job and the time she spends with the kids often goes unremarked. But then, the same could be said of me. I didn’t need a women’s group pointing out how much money I should spend ensuring my wife gets spa treatments or nights out with the girls, while ignoring the fact that I work 10 hour days (incl. commute), come home many nights and cook dinner or bathe kids and still do all the many other things required to keep a house from falling down around us.

Before Facebook, no one was constantly pointing out every woman’s successess and demonizing the efforts of men. Sure, maybe there wasn’t absolute gender equality in every facet of life, but we were surely moving in that direction on our own and everyone was benefitting from it.

Before Facebook, I didn’t feel guilty not evangelizing my faith. I’d come to grips with that the fact that I’m more a “James the lesser”, than a John the Baptist and was fairly confident that my sincere belief in God would suffice to qualify me for a seat in heaven, rather than the works that I did here on earth convincing others that free will should be trumped by fear or guilt.

Before Facebook, if I didn’t want to purchase a used pooch from the animal shelter, no one made me feel horrible about buying a bred-for-the-family purebreed from a reputable breeder.

But Facebook takes all of these things…all the things that makes life, life and it makes you feel like you’re wrong for living it your way, while trying its darned best to ensure that you live it “their” way. And that’s wrong. It’s OK if you want to surround yourself with others who live and love and feel as you do and you shouldn’t feel as if every time you look at Facebook, you have to defend yourself or your actions or feelings to someone else just because they post some strongly worded comment or picture-story that has 3,000 Likes from some international agency of change.

So I’m OK letting it go. No more will I be ruled by hurt feelings just because people didn’t agree with my posts. Likely, Facebook just didn’t show it to that many people anyway. It’s playing with our feelings and our lives and I’m quite through with it.

I’m OK without Facebook.