Suggested Listening ( To experience this article the way it was written, go to youtube, look up the song titled “Firefly” by David Greathouse and listen to it while reading. Go ahead, just do it. )
When I founded Dirty Worm it certainly had its share of big visions and world changing dreams attached to it, but there was also another much more personal, and nostalgic reason behind it. A deep seeded and heartwarming part of my roots I never wanted to loose.
Summer to me as a kid was the sound of crickets, catching fireflies, nursing sunburns, night time star gazing, big orange sunsets, bon-fires, night swims, hot hazy mornings, the smell of fresh cut grass, picking mulberries, “pool showers”, a skateboard or bike, an old fishing rod, can of worms, catfish, bluegills, bass, carp, and my brothers and buddies with not a care in our little green world but the occasional scrounging for change to buy lunch at Cedar Lake Campground down the road or a CD or skateboard from time to time.
Dirty Worm, to me anyway, encompasses all of those things. It’s my way of living out the summer just the way I loved when I was a kid where fishing was as simple as grabbing a rod, a drink, a snack, and a can of worms and bringing that lifestyle to the marketplace for others to enjoy and write into their traditions and memories.
In the area where I grew up and still live today, fishing is a shared past time, with most everyone partaking at least a few times a year.
Fishing used to be and to me still is just about summer, and summer is about fishing, and the last thing on our young minds back then were artificial lures, or fancy gear. It was spending all day by the water and catching fish and living free.
Heck, I don’t even know where we got our fishing rods and I know for sure that I used to dig worms up from the ground for bait.
Dirty Worm at its core is just an extension of my love for summertime in the country and the honest to God passion to keep it this way forever.
One thing I absolutely love about summertime in the country is those rains that roll in after that hot and muggy day.
Your out getting toasted in the sun all day, the sun sets behind those thick dark clouds, and the smell of rain rolls in and just hangs on that thick summer night air.
One night, back in the early early days when I was still running the business under my porch in a few Rubbermaid totes, we had a gnarly storm roll in.
Now I love to be out in a summer rain just as much as I love hearing and smelling it, and I especially love riding my bike in downpours ( don’t knock it till you try it ).
It hadn’t started raining yet and was just about dark so I ran down to the garage and grab my bike and wheel it outside. Unfortunately when I took a closer look I saw the tire was flat, so I wheeled it back inside, and decided I was just gonna walk it that night, take it slow and maybe see some toads hopping across the back roads trying to beat the rain.
So I got to walking on one of those curvy backroads that are all lumpy, full of potholes, and still to this day don’t have painted lines. It’s one of my favorite roads.
I walked for over an hour in the waning light, and the thunder just rolled hard and the wind picked up but no rain.
I turned around and started heading back home.
(By the way, I don’t think a single car passed me that night.)
Soon though, those big old rain drops started dropping one by one like little water balloons being dropped from the sky and in about 15 minutes the rain picked up to the heaviest rain I have ever experienced in my life.
It was like being in the worlds largest shower. I was soaked down to my skin within 30 seconds and although it was warm that night the rain was a tad chilling so I picked up the pace to a slight jog just to get home and dry, the opportunity, if I’d have been interested in taking it, to beat the rain had passed about 15 minutes ago.
I eventually neared my driveway and started to get a little knot in my stomach.
A key point I forgot to mention is that when you raise worms in outdoor bins that are almost entirely exposed, or at least when I did it, rain is kind of a bitter sweet occurrence.
If the rain is light enough, and you have your bins properly lit ( I used Christmas lights at the time. They call them nightcrawlers for a reason, they like to crawl at night, especially on rainy summer nights. Lights are used to keep them down in their bedding. ) you shouldn’t have to worry much about escaping worms.
Tonight however, the rain was anything but light.
The thunder boomed so hard I thought it was going to knock the shingles off my roof and the rain was like a solid sheet of water falling all at once. It was deafening. Even the tree frogs seemed to shut up that night, something they rarely do.
I rounded the house and stepped up onto the porch and climbed the steps up to the door. I was absolutely drenched, and I really didn’t want to soak my floor by running back to the bathroom for a towel, so like any old country boy would do, I just undressed right there on the porch down to my skivvies, and strung my clothes up on the railing.
Now before you go turning me in, I don’t have any neighbors that can see this part of the house and at the time I lived alone, and my home is surrounded by fields, woods, and almost 100 yards back off the road, I was, by all accounts, “covered”.
I did however, with my hand on the door knob, take one last peek over the deck before going in, down to where Christmas lights were lighting up my bins and I noticed what looked like thousands of worms all over the deck and the bins.
That’s when I realized it was thousands of worms all over the deck and the bins!
The worms were abandoning ship by the hundreds, bothered obviously by the relentless rain pounding on the lids of their bins, likely convincing them it was do or die, or drown I guess!
So what do I do?
First let me say, I was at the time, pinching every single penny and counting every worm, so when I saw all my worms heading for the hills, I sprang into action without even thinking. I think I may have slipped my shoes back on.
I took the steps down 4 at a time and immediately got to scooping up as many worms as I could and popping them back in their bins but honestly it was pretty hopeless, the rain was just pouring and as quick as I could return worms to their bins more would slip over the sides and onto the deck below, many falling quickly through the slots in the deck and onto the ground 6 inches below.
It was after five minutes or more I began to realize the absurdity of my current situation. A grown man, in boxers, soaked to the bone, scooping up escaping worms, in a torrential downpour!
After determining there was no going back from it, I continued working for the next 30 minutes in drenching rain trying to save what worms I had left and eventually started to even see some of the humor in the situation. It was pitch black and raining like crazy so the chance of someone seeing me was zero but still, it was just a little crazy.
The bins got pounded for the next few hours until the rain moved on and I lost a lot of worms that night. I did eventually force myself to go inside and get dressed and just pray the rain moved on or at least slowed down but it lasted until after I was in bed and ended some hours late into the night.
I battled the rain for the rest of that summer but never had a rain like that again. I tried everything I could to keep worms down in the rain, it worked most of the time but it didn’t take me long to realize if I was to appreciate summer rains fully again, and not to mention grow my business, I needed to move my operation under a roof at least.
Since then, things have improved a lot but sometimes I miss those early days.
Anything that grows becomes more to manage and by default loses a little simplicity.
Don’t get me wrong though, I am immensely blessed and am very excited about all the changes and improvements, but I’ll always look back fondly on the early days, when rain meant running worms, and things got a little weird to keep the business running.
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