Night of the crawlers. Sounds like a new TV show on some cable channel. But this 'night of the crawlers' doesn't have anything to do with zombies or vampires or monsters or the walking dead.

We're talking worms here.

Growing up back in the '60's on that little farm by Leota, Minnesota, there wasn't much good about rain. Oh, I know, moisture is great for the farmers, of which most of our Dad's But I'm talking about a 10-year-old little whipper-snapper here. It's raining so no baseball, no playing catch, no tossing the football around, no riding the bike down the gravel road to Vern's place to trade some baseball cards. It was pretty much 'stuck in the house'...and whining 'Mom, there's nothin' to do!' (Yes, yes, truth be known we may have inadvertently uttered some whining even back in the good 'ol days).

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But there was one good thing about the rain, one really might fine thing.

Crawlers. Or more specifically, night crawlers. OK, for the uneducated, fat big 'ol juicy worms.

The Old Man loved fishing. It didn't have to be much, didn't have to be a long way away (though we did take that 3-day trip 'Up North' in the summer). Most of the old fella's around Leota loved fishing, and would grab a few poles, bring the young 'uns along and try to snag something really good, or maybe just a few bullheads. And when it rained, and the chores were done, it was time to go night crawler huntin'.

The spot I remember most was a little lot next to Uncle Hank and Aunt Jenny's place in Kenneth. (Don't know where Kenneth is? Well, it's just a few miles from Leota for cryin' out loud) Right between Hank and his brother Bill's place, for whatever reason, this was prime night crawler ground.  I'd go out with Dad and Uncle Hank, flashlights in hand. It took me a while to get the fact that you didn't shine the light right on them crawlers. If you did that, poof...they were long gone. wanted to shine that beam away a bit, keep them in the shadows and then....wait for it....wait for it....pounce!

More often than not that little 10-year-old farm boy came up with a fist full of mud and somewhere just below ground level there was a night crawler snickerin' with his pals. But every once in a while that kid would strike, I mean crawler.  And when that happened, life was good, real good.

By the end of the crawler huntin' evening we'd have a bucket of mud almost alive with night crawlers (In my memory I caught them all, but I suppose Dad and Uncle Hank caught a few, too) and there'd be one little fella that was absolutely head-to-toe covered in mud...and a smile. We'd keep a bunch of them crawlers in containers in the fridge at home, right next to the milk and jelly. And the next day (or the day after or the day after) we'd go to Talcot Dam or Shetek or Current Lake and drown most of 'em while some of the others caught us some of them tasty bullheads.

Oh...and a P.S. It must be a generational thing, this crawler hunting. Fast forward about 25 years and look there: Behind my Dad and Mom's house in Leota (Yep, they moved to the city) there's a little boy, he must be ten or so I suppose, and he's out there after a rain with his Dad and Grandpa.  He's tryin' to snatch them crawlers (Don't shine that light right on 'em) and he's covered with mud head-to-toe. And there it is too, that smile. His name is Jeremy and he's my kid. And we looked exactly the same.

Life on a Cattle Ranch in Western South Dakota


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