Friday, May 9, 2014

Thanks Mom, by H. Michael

When I was a young boy of eleven or twelve growing up in a suburb of Salt Lake City, I decided I wanted to make some money while school was out on break for the summer.  Utah is very popular with fisherman and it was easy for a young kid to make some cash catering to those using earthworms, or as we referred to them: night crawlers, for bait.   I suppose worms were called night crawlers because one had to hunt them at night when it was cool, and the grass was damp from watering or rain. 
I embarked on my scheme to sell worms by first making a place to put them once I caught them.  I recall building a box, open on the top and bottom, about six inches deep, from scrap lumber.  There wasn’t a need for a bottom because I put the box on concrete in the breeze way of our carport.  I filled the four foot, by four foot box with dirt and peat moss from the flower beds around the house and I was set to begin hunting for worms.

On most nights that summer my mom would take me to Riverside Park after the sun had set to hunt down, and take into custody, the creepy crawlers.  We would find an area in the park that had the right amount of moisture in the soil and begin our hunt.  We both would crawl on our hands and knees with a flashlight and tin can, sweeping our flashlights back and forth, until a night crawler was spotted stretched out on the grass.  Concentration was necessary in order to sneak up on the worm because it seemed like they could sense they were being stalked, and if we weren't careful, dart back down their hole.   Cautiously we would reach out and try to grab the dirty buggers.  With practice we learned if we could get our fingers on it, before it completely disappeared; we could usually get it out of the hole in one piece.  But, oh what a mighty battle it was. 
We would labor on our hands and knees on the wet grass well into the night.   My mother would crawl in her preferred direction, and I would crawl in mine.  Occasionally, I would look up from my single minded task and just watch my mother.  She would be at least fifty yards away, in the pitch dark night, with her flashlight casting a glow on the ground in front of her, pinching night crawlers off the grass, and depositing them in her can.   Only a mother would help a young boy on summer nights catch fish bait.

I have seen more than fifty summers come and go since I sold worms to fisherman.  Becoming wealthy was never part of the equation because that summer night crawlers sold for about 25 to 35 cents a dozen.  I have come to realize the real wealth I made that summer is the deposit in my memory of my mother, with dirt caked on her palms, and muddy knees, whooping and hollering with joy because she won another battle with a worm.

Thanks mom!