The Florence [AL] Times Daily
Jul 23, 1937
Hartselle, July 27— Get out your “Stradivarius” and come to the Tennessee Valley and join the worm fiddlers.
A new industry has sprung up in the Joe Wheeler Lake area where numerous followers of Izaak Walton spend their time fishing in the fisherman’s paradise created by the TVA. The new business is “worm fiddling” and the North Alabama worm fiddlers eagerly watch for the worm market quotation each morning.
A few days ago worms were selling for as high as $12 per gallon but so many people have entered the highly profitable business and flooded the market that the price has dropped to $4.
E.J. Giers, of Valhermosa Springs, one of Morgan county’s best worm fiddlers, explains the fiddling business this way: You take a smooth, seasoned stick about two feet long and drive it into the ground under a beech tree or in some moist, rich place. Then you take a small flat stone and rub it back and forth across the top of the stick. This causes the ground to vibrate and the worms will rush to the top of the ground. All you have to do is pick them up.
When you think you have exhausted the supply of worms, move your stick to another spot and start fiddling again. A gallon of worms per hour is considered a good harvest. Some fiddlers use two sticks and stretch a wire between, then rub the stone across the wire.
The modern Neros are divided in their opinion as to why the worms come out of the ground. Some believe the vibration gives the worms an electric shock and some claim that the worms think the noise is thunder and come out as they naturally do when it rains.
Each day new fiddlers appear on the streets of Tennessee Valley towns with buckets of worms to sell. Frequently crowds gather to hear the fiddlers tell their modes of fiddling and lively arguments ensue as to the best and most prolific methods.
Some successful fiddlers declare there are different species of fiddle worms and that they require various types of fiddling and that you can’t fool the worms. A man in the worm business must be an accomplished fiddler.
A minister living near Hartselle, who is a master fiddler, points out that worm fiddling is an ancient custom and is even mentioned in the Bible.
Whatever the past has been and whatever the future of the fiddle worm industry, may be it has certainly solved the unemployment situation in the Tennessee Valley for the time being.