Home » Glynn Harris: More worms than you can shake a stick at

Glynn Harris: More worms than you can shake a stick at

by Russell Hedges

Growing up in the country, we often had to “make do” when we needed a tool, toy, do-hickey or whatchamacallit.

I can still vividly recall the intricate system of roads, bridges and hills my brother, two cousins and I fashioned underneath our house, which sat high enough off the ground to allow crawl space. Using nothing but youthful vocal chords, we created the sound of engines whining, gears clanking and brakes squealing as our vehicles made their way over sandy roads and across bridges.

There, however, wasn’t a Tonka to be found. In fact, I doubt this popular brand of toy trucks and earth movers had yet been invented. Our vehicles? Brown snuff bottles. Our grandmother, who lived next door, was an avid snuff dipper and dipped and spat enough Garrett during her lifetime to half fill the Big Gully, a deep and wide chasm in the woods near our house. Thus, brown snuff bottles were never in short supply.

Then there were our handy flow-through fish baskets. Before collapsible wire baskets made their way to Goldonna, we used burlap bags, (toe-sacks, to us) to keep our fish fresh.

Before heading to the creek for a mess of fish, we didn’t drive to the bait shop for a basket of crickets; we’d dig our own bait out behind the cow barn. Flipping cow patties with a sharp shooter shovel, it was no trouble to extract enough red wigglers to catch all the goggle-eyes and stump perch we cared to clean.

I was abruptly thrust back to the snuff bottle – toe sack – cow patty days recently when my daughter and her family came for a visit. Keith, my son-in-law, was anxious to show me an intriguing contraption for catching fish bait, a device introduced to him by his brother.

“First, you find two sticks,” Keith explained as he walked me through the process of building a worm-catcher. Picking up two small branches from where I’d trimmed the hedge, he removed the leaves and cut each off to about a foot in length.

“Then you take your knife and whittle out notches in one of the sticks. That’s all there is to it,” he added as he serrated the stick with his pocket knife.

The proof was when Keith took his worm-finder to one of Kay’s flower beds and went to work. First, he planted the notched stick firmly against the ground, holding it in his left hand. With his right hand, he rapidly raked the smooth stick up and down over the serrated stick to produce a fluttering, whirring sound, something not unlike the sound a brown snuff bottle truck makes when it’s climbing a hill.

“Just wait”, Keith said, assuming I was starting to question my daughter’s wisdom in selecting her life’s mate. “You’ll see.”

He was right. Within a minute after beginning his worm-charming episode, night crawlers begin emerging from the mulch by the dozens, apparently agitated by the vibration.

I became interested enough in the idea of “charming” worms that I headed for the internet. I learned that worm charming is nothing new; in fact, they even have worm charming championships in England that have been in effect for decades.

This competition is to see who can entice the most worms out of the ground within a designated time period. How do they do it in jolly ole England?

The ground is banged with garden forks or sticks and because of the vibration of the soil, the worms come to the surface. There was even a man playing a saxophone near the ground.

Why am I just now finding out about these innovative methods of catching fish bait? You think I couldn’t have impressed the cow patty/sharp shooter crowd back then if I’d been able to charm up some fishing worms with a couple of sticks, or a garden rake, or a kazoo?​​​Life ain’tfair.​

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