Nightmare on Catalpa Road

By Darlene Warren

BIG SANDY, Texas--Change is constant. I'm sure someone very learned came up with that saying, but since I don't know who it was I'll pretend I did. Something is brewing in the neighborhood, and it started last summer.

In retrospect, I guess I should have noticed the subtleties, but I enjoy my space and try to respect others by giving them theirs. I first noticed the clearing of property just down the road from where I live and the construction of a large building of some sort being erected several hundred yards into the woods.

Then one morning a moving van pulled off the road and onto this heretofore vacant piece of property. Several residents of this small, rural community showed up to lend a hand at helping to unload the new neighbors' belongings. We do things like that in Texas. That way we get to look at all their stuff.

The couple appeared fairly normal; your typical Texan wannabes. (What I didn't know till much later is that they are far from typical.)

Abnormal amount

After that morning when we first welcomed the newcomers, things went along pretty uneventfully for several months. We tried to be as neighborly as possible without infringing on their privacy. We did notice they seemed to spend an abnormal amount of time on the Internet. We know this because, whenever we would stop by, one or the other of them was always seated squarely in front of the computer screen.

We found out later they were researching the market potential for livestock in the area. There was nothing surprising about that. Lots of retirees come to Texas and start up some sort of farming operation that is intended to take them back to a happier and less-complicated time in their childhood. Perhaps the purchase of a real Texas Longhorn to impress the grandchildren when they come to visit might be in order.

Regardless, in this day of Web-site shopping and Internet purchases, to search for livestock online is not completely out the realm of possibility.

6,000 head

Yes, a small herd of cattle would fit right into our agricultural community. We already have neighbors who raise chickens, some who raise elk and even some who are in the exotic-animal business, raising tigers, lions and llamas. I grew alarmed only when in the course of polite conversation they revealed that they indeed had located a herd and were seriously considering purchasing 6,000 head.

Six thousand head of cattle are a lot of beef, obviously more than their acreage could even begin to sustain. What was going on here? What could they possibly be thinking?

I began to envision what was in store for the neighborhood. The sight, smell and sound of a massive herd could take a lot of the enjoyment out of living in our rural community.

But things weren't as they seemed. It was a confusing time. It wasn't Texas cattle they were borrowing our 16 foot utility trailer to transport. They had worms! They had the big, long, wiggly red kind.

Now, some of you are probably thinking what a relief! But, let me tell you, as sure as the world it won't stop there. There are 6,000 of these things!

50-mile radius

That was last week, there could be twice that many now. The new Texans have become the Bill Gateses of the worm industry. They've already bought out all the small-business owners within a 50-mile radius. If you want worms, pretty soon there will be only one way to get them. Our crafty little entrepreneurs will soon be flooding the airwaves with a jingle reminiscent of their old high-school cheering squad: "We got worms. Yes, we do. We got worms. How 'bout you?"

Our peaceful little community is changing, and it is happening so fast. With the monopoly they're trying to create there will be feds crawling all over this place. Ever since they drove that herd into town, our phone lines have been acting funny, as though they might be bugged; water pressure is low; and my dog crawls under the porch and whimpers all night long for no apparent reason.

Sure, they may be brought to trial, but can they really be stopped? It will be the most talked-about trial in the history of Texas: We Got Worms vs. the United States. I know we'll be subpoenaed to testify, probably for both sides. And what will we say?

We can't win either way. These are our neighbors. If we go against them they'll push their weight around. They'll steal our water. They might possibly even instigate a stampede to scare us into submission. Have you ever seen a spooked herd? It could get real ugly. Ever since those people moved in, I knew something wasn't quite right, but I never expected this. It's almost Stepfordlike; everything is fine until you question them.

One mean worm

Just a few days ago, almost as a show of defiance, they turned one of the mean ones loose. It attacked my hard drive and has caused untold destruction and misery.

On the other hand, if we cooperate with We Got Worms, the government will keep a file on us so thick that the authorities will have to haul it around in a wheelbarrow. It will be updated regularly with information they've gathered about where we go, who we see, whether we are smuggling worms over the border or not. Every time there's trouble they can't pin on anyone else, they will be at our doorstep.

Or, even worse, they'll have us under 24-hour surveillance, using black helicopters and high-tech unmanned drones circling the area gathering intelligence and recording our every move. We'll be on a constant heightened state of alert. There's no telling where it might end.

As a side issue, We Got Worms might interpret our cooperation with them as enthusiasm for the "business" and expect that we will be there for them when it comes time for the spring branding. I don't have time for that. Can you imagine how long it will take to get those things rounded up? Oh, if it had only been cattle. They are so much easier to control. At least cows don't burrow under the ground and disappear. Cows can be seen and heard, and you have to fence on only the top of the ground.

Exhausting concordance

As always, during times of stress and tribulation, I turn to the Bible for comfort and solace. But so far this time it hasn't worked. While poring over my Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, I found multiple entries for the word worm, but the majority of those referred to "their worm dieth not."

Another account tells the story of a worm smiting Jonah's entire gourd and sending him into intense depression.

I don't know what these scriptures mean exactly, but from my perspective it's not looking good.

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