Here’s something you’ve probably not heard before. According to one of my many books of trivia the best time to teach an earthworm tricks is shortly before midnight. Whodathunk?
In the first place, are worms even capable of learning how to do tricks? I can barely get my dog to come in out of the rain. Besides, why would anyone with any intelligence live underground without electricity? And would they want to learn to do tricks in the first place? Has anyone ever asked them? Even if they were capable of such high level thinking, what could they be taught to do? Let’s consider the possibilities.
“Sit up.” Can you imagine trying to balance that elongated body on that little tip of a behind? No way. It would be like trying to stand a pencil on its pointy end. Forget about opposable thumbs; this critter doesn’t even have any arms to push itself into an upright position. And if you were to stand him up yourself, then what? Plop! He’s horizontal again. All that falling over couldn’t be good for the worm’s health. Then you’d have PETA after you for animal cruelty.
How about “lie down” or “roll over”? Worms do that naturally so no trick there.
“Beg”? Same problem as sitting up. And I’m sure there’s no way to get them to bark either.
“Speak”? See “Beg.”
How about “fetch”? Do you really think a worm is going to chase after a toothpick and bring it back to you? Think again.
“Shake hands”, you say? Think about it!
Or what about card tricks? Shuffling definitely would not be his strong suit.
Trick or Treat?
As for your technique, how would you accomplish training a worm? Hand signals are out because worms are blind. (They live underground, in the dark, for crying out loud. Why would they need eyes?)
Furthermore, I’ve never seen ears on an earthworm so saying, “Good boy” won’t make much of an impression even if he does succeed in learning to come in out of the rain. Actually, worms aren’t very good at that either. Ever see them on the driveway after a rain? They’re all dead or on their last . . . , well, you know what I mean. Dumb, wet dogs are geniuses by comparison.
Even if you could get a worm to perform like a trained seal, how would you reward him? Does Purina make biscuits for earthworms? They’d have to be the size of a grain of salt. Not worth the effort by the guys working in the R&D lab. A pat on the head, maybe? First you’d have to determine which end is the head and then how far the head extends. Besides, a pat on the head for an earthworm would probably just rate you another visit from the PETA folks.
And taking into consideration the lifespan of a worm (whatever that is), what if your worm turned out to be old. Could you teach an old worm new tricks? Don’t count on it.
All Work, No Pay
No, after giving this a great deal of thought (about 10 seconds) I’ve decided it’s probably not worth the time and effort trying to teach tricks to an earthworm. Think of the working conditions. For one thing, you’d have to work in the dark. (Frankly, I think the guy who made this worm-trick “discovery” —probably using a federal grant—most likely was in the dark about a lot of things.) And consider how you’d sound talking to worms while crawling around on your hands and knees through the flower beds. Try explaining that to the court-appointed shrink.
A worm is simply one long stretch of squirming vermiculated* derma with an opening at each end, which makes it both orally fixated and anally retentive. That’s not a very clear-cut indicator of intellectual prowess in my book. I’m not saying they’re dumb, mind you, but anyone who allows himself to be impaled on a hook, drowned, and made into fish bait can’t have a lot going for him. Best to just let him work at aerating the soil as God intended him to do. Besides, he works dirt cheap.
WES © 2011 The Wit’s End Scribbler
*Marked by irregular fine or wavy impressed lines. Also, full of worms or worm-eaten, like the brains of PETA folks.