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Possumhaw: Cool Cats for sale

 

Shannon Bardwell

 

Hopping over the worm on the asphalt took me back to my childhood when rains brought out red wigglers. I remember hopscotching across sidewalks trying to avoid stepping on icky worms. 

 

The sidewalk worms were in the Delta where I grew up in a subdivision carved out of a cotton field. At first I saw cotton combines behind my house but in a few years all I saw was more houses. The houses had carports and sidewalks where neighborhood youngsters walked to Em Boyd Elementary. The worms appeared on the sidewalks after the rains. 

 

Here in the Prairie we have no concrete driveways and no sidewalks, though on a few occasions when Shirley and I walk the asphalt of Old West Point Road over to West Plymouth Road and the pavement was wet, I've seen a worm or two. 

 

Worms were on my mind when I asked Sam, "Does anybody sell worms anymore?" 

 

He said he thought Smitty did down at the Shell station on 45 the one that used to have that scary carwash. He sold red wigglers, Sam said. 

 

Traveling down Old West Point Road through Tibbee there's a sign that says Tibbee Bait Shop. There's a nice building in front where the sign is. The building appears empty. I think the bait shop might be around back where I glimpsed the corner of an old ice machine. 

 

Then there's John's Grocery at the corner of Alternate 45 and Old West Point Road. John's carries red wigglers and "Cool Cats." I asked about the Cool Cats. 

 

The worm salesman said, "They are big worms. You got your red wigglers and you got your Cool Cats, like for catching catfish." 

 

"How much are they?" I asked. 

 

"Your red wigglers are $3.25 and your Cool Cats are $3.50." 

 

Sam said he remembered as a boy when he and his dad would go buy worms from folks who raised worms in buried refrigerators. The worm sellers would take the door off, bury the refrigerator, fill it with soil and put the worms in. The refrigerator kept the worms from wandering off. 

 

"You used to see people digging worms down at the 45 Exit toward Plymouth Bluff before the development. You'd see lots of people digging worms all the time." Sam said. 

 

"Why there?' I asked. 

 

Sam thought it might have something to do with the underground gas pipeline. Maybe it attracted worms. 

 

I looked up worms and gas lines on the Internet but didn't get any matches but I did see where you could start your own worm business. A pound of night crawlers would cost you $30 and 3 pounds of red wigglers would set you back 80 bucks. You can also sell the "castings" which is worm waste. 

 

One day I was asking Pat Adair in the Lowndes County Appraisers' office about that land Sam had mentioned. 

 

Pat said, "Oh yeah, you mean down there where folks used to dig for worms."

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.

 

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