[CAUTION – SPOILER ALERTS!]
More to come, but we will start with the single most obvious question:
Q: The mental image of a “worm ranch” being operated as if it were a 19th Century land and cattle empire is, admittedly, hilarious, but how in the world did you parlay this 1-2 line joke into a 92,000-word adventure/romance novel?
A: It began in 1980 when a coworker and I happened to drive past a sign for Hickam’s Worm Ranch. Half a block later, my colleague was laughing. I asked what was so funny. “I was just wondering,” he chortled, “whether worm ranchers use tiny little lariats to rope the worms, then brand them with tiny branding irons.”
The rest of our day’s work was repeatedly interrupted by a profusion of worm ranch one-liners as we bantered back and forth, each trying to outdo the other with increasingly preposterous descriptions of life on a worm ranch.
Not long thereafter, the young marrieds’ group from our church held a function in which each couple was invited to share how they met. It was at this juncture that worm ranching became a part of my personal “story” and took a romantic turn: I had met my wife when she was a can-can dancer at a saloon in Wyoming and I was employed at a nearby worm ranch. (I might add that we were seated in a circle which meant that I would go first. My dear bride, bless her heart, had suffered amnesia and could only corroborate the very last part of our story wherein we were reunited under rather mundane circumstances.)
Nonetheless, my extemporaneous recollections went over well enough that when the opportunity arose to provide entertainment for a Valentine’s Day dinner, I expanded the story into a 20-minute monolog complete with some of the traditional songs wormboys sang around the campfire.
The element of rivalry between wormboys and cowboys arose when I realized some of the wormboys’ music, culture, and lore had been hijacked by Hollywood and rebranded (so to speak) as a portrayal of cowboy life. Presumably, to increase ticket sales, these media moguls had substituted thousand-head herds of cattle being driven down a dusty trail for the historically accurate million-head herds of worms driven on a slimy trail.
Thus, the “Western” had come into vogue with no regard for historical integrity. For example, wormboys almost never engaged in gunfights. And when they did there were few casualties. Wormboys are simply too skinny to make easy targets.
Nashville committed a similarly egregious usurping of wormboy ballads, churning out butchered reworkings of such classics as “Streets of El Wormo” “My Heroes Have Always Been Wormboys” and even spinning, “Rawhide” from the beloved classic, “Wormslime.”
As a life-long champion of truth, I felt compelled to make a stand. From that point on I was on a mission to set the record straight.
And the rest, as they say, is fiction. Thirty-seven years later, my carefully researched and thoroughly fact-free expose’ of wormboy life and culture was ready for the world to hear.