Down Nature's Paths



A GROUP of neighborhood boys invaded our back yard one pleasant summer forenoon. They were chattering like starlings and examining the ground like robins. My sister came out to see the excitement.

'We're going fishing," they chorused. "We're looking for camel worms for bait. They beat anything."

"Camel worms? What are they?" Adultly astonished.

"Camel worms! Didn't you ever see camel worms?" Boyishly astonished.

No, she hadn't; so they enlightened her. Camel worms lived in holes in the ground and fish ate them. Seeking for connection between fish in water and camel worms in burrows, she watched the boys. Sure enough! In some parts, the back yard was full of holes about the diameter of the tip of her little finger. We had often noticed them and wondered. The boys were armed with leaves of the ubiquitous wild garlic; they thrust these juicy cylinders down the holes; in a few moments they pulled them out triumphantly, and from the end of each dangled a queer grub about an inch long, with the upward bulge near the hind end that gave them their name. They vanished into the boys' tin cans and the search went merrily on.

Camel worms! What are they? Just fish bait to boys. But she traveled to the dictionary and my "bug book." To her amusement she found that camel worms are baby tiger beetles. Camels turn into tigers by growing up. Tiger beetles, the "bug book" said, are "handsome, mostly swift-running beasts of prey." They frequent the shores of bodies of water or woodland trails, watching for other insects to catch with their powerful hooklike mandibles ("jaws"). One kind is a satiny brown with black head and neck; another kind is a bright green, with six white dots spaced around the edges of its wing covers--Cicindela sexguttata, the six-spotted tiger beetle. Being active at night, they are not easily seen or captured. Specimens of the brown tiger beetle were formerly considered such rarities as to sell for $15 to $20 apiece to collectors.

Our back yard yielded quite a harvest of camel worms that would never become twenty-dollar specimens in some bugologist's cabinet. And all because they mistook those juicy tidbits placed in their burrows to be gifts from heaven, when they were the snares of death. The race of two-legged camel worms is not extinct. They mistake the devil's garlic stems for blessings sent from above, and soon find themselves captives in his power.

"I've got to have some fun," says the young man, and he follows the bright lights to find it. "I've taken all I can stand; I've got to forget," cries a brokenhearted one; and she tries to drown be­reavement in booze and drowns only her soul. "I'm unendurably lonely," cries a neglected wife. "I've a right to be happy. Why shouldn't I take my pleasure where I can find it?" And she falls for the strange man who is "so kind, and so understanding, and so sympathetic." But he is Satan's most terrible temptation in human form, and a moments pleasure becomes eternal tragedy.

Camel worms need not be pulled out of their burrows. Their holes are deeper than the garlic stems are long. They can get out of the reach of temptation. And their camel-like humps are really defense organs. They are strong projections armed with claws intended to enable them to hold fast to the burrow walls. Human camel worms can flee from temptation and cling fast to God. But temptation never yet came in a disagreeable form; the devil's garlic tastes good.