The Dave Barry earthworm story

Geoff Read at
Tue Jul 30 16:47:14 EST 2002

An old anecdote about Canadian earthworms from a Dave Barry column.  It 
turned up this morning as well as the Vietnam Namalycastis item.  I think it is 
worth a re-run. :-)    


Subject: The road spill from Hell

"I am sick and tired of waiting for our so-called "leaders" to stop nattering 
about the federal budget deficit, and instead roll up their sleeves and DO 
something about the worsening Canadian-earthworm crisis.  

In case you are not aware of this crisis (which was brought to my attention 
by alert readers Nadine Lindst and Carla Hagstrom), let me bring you up to 

In early May, the Canadian Press Service sent out a report that began:  
"GEORGETOWN, Ontario -- More than 50 worm pickers beat each other 
with steel pipes and pieces of wood in a battle over territory." The story 
states that two rival worm-picking groups "arrived at the same spot at the 
same time" and started fighting over who would pick worms there. A number 
of people were hospitalized, four cars were wrecked, and a van was set on 

At this point, you have the same questions I did, namely: 

1. These people were fighting over WORMS? 

2. Is there some kind of new drug going around Canada? 

In an effort to answer these questions, I called Canada, which has 
telephones, and spoke with detective Sgt. Michael Kingston of the Halton 
Regional Police. He told me that worm- picking is a big deal in Ontario, which 
produces a long, fat style of worm that is prized by fisherpersons as well as 
the fish.  

"There's a huge market," Kingston said.  "On a good evening, an industrious 
worker can make about $185 picking these worms." He said there's intense 
competition for prime picking locations such as golf courses, where the 
worms come to the surface at night to breed and smoke cigarettes.  

No, I'm kidding about the smoking. Worms aren't that stupid. They surface to 
breed and soak up dew. Kingston said the worm pickers, many of whom are 
Vietnamese immigrants, wear miners' hats with headlamps and drop the 
worms into cans strapped around their ankles. Doesn't that sound romantic, 
in a Wild West kind of way? I like to think that, at the end of the night, the 
pickers, ankle cans clanking, stride into the Worm Pickers Saloon, where 
they pay for their whiskey by slapping hefty nightcrawlers down on the bar.  

But this is not what happens. What happens is that the pickers load vast 
quantities of worms into their vehicles and proceed to drive on Canadian 
highways. This has led to a scary new development: worm spills. I am not 
making this up. Here's a quotation from a May 25 story written by Timothy 
Appleby for the Toronto Globe and Mail:  

"TORONTO -- A van carrying a group of Vietnamese worm pickers 
overturned west of Toronto yesterday morning, leaving eight people injured ... 
.  The accident occurred a few hundred metres from where another van full 
of Vietnamese worm pickers crashed and rolled 10 days ago, sending 18 
people to the hospital."  

The story quotes a constable as saying, "I've never seen so many worms in 
my life."  

As any traffic-safety professional will tell you if he has been drinking, worms 
on the highway are a recipe for disaster. Suppose a crowded tour bus is 
tooling along a Canadian highway at a metric speed of 130 hectares per 
centigram, the unsuspecting passengers chatting away happily in Canadian 
("Eh?"  "Eh?" "Eh?") when suddenly their laughter turns to screams 
("EHHHHH!!!") as the bus encounters a giant worm slick and spins, out of 
control, off the road, and the passengers are hurled out of doors and 
windows, landing in the Canadian woods,  injured and moaning ("ehhhhh"), 
unable to protect themselves from wild mooses pooping on them or sadistic 
beavers repeatedly tail- slapping their faces.  

Your natural reaction, as a humanitarian, is:  "So?" But perhaps you will not 
be so blase when I inform you that, according to a Canadian bait expert 
quoted in the Globe and Mail (I am still not making this up), most of the 
Canadian worm crop is shipped, in tractor-trailers, TO THE UNITED 
STATES. Yes. This means you could find yourself in a car directly behind a 
large truck containing, by conservative estimate, 137.4 bazillion Canadian 
earthworms (even more, if they've been having unprotected sex in there). 
And if, God forbid, something went wrong and the truck's entire cargo 
suddenly got dumped onto the road, you could find yourself plowing, at 
upward of 60 miles per hour, into a writhing, slime- intensive worm mass 
nearly TWICE the size of Rush Limbaugh.  

What can we do to prevent this? The obvious solution, of course, is to set up 
a Worm Blockade on the border, enforced by U.S. Customs agents, who 
would inspect incoming trucks with the aid of fiercely loyal, specially trained 
worm-sniffing trout. ("Rex found some! Good BOY, Rex!") But this would 
only drive the worm traffic underground (rim shot).  

A better long-term solution would be a massive federal "Buy American" 
program aimed at U.S. worm consumers, including a requirement that all 
domestic worms be clearly labeled "DOMESTIC WORM." This would also 
create jobs in the chronically depressed U.S. worm-branding industry.  

Oh, there would be Canadian objections ("Eh!"). But that is precisely why we 
have nuclear weapons. If you agree with me on this issue, I urge you to send 
a strongly worded letter to: Failed President Clinton, c/o Air Force One, 
Runway 17. 

Another thing you should do, if you agree with me on this issue, is seek 
professional help."   

------- End of forwarded message -------

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