Arriving home from school one warm Spring
afternoon, must have been maybe 1957 or '58, I found my inventive
Uncle Mickey in the backyard setting up some sort of contraption
with a very long electric cord that disappeared down into the bowels
of our basement.
Uncle Mickey lived upstairs in our old North 4th Street house
in Newark. He had a passion for fishing and crabbing, and always
brought something home for his sister Anna, my mother.
"Whatcha doing Uncle Mickey?"
"You're just in time to see my latest invention. Read about
this in a book and spent most of the day trying to make it."
"What is it?"
"Well, you know how I am always digging for worms here in
the backyard so I can go fishing? Well, this here thing is going
to bring the worms to me."
As he finishes saying this, he urges me to step back onto the
sidewalk as he pushes two metal rods into the dirt about a foot
apart. Then he too steps onto the sidewalk and makes some connections
between the rods and his electrical contraption...... and then throws
At first nothing happens, but he urges me to be patient. Then
the ground erupts with worm holes, as fat juicy worms come corkscrewing
out of the ground as if they are being chased. The worms were everywhere,
dancing and wiggling like they were hearing some strange music.
I had no idea there were so many in just a 3 foot or so diameter
around the rods in the dirt.
Just as I was excitedly pointing at all the worms, Dad arrived
home from work.
"Don't step on the dirt, Uncle Mickey says, stay on the sidewalk!"
"Look at the worms Dad!"
"Looks like Uncle Mickey is giving those little fellows quite
a shock of
Uncle Mickey turned off the "worm machine" as we started
calling it, and we all helped collect a pail full of worms for his
next fishing trip. He never had to dig in the yard again.
The memory of that day has always stayed with me. Uncle Mickey
is 93 now, living in an assisted care facility-spending most of
the day making other folks laugh. He says he does two comedy shows
a day-afternoon and evening; and gets more free hugs than a stuffed
teddy bear. At a family re-union I asked him if he still remembered
the "worm machine." He just laughed and laughed.
Uncle Mickey taught me a lot of things--how to box, fish, field
baseballs, and to swing a bat properly. He played a fair amount
of industrial league softball in Schools Stadium on Bloomfield Avenue;
and he played well into his 40s, with his younger nephew, my cousin
I can still hear him playing the piano upstairs after dinner......"Stardust"
and "Moonlight in Vermont" were his favorites.
But that "worm machine".........I'll never forget that!