Day 112 of 366:Blog Challenge 2012 

Hello all

To think I was under the misapprehension that the subject of earth worms would be too boring to write about!

When I mentioned the subject to Geoff this morning over breakfast, he immediately commented that “you have to mention “Huckleberry Finn” of course!” I wondered what this adventurous young man of the 19th century and worms could possibly have in common. Geoff, in his usual good humour had a reason which would become clear soon enough.

No, this is not a snake! It is an earthworm ...

I had listened to Annette the gardener on the radio this morning as I do every Saturday morning. A listener asked Annette “what can I do about the aggressive worms in our garden? The children don’t like them.” My ears pricked up immediately: aggressive worms eh??

Apparently, her children put them on their arms and the worms arch up and become aggressive. With a chuckle Annette said it is basically the nature of the worms to do this, but as for being aggressive, she felt that was a bit of an exaggeration.  Annette suggested that if the children want to handle worms, they should try worms from a worm farm which are much smaller and more gentle!

By this time, I was totally horrified at the prospect of anyone wanting to handle worms at all. Ever since my sister made a habit of throwing little grubs (from the peas as we were shelling them, when we were children), I have hated any of those wriggly creepy creatures. I avoid them at all costs. I have mellowed through the years however, but no thanks, no worms on arms for me.

But, Geoff made an important point: “has it ever occurred to the listener that the worms were trying to escape from the kids and just get back into the dirt where they belong?” Good point Geoff. And this is where Huckleberry Finn came into the picture. Aha, are you now getting it?

Geoff, who grew up and lived a very “Huck Finn” existence on the banks of the Clarence River in Grafton (a small town about a four-hour drive south of Brisbane) knew about these things you see. Huck was always looking for earth worms to put on his fishing rod, made out of a tree branch, so he could catch fish in the Mississippi River.

Again, “Expert Geoff” said this is the only reason why anyone would want to be handing worms. This is clearly what he and his mates did on a regular basis! Geoff told me how they would made fishing rods out of bamboo. He went into great detail mentioning a cork and fishing line and how it all worked but he lost me when he got to “… and the cork bobs on the surface when the fish nibbles.”

And so now you see the correlation between earth worms and Huckleberry Finn? But I am aware at this stage that some of my readers (too young perhaps?) may not know who this adventurer was: known simply as “Huck Finn”. I found this succinct account on Wikipedia:

“Huckleberry “Huck” Finn is a fictional character created by Mark Twain, who first appeared in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and is the protagonist and narrator of its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is 12 or 13 years old during the former and a year older at the time of the latter.”

Huck:as he appeared in the original edition

Yes, Huck lived a life of high adventure in the deep south of America. I remember reading this novel as a child (I think it actually belonged to my brothers) and loved the spirit of adventure it portrayed for my adventurous young mind. I am sure I saw a film version also, so you can see I was brought up on tales of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

So whenever I hear his name, a spirit of excitement grabs me. He was a scraggy, poor orphan kid, who was always building rafts and floating down the river. Oh, how I wanted to have his life …  but unfortunately I was a girl. “Girls don’t do these things.”  Oh no.

Wikipedia describes Huck as follows

“His appearance is described in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He wears the clothes of full-grown men which he probably received as charity, and as Twain describes him, “he was fluttering with rags.” He has a torn broken hat and his trousers are supported with only one suspender.”

Yes, this was Huckleberry all right! Now with this information under my belt, I decided I needed to look more into the subject of ‘WORMS’ and this is where I found – much to my surprise – such vast information about earth worms. But before I go any further, I must tell you that in North America (apparently) earth worms are often known as “night crawlers.”

The National Geographic website goes on to say that they “are familiar to anyone with a fishing rod or a garden! ”  Surely, Geoff must have written this piece for National Geographic?  And there’s more:

“Night crawlers are so named because they are usually seen feeding above ground at night. They burrow during the day—typically keeping close to the surface—capable of digging down as deep as 6.5 feet (2 meters).” 

But what was so fascinating about these creatures (and there were hundreds of pictures of various types of worms) is the way they breed.  Earth worms or night crawlers mate on the surface. They are hermaphroditic (you know, both male and female) but they do not self-fertilize.

No, they have this bizarre way of breeding  because following mating, each worm forms a tiny, lemon-shaped cocoon out of a liquid. They deposit sperm and egg cells  inside this cocoon, and it is buried. After a two- to four-week gestation period, the baby worms emerge triumphant! How simple is this?

I found everything I have written today from National Geographic and if you are one of those “interesting” people who like this subject (such as the kids on the radio) I found it on this link:

So as I conclude my blog, I have proved that it is possible to write a blog about earth worms that is (hopefully?) interesting! In the meantime, just be aware that the word “HERMAPHRODITE” means: n. person, animal or flower having both male and female sexual organs.” (Macquarie Dictionary).

Remember, I always seek to educate …

I wish they would all disappear like this!