Those fishing worms had a caffeine addiction

Published 6:54 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2013

After all these years, I think I know why the fishing worms collected from Granddaddy Sanders’ worm bed wriggled so much — too much caffeine in their diet.


That’s right, too much caffeine for their little, slimy bodies to handle.


My grandfather had a worm bed behind the tin garage/shed in his backyard. I would have expected no less from a man who loved to fish and who imparted the love of fishing to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Leftovers from the table, coffee grounds and tea bags were added to the worm bed on a regular basis.


Being a young boy, taking the occasional offerings to the worm bed was a somewhat regular occurrence when I visited my grandparents at their home on Avery Street in Pensacola, Fla. But as much as I liked adding material to the worm bed, digging in it was much more enjoyable for at least two reasons.


First, I got to dig in the worm bed and unearth hundreds of wriggling worms. Second, digging up those worms meant I was going fishing, usually for catfish, bream and other freshwater fish. I don’t think I ever tried fishing for saltwater fish with worms.


From time to time, I would dig up worms for another reason: tormenting my sisters. My sisters didn’t mind worms being put on hooks. They did get a bit upset when I put worms on them, but that’s what older brothers do to younger sisters.


As much fun as I had digging for worms in the worm bed, my grandfather taught me another way to coax worms out of the ground. At my young age at the time, this method was akin to magic.


My grandfather would drive a wooden stake — usually made from a 2×4 (when 2x4s were really 2x4s) — into the ground, usually after a rain. Then, he would use another 2×4, moving it across the top of the stake. That made the stake vibrate in the ground, which the worms apparently did not like. They would wriggle and squirm their way to the surface. We would collect them and put them in an empty coffee can.


It was later — thanks to science classes in elementary school — that I determined it was not magic but the vibrations that forced the worms to the surface.


When my family lived in Pensacola, we had a worm box in our backyard, in the corner where two fences came together. We used to play on it. There was the time Donna, my baby sister, put one of the neighborhood boys, a kind soul named Todd, inside the worm box and would not let him out. That’s a story for another day.


But if Todd experienced emotional problems related to worms later in life, I think I know where they started.


Mike Voss is the senior member of the newsroom at the Washington Daily News.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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