• Jim Pfiffer

Huck and Tom ponder ‘bout worm fishin’ on the Chemung

Updated: Jun 15

Weekly humor column by Jim Pfiffer, Elmira NY


Summertime means fishing time on the Chemung River. Mark Twain spent many summers in Elmira writing about Huck and Tom, and most likely fishing the river when he needed to clear his mind of writer’s block. If Huck and Tom were here today, I bet we would witness something like this:


The scene: Huck and Tom are sitting on a grassy bank on the Chemung River, the sun warming their backs, long stems of grass dangling from their mouths, straw hats on their heads and cane poles in their hands.


Huck: “I sure am glad we played hooky today and went fishin’.”


Tom: “Me too. Fishin’ is powerful and more enjoyable when you’re not supposed to be doin’ it, but supposed to be doin’ somethin’ that ain’t a lick of fun, like readin’ and ‘rithmatic.”


Huck: “You speak the truth, mostly, Tom but, dang my luck, the catfish ain’t bitin’ today. I ain’t had so much as a nibble. Do you reckon my worm is done drowned by now?


Tom: Best way to find out is to lift your hook out of the water and take a look-see.


Huck (doing just that): “Well, blame it all! Ain’t nothin’ but a speck a worm left on my hook. Them sneaky fish done stole it bit by bit without so much as a tug on my line.”


Tom: “It sure ain’t fun bein’ a worm. Have you ever wondered how worms came to be fishin’ bait? They are ugly and squirmy and you can’t tell the head from the tail nor what’s in between. But the fish sure like em. I wonder what a worm tastes like.”


Huck: “My pap ate a worm once. Claims he was sufferin’ from the fantads and in need of a drink to settle his shivers and quivers. Said he ate a worm on a dare for two fingers worth of whiskey. Said a worm tasted like a worm and was easy to swallow, being all slick and slimy. Said he’d eat a pickle barrel full of em for a bottle of whiskey. Then he cuffed my ears a few times for askin’ 'bout such nonsense.’”


Tom: “Why would a soul think a fish would be attracted to a worm, all drowned and droppy and hangin’ off a hook like a wet stocking draped over Aunt Polly’s clothesline. What must that man been a-thinking?”


Huck: “Never mind what he was thinkin’. I wonder what the worm thought, gettin’ yanked out of his home, impaled mid-body with a hook and then throwed in the river for the fish to have at it, piece by piece.”


Tom: “I never seen it that way, but you’re right as rain. The worm just mindin’ his business and he got evicted in a most violent manner, then thrown into a coffee can in a tangled wriggling ball of neighbors, in-laws, strangers and probably some worms he ain’t never got along with.”


Huck: “Yeah, and we make the messy hookin’ ordeal easy on our minds by tellin’ ourselves that ‘worms can’t feel a tinge of pain, but we know better, cuz when that hook goes in, they writhe, squirm, wriggle about like water on a hot skillet.”


Tom: “Then we toss them in the river, where they try with all their worm worthiness to tread water for as long as possible, but even the most ignorant being known that’s worms can’t tread water for long. It’s a good thing worms can’t talk cuz if they could I dare say they would let out a fiery string of cuss words that could stop a river in its bed.”


Huck: “Jim told me that, one time, he found a bewitched worm that could talk. The worm had once been a man, a man who was the grandest and most celebrated fisherman on the Chemung River. Fished it day and night, sun and rain and ice and snow. Said he knew every fishin’ hole, beaver dam and hidden snag. Said a water witch turned him into a worm cuz he trespassed on her island without her say so. Jim was about to hook that worm when it started begging and pleading with him to spare him. Promised he would tell Jim about the best fishing spot on the whole darned river, a place where the fish are so hungry and plentiful, you have to hide behind a tree just to bait your hook.”


Tom: “So did Jim let that worm go free and discover the secret fishin’ hole?”


Huck: “Nope. Before he could answer the worm, a big old catfish jumped clean out of the river and swallowed the worm, hook, line and cane pole in one big gulp, and dove back into the water faster than a lightnin’ bolt on the fourth of July.”


Tom: “I sure would like to know the whereabouts of that secret fishin’ hole cuz the fish here are especially stubborn and ornery and won’t cooperate. I say we put away this fishin’ foolishness and go exploring on Clinton Island.”


Huck: “That sounds like a right good adventure, and maybe we find some buried pirate treasure. What we gonna do with the rest of the worms, toss them in the river, like we usually do?”


Tom: “No, I reckon that today we let those worms go free. Find them some good rich river silt where they can start a whole new worm village. You never know, there might be a talkin’ worm in there.”

About the Author


Jim Pfiffer’s humor column posts every Sunday on the Jim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page West Elmira Neighborhood and ElmiraTelegram.com. Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley, and many pets. He is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper and a regular swell guy. Contact him at pfifman@gmail.com.

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