by Sharon Tausch
People who know Versailles resident Dan Daulton are likely to agree he is an avid hunter. He is a deer hunter. He is a turkey hunter. He likes to fish, and he likes to hunt moles. That’s right, moles, the little animal with soft fur, tiny ears and eyes, and strong paddle-like front claws that when put in motion can wreak havoc on a person’s lawn.
There are several ways to discourage moles from taking up residence in one’s lawn, such as growing garlic and castor beans in the yard, setting up live traps, pouring liquid soap and castor oil down into the mole-tunnels, or getting rid of their food source of grubs and earthworms. Or, get Daulton on the phone.
Daulton doesn’t grow smelly plants, trap, or pour soapy castor oil down the mole-tunnels. He goes out into the yard at the right time of day and watches, and waits, until he sees movement in a mound of dirt. Then, when the unsuspecting lawn invader’s location is discovered, Daulton raises his razor-sharp spade and forces it down into the moving mound of earth and, unless a tree root gets in the way, Mr. Mole will have burrowed his last tunnel.
Hunting moles, for the average mole hunter, can be a time-consuming hobby. Daulton, however, has it down to a science. “It’s time consuming, because you have to catch them as they are pushing up the dirt, so that you can see them working in the ground better,” he said. “You go out during the day and step down on the mole mounds and mash them flat. Then, the best time to catch them burrowing is early in the morning or late in the evening. You look for the mounds that are moist so you will know they are fresh. Sometimes you have to stand there and be patient and wait and watch, until you see the dirt move a little bit. Then, when the mole pushes up, you raise your spade and push it down right on that spot, and unless a tree root gets in the way, you’ll get him.”
Daulton said he has been on “mole patrol” for about three years. “It’s kind of my new hobby. I killed 100 the first year, 120 the second, and so far, this year, I’ve gotten 50. I tried catching them with traps, but it didn’t work, so I went back to doing it like I learned how as a youngster, with a spade.”
Daulton not only kills the moles that get into his own yard, but the ones that get into the yard of Chuck and Louella Pryor, his next-door neighbors. Daulton said Chuck came over one day and said to him, “I have moles in my yard, and I’ve heard you can kill them.”
“So now I kill moles for my friends, Chuck, Tom Todd, Harry Bolinger, and others,” Daulton said, “and I never charge anyone for doing it. I’ve killed seven moles for Chuck at a time.”
The Daultons and the Pryors have been long-time friends. Daulton’s wife, Donna, says she and Dan have lived in the same house since 1974, “Our grandkids tell us we can never sell it, as it is the only house where they remember coming to see us. Our oldest son, Dan Jr., lives in Mississippi, Michael lives in Hannibal, and Lisa (Kumberg) lives in Versailles. We also have six grandchildren, and are expecting our 14th great-grandchild, and it’s a boy. Out of the 14, we only have four girls,” she said.
Donna tells a short story about Dan and his mole-hunting: “One of our daughter Lisa’s friends called her one day and said, ‘I just drove by your folks’ house and I’m worried about your dad. He’s just standing around in the yard looking down at the ground.’ So, Lisa asked her, ‘Does he have a spade in his hand?’ Her friend told her it looked like a long shovel. ‘Don’t worry,’ Lisa said. ‘He’s okay, he’s just hunting moles.’”
Donna said when Dan turned 85 his friends and family gave him a birthday party, and one of his presents was a T-shirt with “Mole Patrol” printed on the front.
According to Daulton, Mole season lasts from March until October, roughly about seven months. “If there’s one thing you don’t have to worry about, it is mole extinction,” Daulton said. “They stay underground for about four or five months during the mating season, and their gestation period is only about four to six weeks. Therefore, each spring there are lots of new little moles coming up to destroy the surface of someone’s lawn.”
Daulton said people often get the idea that moles are slow movers because of their large, flat, front paws, but he says, “Don’t let that fool you. Once in a while, they are saved by a tree root or something else that gets between them and the spade, and they can run on top of the ground like lightning.”
Daulton is a person who likes people and they seem to like him back. He has lived in Versailles since his parents moved from Fortuna in 1947, and he later graduated with 50 other VHS graduates. He says he and Donna were in the same class, but they didn’t date until he came home from the Air Force. “There were several of us who joined the armed forces during the Korean War; but, thank goodness, none of us had to go over there,” he said. “There was myself, James Uptegrove, Jim Hutchison, Joe Don Landrum, Ewell Chasteen, Lloyd Hickey, Bill Ahart, and Leonard Campbell. Two members of the group were Ralph Vernon and Harry Workman, and both of them were from Eldon. After basic training we were all sent out to different places, and later on I came down with bleeding ulcers when I was stationed at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and had to be sent home. It was after I came home that Leonard and I double-dated with a couple of girls, and one of them was Donna.”
“I had my eye on him in high school, but we didn’t go out until later,” Donna said.
The Daultons have enjoyed many years of living in Versailles. The Monday after Donna’s graduation, she went to work at the Gunn Clinic, and nearly 40 years later when she retired, she was still at the clinic, but had gone from office worker to office manager. The Daultons have passed their sixth decade of marriage, and Donna says their secret is that even though they may have had an occasional disagreement, they have always been able to talk things out and “We’ve always made God the center of our lives.”
Daulton has held several career positions before and since he and Donna were married. He started out as a meat cutter at the Versailles Locker Plant, went into the Air Force, and upon coming home went to work at the Ford Garage as a bookkeeper. After attending college, he went to work for Morgan County Gas Company as an accountant and was there 13 years. He later went to work for Mid Missouri Savings and Loan as manager eight years and when the main office in Boonville closed, he went to work at Gates Rubber Company and retired in 1996 at 63. Donna retired when she was 65 and the two of them since have enjoyed camping and other outdoor activities with the family, and Dan continued hunting deer and turkey. He also loves to fish.
Daulton’s favorite fishing trip was to Bogota, Colombia with the Late Doctor Jack Gunn and Harold Ensley. “There were 18 of us from all over the U.S.,” he said, “and I caught the record Piranha. It weighed more than five pounds.”
Meanwhile, in between turkey seasons, Dan is content to monitor his yard and the yards of his friends for moles. “It’s not an expensive hobby,” he said. “All you need is a little bit of time, patience, a spade, and perhaps an official ‘mole-patrol’ T-shirt.”
by Sharon Tausch