News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

April 16, 2012

MIKE LUNSFORD: Make big money: Raise worms at home for fun and profit…

When I think about all of the crazy things my brother and sister and I did just to make a few dollars when we were kids, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for teens this summer as they try to find jobs in what is supposed to be a very tight market. Money, to say the least, was a rare commodity when we were growing up, but you have to at least give us credit for trying.

Regardless of what the kids in my classroom believe, I didn’t grow up during the Great Depression. My folks, who did, were able to buy more than one pair of shoes a year for me, and my clothes weren’t sewn from flour sacks. But my family was far from affluent, and I think I grew up to appreciate money, or rather the scarcity of it around our house. We were an S&H Green Stamp household; we ate out of our garden, and we drove our cars until they were exhausted, let alone out of style. I have to admit that even a trip into Terre Haute to go to Kresge’s five-and-dime on Wabash Avenue or to Clinton to get a mug of root beer at the Dog-’n-Suds were, in my opinion, living large.

I eventually managed to make a few bucks when I was big enough to bale hay and feed livestock and hoe strawberries, but perhaps my first entrepreneurial venture was collecting and redeeming discarded glass soda pop bottles. I found a veritable goldmine in the ditches along the old County Line Road. I guess a lot of folks didn’t think the hassle of returning bottles to their local grocery store counter for 2 cents a pop was worth the trouble, so, as they sped down that humpbacked blacktop past our house, they tossed their Royal Crown or Bubble-Up or Grape Nehi bottles out of their car windows. I wholeheartedly encouraged their sloth.

Despite it sounding incredibly reckless in these times, my mother allowed me to walk or ride my bike along the road to look for the bottles; then, when I managed to hitch a ride into Rosedale with my grandparents or my aunt, I’d turn them into coin at Hickman’s IGA or Morgan’s Variety Store, often having as much as a dime to blow on gum, orange sherbet push-ups, or Zero candy bars.

It never occurred to me to be like John Rockefeller, who, by the age of 12, had saved $10, and then earned interest on the money when he loaned it to a neighboring farmer.

No sir, I wanted the immediate rush of the sugar high that only candy cigarettes and cherry Popsicles and kissable wax lips could provide.

My brother, John, and sister, Lora, were seekers of filthy lucre, too. Sis and I sold, or attempted to sell at our roadside stand, virtually anything we could find growing on our property. We set our battered card table up under the ancient burr oak that sat near the mouth of our driveway and tried to hawk, mostly without success, walnuts, hedge apples, bittersweet and buckeyes. Nothing proved very profitable, even though both of us worked hard at appearing pathetic and malnourished for the motorists who passed by. 

We also attempted to sell live bait one summer, that venture coming in conjunction with our pest control management company. Since Mom was already making us pull the bagworms off our evergreen trees once a week, we simply dropped them into old pickle jars and set up shop with zero overhead. Needless to say, containers of squirming and mildly disgusting larvae hardly put us on easy street. I don’t think we sold a single worm.

Now, John was the real brains of the outfit when it came to making cash. He and my cousin, Roger, who lived across the road, spent much of their spare time carefully drawing up moneymaking plans, including the gleaning of neighboring fields for ear corn in the late fall. In those days, farmers often didn’t harvest until the weather turned cold, and since the old cornpickers left a lot of corn in the fields, John and Rog were there in snotty-nosed, frozen-fingered readiness to walk the rows while they strained under the weight of their filling burlap sacks. They’d then trudge their booty into town to sell the corn at the old elevator there. 

“I think we made about $2 a truckload,” John told me with a smile last week as he remembered how much time and effort he had invested in the venture. 

Gleaning corn was not, however, the high point of my big brother’s financially formative years. He and Roger moved seamlessly into the earthworm business. Believing that my sister and I had simply failed to offer an attractive enough product, they latched onto the idea that earthworms would sell like hotcakes to the hordes of bait-needy fisherman who just happened to cruise past our house. The duo went to work digging in dozens of places around the yard, pulling worms from the soil by the dozens for immediate transfer into old, dirt-filled washer drums they’d salvaged from the dump. There wasn’t a manure pile, fence row or flower bed around that they hadn’t had their hands in, and in just a matter of days, the two “Earthworm Kings” believed they were about to realize fabulous profits! While the earthworms grew and prospered, the pair meandered through toy catalogs. Then, disaster struck.

The young Carnegies were crushed, not by an abnormally low bait market, but by the forces of nature. Within days, most of the worms had simply disappeared. John and Rog never imagined that worms were capable of pulling a Steve McQueen, wriggling up and over the tub walls like escaping POWs. To add insult to injury, the worms that hadn’t made it to freedom, drowned when the tubs filled with water during a heavy rain shower. 

Not easily deterred, the two then went into the mink-trapping business. My grandfather, who seemed to have been born in a Jack London novel, trapped muskrats all over our area, even in tiny Spring Creek, just up the road. John and Roger, lacking transportation, believed that minks undoubtedly thrived in the drainage ditch that ran across from our place. Despite the patience of Job, they snared only a few crawdads and a leech before they eventually gave up on that enterprise, too.

I could go on. My sister thought her pop bottle cap pot holders would be wildly popular, and I believed financial rewards would be mine when I got my revolutionary ant-vacuuming system worked out (ant farms were a rage then and I would have a ready supply). My mom caught me walking out the back door with our vacuum cleaner and an extension cord before that plan could come to fruition.

The three of us kids eventually grew up, got real jobs, found our niches in life, and settled into comfortable and busy lives. None of us have made it rich, but we’ve never gone hungry either. We loved growing up when we did, and where we did, and we remember our nutty schemes with grins on our faces. 

But I’ll tell you this: If ant farms ever make a comeback, I’m going to be ready …

Mike Lunsford can be reached by email at hickory913@aol.com, or c/o the Tribune-Star at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808. Visit his website at www.mikelunsford.com for information about book signings and speaking opportunities.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
  • MET072514 invenadamson step.jpg ‘Minds-on camp’

    Sylvia Ann Adamson longed for privacy, so she invented a solution to that problem at “Camp Invention.”

    July 25, 2014 5 Photos

  • Linda Tincher.jpg Riley lion’s roar goes global

    Linda L. Tincher has become the first woman from Indiana elected to serve as an international director for Lions Clubs International. She was chosen earlier this month during the clubs’ 97th international convention in Toronto, Canada.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET072514 SPPRAK glasses.jpg Kindness ‘undercover’

    Hundreds of people gathered at Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium on Friday for a night of baseball, music, the “Green Man” and green shades.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Residents ‘stuff the bus’ with pencils, notebooks, backpacks

    After exiting a Wal-Mart store in Clinton, Roger E. Richardson stopped his shopping cart Friday in front of a large yellow South Vermillion School Corporation bus.

    July 25, 2014

  • Man faces 9 charges in homicide case

    A Solsberry man faces nine criminal charges related to a July 18 homicide and rape in rural Greene County.

    July 25, 2014 1 Story

  • maroon truck.jpg UPDATE: Rockville man dies after head-on collision

    A Rockville man has died from injuries he sustained this afternoon in a two-vehicle, head-on crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • red truck.jpg Head-on crash leaves Rockville man seriously injured

    A Rockville man was air-lifted to an Indianapolis hospital with serious injuries this afternoon following a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 25, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.

    July 25, 2014

  • Measles case confirmed in Central Indiana

    INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials have confirmed a case of measles in Central Indiana. The Indiana State Department of Health is working with local health departments and health care providers to identify additional cases of measles, and to prevent further transmission of the disease.

    July 25, 2014

  • Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands

    CHICAGO (AP) — Fast food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years.

    July 25, 2014

  • 4 doctors arrested after Indiana clinic raids

    CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say four doctors have been arrested on charges of improperly prescribing a drug used to treat painkiller addiction from several Indiana offices.

    July 25, 2014

  • holiday world thunderbird.jpg Holiday World plans new winged roller coaster

    SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (AP) — The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana is building a new $22 million roller coaster that it says will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop and four inversions.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indianapolis pulls future support for Amtrak line

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — City officials in Indianapolis have cast the future of an Amtrak passenger line between Indianapolis and Chicago into doubt after deciding not to provide any additional money to subsidize that line.

    July 25, 2014

  • Pence leading annual governor’s motorcycle ride

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence is leading the annual governor’s motorcycle ride from the Statehouse through southern Indiana.

    July 25, 2014

  • State asks judge to delay right-to-work ruling

    CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana attorney general’s office has asked a judge to put on hold his order striking down the state’s right-to-work law.

    July 25, 2014

  • MET 072414 HOESS 01KOR.jpg Voices from Auschwitz: Ties that bind

    A message that has spread like wildfire across Europe can easily translate to America.

    July 24, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • Minimum wage frozen after 5 years

    Thursday marked the fifth anniversary since the federal minimum wage was increased, a wage U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez contends should again be raised.

    July 24, 2014

  • MET072414 CANDLES shake.jpg ISU, CANDLES join to ‘illuminate the world’

    Indiana State University and CANDLES Holocaust Museum are joining forces to educate current and future generations about the Holocaust, genocide and related issues.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • MET072414 JA hadley.jpg 50 years later, still business as usual

    Junior Achievement of the Wabash Valley marked its 50th anniversary hosting a luau Thursday at the Ohio Building in Terre Haute.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Two semis collide; one driver injured

    A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital Thursday after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.

    July 24, 2014

  • Valley talent returns for show tonight

    Local musical collective Lunes Domingo is scheduled to be back at The Verve tonight to perform the last installment of its 2014 series.

    July 24, 2014

  • Police find 2 meth labs in 1 house

    The Clay County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday arrested a Staunton man and a Terre Haute woman on felony charges of manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine.

    July 24, 2014

  • Police say man broke into prison building

    A man living at a Carlisle motel has been arrested for trespassing and criminal mischief after he allegedly kicked in a prison building door.

    July 24, 2014

  • Driver airlifted to Methodist after I-70 crash

    A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital today after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lunes Domingo, Bear Foote Jackson at The Verve July 25

    Local musical collective Lunes Domingo will be back at The Verve on Friday, July 25, to perform the last installment of their 2014 series. Cost is $3.

    July 24, 2014

  • West T Water Works issues boil order

    The West Terre Haute Water Works announced this morning that a boil order is in effect until further notice for the community of West Terre Haute and Sugar Creek Township.

    July 24, 2014

  • Grease fire closes Terre Haute restaurant for short time

    A grease fire closed the Golden Corral for about three hours on Wednesday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 24, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.

    July 24, 2014

  • Bloomington helping with beer brewery’s project

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — The city of Bloomington is helping a beer brewery with an expansion of its downtown restaurant and bar.

    July 24, 2014

  • Family: Teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks

    PLAINFIELD, Ind. (AP) — Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old pilot from Indiana also believed dreams aren’t achieved without taking chances.

    July 24, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity