Fiddling Worms

As a teenager, I spent most of my summers exploring the woods, fields, and bluffs behind our house in Pleasant Hill, Alabama. And most of my time, I searched and collected insects. Nature had always been a keen interest of mine. But I also loved to fish.

One day while turning over large rocks in a small grove of trees next to the pasture, I jumped back in surprise because, for a moment, I thought I was staring at a snake. Only this wasn’t a snake. It was an earthworm over eight inches long. I had never seen an earthworm this size.

When I tried to pick it up, I realized this was only part of the earthworm. I held the worm with one hand and then dug in the dirt where the other part disappeared into the ground. I dug for several minutes and finally exposed enough of the worm that the rest eased free of its hold underground. The earthworm was over fourteen inches long.

I hurried to the house to show my stepfather. He told me an easy way to get a lot of these earthworms. “The best way,” he said, “was to take a rusty saw, cut down a hardwood sapling, and then saw across the top of the stump.”

I thought he was putting me on, but curiosity forced me to investigate to see if it really worked.

It was already late in the evening, but I grabbed a bucket and an old saw and went into the woods. An old wagon road, long abandoned, cut through the woods. Along the edge of one bank, I found a dogwood sapling and cut it down. I used the saw like my stepfather had instructed and sawed for about two minutes. Then I sat on my heels and listened.

Just a few feet from me something rustled in the leaves. I eased over and inspected the ground. A six inch earthworm was crawling across the leaves. I snatched it up and placed it in the bucket. More rustling. More earthworms. There were dozens of them. It was strange to find so many worms that were the size of small snakes, which made me hesitant upon first glance because the really large ones looked like snakes. I grabbed and placed them into the bucket. When I didn’t hear or see any other earthworms, I returned to sawing.

Darkness was settling in. Earthworms kept coming to the surface. I picked up all I could find until I couldn’t see the ground due to the darkness. I’m certain I missed dozens more. But I left with a bucket of 72 earthworms. My stepfather, his brother, and I spent the next day fishing.

Learning about these earthworms was the inspiration for my short story for children, Fiddling Worms (Short Story), available at Amazon. I’ve only tried this in Alabama, so I’m not certain if this works farther north. But, I plan to try this soon.


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