Why Moles Have Hands
by Anne Virginia Culbertson
One day the children came running to Aunt Nancy with a mole
which one of the dogs had just killed. They had never seen
one before and were very curious as to what it might be.
"Well, befo' de king!" said Nancy, "whar y'all bin livin' dat you
nuver seed a mole befo'? Whar you come f'um mus' be a mighty cur'ous
spot ef dey ain' have no moleses dar; mus' be sump'n wrong wid dat
place. I bin mos' all over dish yer Sussex kyounty endurin' er my
time, an' I ain' nuver come 'cross no place yit whar dey ain' have
"Moleses is sut'n'y cur'ous li'l creeturs," she continued. "I bin
teckin' tickler notuss un 'em dis long time, an' dey knows mo'n you'd
think fer, jes' ter look at 'em. Dough dey lives down un'need de
groun', yit dey is fus'class swimmers; I done seed one, wid my own
eyes, crossin' de branch, an' dey kin root 'long un'need de yearf
mos' ez fas' ez a hoss kin trot on top uv hit. Y'all neenter look
dat-a-way, 'kase hit's de trufe; dey's jes' built fer gittin' 'long
fas' unner groun'. Der han's is bofe pickaxes an' shovels fer 'em;
dey digs an' scoops wid der front ones an' kicks de dirt out de way
wid der behime ones. Der strong snouts he'ps 'em, too, ter push der
way thu de dirt."
"Their fur is just as soft and shiny as silk," said Janey.
"Yas," said Aunt Nancy, "hit's dat sof an' shiny dat, dough dey live
all time in de dirt, not a speck er dirt sticks to 'em. You ses 'sof an'
shiny ez silk,' but I tell you hit is silk; silk clo'es, dat 'zackly
Ned laughed. "Who ever heard of an animal dressed in silk clothes?" he
"Nemmine," she answered, "you talks mighty peart, but I knows w'at I
knows, an' dish yer I bin tellin' you is de sho'-'nuff trufe."
"Just see its paws," Janey went on, "why, they look exactly like hands."
"Look lak han's! look lak han's! umph! dey is han's, all thumbered
an' fingered jes lak yo'n; an', w'at's mo', dey wuz onct human ban's;
human, dey wuz so!"
"How could they ever have been human hands and then been put on a
mole's body?" asked Ned. "I believe most things you say, Aunt Nancy,
but I can't swallow that."
"Dar's a li'l boy roun' dese diggin's whar talkin' mighty sassy an'
rambunkshus, seem ter me. I am' ax you ter swoller nuttin' 't all, but
'pears ter me y'all bin swollerin' dem 'ar ol' tales right an' lef,
faster'n' I kin call 'em ter min', an' I am' seed none er you choke on
'em yit, ner cry, 'nuff said. I'se 'tickler saw'y 'bout dis, 'kase I
done had hit in min' ter tell you a tale 'bout huccome moleses have
han'ses, whar I larn f'um a ooman dat come f'um Fauquier kyounty, but
now dat Mars' Ned 'pear ter be so jubous 'bout hit, I ain' gwine was'e
my time on folks whar ain' gwine b'lieve me, nohows. Nemmine, de chillen
over on de Thompson place gwine baig me fer dat tale w'en I goes dar
ag'in, an', w'at's mo', dey gwine git hit; fer dey b'lieves ev'y wu'd
dat draps f'um my mouf, lak 'twuz de law an' de gospil."
Of course, the children protested that they were as ready to hang upon
her words as the Thompson children could possibly be, and presented
their prior claim to the tale in such moving fashion that Aunt Nancy
was finally prevailed upon to come down from her high horse and tell
"I done tol' you," she said, "dat dem 'ar han's is human, an' I mean
jes' w'at I ses, 'kase de moleses useter be folks, sho'-'nuff folks,
dough dey is all swunk up ter dis size an' der han's is all dat's lef
ter tell de tale. Yas, suh, in de ol' days, so fur back dat you kain't
kyount hit, de moleses wuz folks, an' mighty proud an' biggitty folks
at dat. Dey wan't gwine be ketched wearin' any er dish yer kaliker, er
linsey-woolsey, er homespun er sech ez dat, ner even broadclawf, ner
bombazine, naw suh! Dey jes' tricked derse'fs out in de fines' an'
shinies' er silk, nuttin' mo' ner less, an' den dey went a-traipsin'
up an' down an' hether an' yon, fer tu'rr folks ter look at an' mek
'miration over. Mo'n dat, dey 'uz so fine an' fiddlin' dey oon set foot
ter de groun' lessen dar wuz a kyarpet spread down fer 'em ter walk on.
Dey tells me hit sut'n'y wuz a sight in de worl' ter see dem 'ar folks
walkin' up an' down on de kyarpets, trailin' an' rus'lin' der silk
clo'es, an' curchyin' an' bobbin' ter one nu'rr w'en dey met up, but
nuver speakin' ter de common folks whar walkin' on de groun', ner even
so much ez lookin' at 'em. W'ats mo', dey wuz so uppish dey thought de
yearf wuz too low down fer 'em even ter run der eyes over, so dey went
'long wid der haids r'ared an' der eyes all time lookin' up, stidder
down. You kin be sho' dem gwines-on ain' mek 'em pop'lous wid tu'rr
folks, 'kase people jes' natchelly kain't stan' hit ter have you
th'owin' up to 'em dat you is better'n w'at dey is, w'en all de time
dey knows you're nuttin' but folks, same 'z dem.
"Dey kep' gwine on so-fashion, an' gittin' mo' an' mo' pompered an'
uppish, 'twel las' dey 'tracted de 'tention er de Lawd, an' He say ter
Hisse'f, He do, 'Who is dese yer folks, anyhows, whar gittin' so airish,
walkin' up an' down an' back an' fo'th on my yearf an' spurnin' hit
so's't dey spread kyarpets 'twix' hit an' der footses, treatin' my
yearf, w'at I done mek, lak 'twuz de dirt un'need der footses, an'
'spisin' der feller creeturs an' excusin' 'em er bein' common, an'
keepin' der eyes turnt up all de time, ez ef dey wuz too good ter look
at de things I done mek an' putt on my yearf? I mus' see 'bout dis; I
mus' punish dese 'sumptious people an' show 'em dat one'r my creeturs
is jez' ez low down ez tu'rr, in my sight.'
"So de Lawd He pass jedgment on de moleses. Fus' He tuck an' made 'em
lose der human shape an' den He swunk 'em up ontwel dey 'z no bigger'n
dey is now, dat 'uz ter show 'em how no-kyount dey wuz in His sight.
Den bekase dey thought derse'fs too good ter walk 'pun de bare groun' He
sont 'em ter live un'need hit, whar dey hatter dig an' scratch der way
'long. Las' uv all He tuck an' tuck 'way der eyes an' made 'em blin',
dat's 'kase dey done 'spise ter look at der feller creeturs. But He feel
kind er saw'y fer 'em w'en He git dat fur, an' He ain' wanter punish 'em
too haivy, so He lef 'em dese silk clo'es whar I done tol' you 'bout,
an' dese han's whar you kin see fer yo'se'fs is human, an' I reckon bofe
dem things putt 'em in min' er w'at dey useter be an' rack 'em 'umble.
Uver sence den de moleses bin gwine 'long un'need de groun', 'cordin ter
de jedgmen' er de Lawd, an' diggin' an' scratchin' der way thu de worl',
in trial an' tribilashun, wid dem po' li'l human han'ses. An' dat orter
l'arn you w'at comes er folks 'spisin' der feller creeturs, an' I want
y'all ter 'member dat nex' time I year you call dem Thompson chillen
"I'd like to know what use moles are," said Ned, who was of rather an
investigating turn of mind; "they just go round rooting through the
ground spoiling people's gardens, and I don't see what they're good
for; you can't eat them or use them any way."
"Sho', chil'!" said Aunt Nancy, "you dunno w'at you talkin' 'bout; de
Lawd have some use fer ev'y creetur He done mek. Dey tells me dat de
moleses eats up lots er bugs an' wu'ms an' sech ez dat, dat mought hurt
de craps ef dey wuz let ter live. Sidesen dat, jes' gimme one'r de claws
er dat mole, an' lemme hang hit roun' de neck uv a baby whar cuttin'
his toofs, an' I boun' you, ev'y toof in his jaws gwine come bustin' thu
his goms widout nair' a ache er a pain ter let him know dey's dar. Don't
talk ter me 'bout de moleses bein' wufless! I done walk de flo' too
much wid cryin' babies not ter know de use er moleses."
"You don't really believe that, do you?" asked Ned.
"B'lieve hit!" she answered indignantly; "I don' b'lieve hit, I
knows hit. I done tol' you all de things a hyar's foot kin do; w'ats
de reason a mole's foot ain' good fer sump'n, too? Ef folks on'y knowed
mo' about sech kyores ez dat dar neenter be so much sickness an' mis'ry
in de worl'. I done kyored myse'f er de rheumatiz in my right arm jes'
by tyin' a eel-skin roun' hit, an' ev'yb'dy on dis plantation knows dat
ef you'll wrop a chil's hya'r wid eel-skin strings hit's boun' ter mek
hit grow. Ef you want de chil' hisse'f ter grow an' ter walk soon you
mus' bresh his feet wid de broom. I oon tell you dis ef I hadn't tried
'em myse'f. You mus'n' talk so biggitty 'bout w'at you dunno nuttin' 't
all about. You come f'um up Norf yonner, an' mebbe dese things don'
wu'k de same dar ez w'at dey does down yer whar we bin 'pendin' on
'em so long."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~