Shame of the Worm Buyer

BY TIM SANDLIN
ILLUSTRATIONS BY BIRGITTA SIF

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WE LIVE WITH a three-legged turtle named Herbie who only eats worms, so once every month or so I have to buy worms. Those of you who don’t live on the Lycra Archipelago—Sun Valley, Jackson Hole, Steamboat Springs, Aspen, Park City, Taos—won’t understand what a pickle this puts me in.

Political correctness in Jackson isn’t refusing to open doors for old women or keeping up with the correct way to address diversities; it’s how you catch fish. In order of proper through acceptable to shameful, the list goes like this: (1) dry flies with barbless hooks; (2) nymphs; (3) spinners; (4) fish eggs and stink bait; and, down there under the pond scum, we find (5) worms. Except for a few truly warped chinless wonders dabbling in electric currents or explosives, worm fishermen are the lowest of the low.

If any of my peer group at Trout Unlimited caught me buying worms, I would be stripped of my Prius. Banned from Tevas. Shunned at Whole Grocer’s bulk bins.
They’re for my turtle won’t wash. No one is going to buy that any more than they will I got it from the toilet seat.

In October, Herbie slurped the last of his worms. I tried a basil-reduced hummus lump.No soap. He craned his neck out at a piece of cantaloupe and bit my finger. The turtle is on a macrobiotic worm diet. He’d rather die than eat commercial turtle chow.

First, I approached Heather Heidi Walsowski-Smith’s grandson Romy and offered him five dollars if he’d make my purchase. He said sure, but only if I’d buy him a six-pack of Blue Ribbon.

I said, “How old are you, kid?”

“Fifteen.”

I gave him my responsible adult look.

He said, “Fourteen, but I’m mature.”

“Your mother would scalp me. I could go to jail. You don’t go to jail for buying worms.”

Romy was too smart for words: “If those doctors and Realtors at Rotary find out you have a refrigerator full of worms, you’ll never eat Sunday brunch in this valley again.”

So I went to Browse ’N Buy and bought a blonde wig and a Rock Springs cheerleading sweater with “LaDonna” stitched on the breast, a white pleated skirt, and red trainers. I would have shaved my legs if the sweater hadn’t said “Rock Springs.”

I parked two blocks from Stone Drug and walked over. By the time I arrived, I’d collected a pack of six dogs and a tame raven.

The worms are in a minirefrigerator up front, by the door. My plan was to get in and out in ninety seconds. No one back in Sporting Goods and Licenses would know I’d been in the building.
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Of course, Penny Wilkerson at the cash register flipped that toggle that turns on the loudspeakers.

“Price check on night crawlers!”

I could have throttled Penny, only it might get me in the newspaper Police Blotter:
Worm fisherman throttles innocent cashier

I flashed back on high school, buying condoms that would never get used. I slid into Rexall and put on my deep radio DJ voice.
“Prophylactics, if you please.”

And Harriet Gardner yelled that “price check” line for the whole store to hear. Took me five years to realize Harriet did that every time a kid came in for rubbers.
“Price check on Trojans! I assume you want small?”

Harriet knew the price. She did it to give us a hard time.

Then she said, “You’re Liz Sandlin’s boy, aren’t you? I play contract bridge with Liz on Thursdays.”

Why are locals so judgmental about fishing technique anyway? Wyoming used to be the Not My Business What You Do State. Different strokes for different folks.
People could be as weird as a carnivorous cow and no one cared, so long as you didn’t try to convert them. Now it’s, “If you don’t do things my way, you’re dirt.”

Lord knows what would happen to a man who kept a few fish for supper. I recently saw a bumper sticker that said catch and release or death.

These are the same people who gave me crap when they heard my four-year-old had never skied from the top of the tram.
“She prefers Casper.”
“Child abuser!”

Or the old codger who invited me to run from the Stagecoach to the top of Teton Pass. I’m in my sixties, for Chrissake. In Alabama, men my age don’t leave the BarcaLounger.
But in Jackson Hole, what I got was, “Wimp. Why not spare us your presence and check into a nursing home?”

I’m sick of it. Time to come clean. I’ve lived here fifty-five years, and I deserve to live the way I want to live. No more shame.
I don’t go ecstatic for mountain bikes.

I would rather not sleep on the ground.

I cross-country ski in Levi’s 501s.

I bought my winter boots at Kmart. And they aren’t Sorels.

I eat boxed macaroni and cheese (nothing cheaper than Kraft).

Not all the white sugar I buy goes into hummingbird food.

I prefer lettuce to kale.

Just last month I threw #1 plastic into the #2 plastic bin, and when I realized my error I didn’t crawl in after it. (This is a double sin since some of my neighbors will be aghast that I owned any #1 plastic in the first place.)

Worst of all, right from the beginning, I was for Hillary over Bernie.

There you have it. Crucify me if you must.

Bottom line: I came out of Stone Drug in my cheerleading outfit, clutching my plastic bag, and that vengeful little turd Romy clicked my photo on his iPhone 6. Slapped that picture on Snapchat with the caption Tim Sandlin has worms.

I’m looking to move to South Carolina.

| Posted in JH Living
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