UP NOLAN CREEK: Spring and the worms are turning
Monday, 04 March 2013 by Wayne Carpenter
I am seeing a few signs spring has come upon us early this year.
One of my favorite birds, the cedar waxwings, have been passing through, gorging on berries in the backyard and covering the patio with a few deposits of their own.
Our redbud tree has already bloomed out, and the peach tree is starting to bud. I finally finished bagging and raking up the red oak leaves in time for the live oaks to start dumping their leaves.
The way the wind has been howling the past few days, we're all just swapping leaves with the neighbors anyway.
I saw another sure sign of spring while passing through Yettie Polk Park the other day. I saw a boy of 5 or 6 carrying a cane pole and a carton of worms.
Seeing anyone carrying one of those little white cartons of worms takes me back to springtime fishing in Nolan Creek when I was a boy.
In the 50s, the creek was teeming with perch, especially just above and below the old, low water dam. The best way to catch perch was with a cane pole, a cork bobber, and live, red-wriggler worms.
My dad knew all the good spots to catch fish and my grandfather, Joe Emerson Carpenter, supplied all the worms any boy could ever want.
Granddad lived in an old wooden house on South Main Street for many years. After he retired from home building in the early fifties, he decided to take up worm farming as his retirement hobby.
He constructed several large concrete worm beds out behind his house. There weren't many worm growers in the area, and his hobby turned into a very successful enterprise.
He would sit out on the front porch in his old rocking chair, smoking his pipe and whittling, and people would stop by to visit a while.
Eventually he would take them out back and load up fresh cartons of worms complete with his special blend of peat moss and his suggestions as to where the fish might be biting at the moment.
His "safety deposit" box for the money he made was an old Prince Albert tobacco tin. I was fascinated not only with the worms, but also the amount of folding money he kept in his tobacco tin.
One of my favorite chores was to help him feed the little creatures by sprinkling cornmeal on top of the worm beds. Watching a few thousand hungry worms devour cornmeal was an interesting sight for a small boy.
Granddad obviously enjoyed taking care of his worms and was very protective of them, using heat lamps to keep them warm in winter and watering them regularly.
My young cousins and I were given strict instructions not "to mess with" the worm beds under any circumstances without his supervision. One hot July day when I was 5 or 6, my cousin and I decided walking around in our bare feet in the cool, moist worm beds would be great fun.
When we sank down past our knees in the wet peat moss with thousands of squirmy worms squishing between our toes and curling around our ankles we decided it wasn't such a good idea after all.
Things quickly went from bad to worse when my grandfather caught us.
Only divine intervention in the earthly form of my sweet grandmother saved us from Granddad's wrath. It was the only time I ever saw him angry, but once was enough.
My grandparent's old home, located at the corner of Main and Avenue D, was one of the oldest houses in town. It certainly wasn't large or fancy, but it was special to me.
Progress came to town and the house was torn down to make room for a grocery store. I still have Granddad's old rocking chair, the same one he was sitting in when he suffered a heart attack and passed away.
Sometimes when I drive down South Main Street, I imagine him sitting out on the front porch, rocking and waving at the passing cars.
He is always wearing his faded overalls and straw hat, smoking his pipe and watching the world go by. Spring is almost here; I think it's time to go fishing.