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Drowning Worms

Drowning Worms For many, fishing clears their mind, releases stress, and cleanses their soul. Here's a tip to make it even better.

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This is me drowning worms at Lake Granbury, Texas

This is me drowning worms at Lake Granbury, Texas.

Nearly every Saturday afternoon during the 1960's, my daddy grabbed four fishing poles and hollered, "Who wants to go fishing?" My brothers and I dropped what we were doing, climbed the back fence, and tromped through the woods to the pond at the defunct Bedford Boys Ranch, near Euless, Texas.
    Daddy and I usually cast from the shore while my brothers preferred the dock where their lines stayed free of brush and trees. But sometimes Daddy slipped off alone on weekday evenings to "drown a worm or two." We all knew there was some sort of difference between going fishing and drowning worms, but we didn't know what.
    One chilly January afternoon, Dad let me in on his secret I was thirteen years old and had suffered a particularly difficult day. Report cards came out and my math grade stunk. That same day, my best friend, Melinda, stopped talking to me. And, earlier that week my orthodontist fitted me with a headgear and required me to wear the contraption twenty-four hours a day. I was not the only kid who wore one, but I was the only one sporting it at school.
    The kids at school harassed me the entire week. One boy hung a Christmas ball on my headgear. He said, "I thought about blinking lights, but I didn't know if you had an electric outlet." Another guy caught me in the hallway, "Hey, can you get UHF on that?" And his girlfriend crowed, "The rabbit ears on my TV are broken, would you come over and stand behind my set so I can watch That Girl?" By Friday afternoon my self-esteem dropped to zilch. When I got home from school, I flopped on my bed and sobbed.
    "Come on Schotzie." Daddy stood in the doorway of my bedroom holding two fishing poles and a thermos, "Let's go drown some worms."
    "It's winter," I wailed, "there aren't any worms."
    "Then we'll drown plastic ones."
    I sighed and rolled my eyes, but I got up, blew my nose, and went with him. At the pond, Daddy plunked down at our favorite spot and poured each of us a cup of hot chocolate from the thermos. He didn't talk. Nor did he fish. He simply sat there, cup in hand, arms resting on his knees, and gazed at the clear water lapping against the shore.
    I let the last drop of cocoa fall onto my tongue and said, "I thought we were going to fish."
    "No, no. We didn't come to fish, we came to drown worms."
    That made zero sense to me. "Then where are they?" I asked.
 

The creek flowing from Bedford Boy's Ranch pond dwindles down to a trickle at spots.

The creek flowing from Bedford Boy's Ranch pond dwindles down to a trickle at spots.

   "Here," Daddy tapped his index finger on his temple, "in your mind. They're your troubles, your hurt feelings, the voice in your head that says you look like a dork in that headgear." Daddy stood and picked up a pole. "I've got a few worms in my head today too, so I thought we should drown some to keep the population down."
    Dad handed me a pole rigged with a purple plastic worm. I got to my feet to cast but dad stopped me, "Hold on there. You've got to name the worm first. Here, I'll show you what I mean." He cocked his pole back over his right shoulder. "This is 'Bills' because I have more bills than money this month." He released the trigger and made his cast. The line whirred off the spool as the worm flew through the air and plopped in the water. "Your turn," he said as he slowly reeled in the line.
    "Fractions." I lobbed my worm into the pond.
    "Leaky Shower Pan," Dad threw his line in again.
    "Melinda."
    "Carburetor."
    "Headgear."
    Daddy winked at me, "Your Math Grade."
    "That's not fair, Daddy. At least I passed." The tip of my pole sagged into the water.
    "But you're still grounded until I get a progress report from your teacher."
    "Getting Grounded!" I flung the worm into the pond again. Before I got my fingers on the spinner handle, I felt a strike. I jerked the pole up and to the left, reeled the line in a little, gave it some slack, and reeled some more. After a nice tussle, I landed our supper - a beautiful four-pound bass.
    Dad chuckled, "Feel better, Schotzie?"
    Much as I hated to admit it, I did. In the years since that afternoon, I've returned many times to the Bedford Boys Ranch to drown worms. I've tried to pinpoint why sitting on the bank of a pond casting my problems into the water is so healing. It could be the hot cocoa, or maybe it's giving a name to troubles and then throwing them away. Whatever the reason, it clears my mind, releases stress, and cleanses my soul.

Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine

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