Growing Up in the Midwest


Fishing Worms—The Old Fashioned Way

Just about thirty yards north of the original site of the outhouse was the seepage of a makeshift leech bed from the drains and sewer lines of the house. Dad often sent us there for fishing worms. We knew exactly where to dig. Worms loved the environment around our sewer exit. Halfway down the slope our sewage spilled out of the pipe and on the hillside and then filtered its way into the ground. This formed a moist slightly stinking area covered with rusty sheets of tin roofing. Under the tin the soil could easily be stirred with a pitchfork, and with every turn, to to five fat juicy worms would try to take flight from the sunshine they had never seen in their damp tomb. We could easily gather a half-gallon tin with fifty worms and cover them with the deep black Iowa soil in a few minutes. Of course, my sister was never willing to get her hands dirty collecting the worms so she was the designated pitchfork operator. She was the revealer and I, the gatherer.

My Dad had a better way to collect fishing worms. Now there are dogs and there are dogs. My father claimed to have trained one of the most intelligent of dogs to do amazing things. Stanley Cohen, author of The Intelligence of Dogs, posits there are three aspects to a dog’s intelligence. First, instinctive intelligence is the dog’s ability to perform the task for which they were bred, such as herding, fetching, or guarding. Second, adaptive intelligence is the dog’s capacity to solve problems on its own. Third, obedience intelligence is the capacity to learn skills from a human.

His dog had learned hunting differentiation skills so that if Dad took a rifle and walked toward the forest, his dog would automatically tree squirrels. However, if Dad carried a shotgun, his pet would immediately begin looking for rabbits. But, Dad’s proudest moment came when he left the house with a fishing pole and his pup grabbed a tin can, ran behind the barn, and began to dig for fishing worms. Now that was quite a dog and an amazing Dad. No wonder I have always been comfortable with my imagination and ability to slightly amend the truth.

Dad always said, “There is always a way to catch a fish if you are hungry. It may be by hook or by crook.” And sometimes he resorted to the latter.

On occasion Dad would load three to five poles and a tackle box in our 1935 rusty Ford pickup; and off we would go to the lake at the New London country club. If lucky, the fish would be biting and Dad would never get to wet his line because my sister and I would keep him busy baiting our line and removing the catch. Sometimes, fishing with a pole ended without a bite. Dad must have hated an empty stringer.

You may remember that on one occasion seven of the disciples of Jesus spent the night fishing with no results. As these hungry exhausted men recovered their empty nets on the Sea of Galilee; they headed for the shore for another day. A voice from the shore directed them to fish from the other side of the boat. Probably with some resistance, they followed this directive from an unknown stranger, and dropped their nets into the sea and immediately their nets became so full, they couldn’t haul in the huge catch. I guess you could call that a divine plan B since the disciples later discovered that the directions came from the resurrected Jesus.

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