Monday, October 15, 2007

Where Have All the Earthworms Gone?

When I was a kid, I loved warm rainy days.

My sibs and I had bright yellow slickers and black rubber boots. We would march through the puddles -- Splash! Splash! Splash! Worms came out of their holes and crawled all over the grass and sidewalks,

We were great worm collectors. We filled the pockets of our slickers to overflowing with long, squirmy, slimy earthworms. If our hands got too gooey, we wiped them in the wet grass then caught more worms.

When our pockets were full we ran home to our back door and yelled for Mom. She would come to the door and admire our oozing wads of worms. She would tell us in a delighted voice how proud she was of us and how wonderful worms were for the garden. "Now go put them in the garden," she would say. We scampered back to the garden and scattered our worms thither and yon. We were firmly convinced that nothing would grow in the garden without our worms.

One magnificently rainy morning, when my brother was in the first grade, he collected both pockets full of fat, juicy earthworms on the way to school. As a third grader, I was more sophisticated and saved my worm collecting efforts for the way home since I knew worms would stiffen up and die if you left them in your pockets all day.

My brother dearly loved his teacher and, when he saw her standing in the hall next to the classroom door, he was inspired. He ran up to her with his freckled face aglow.

"Hold out your hands and close your eyes," he said, "I have a surprise for you!"

She smiled and did as he asked.

My brother dug deep into his two bulging pockets and dredged up the biggest handfuls of wriggling worms that a first grader could manage. He deposited this wonderful gift into his teacher's cupped hands.

It was not what she was expecting.

She flung up her hands and let out a shriek that shattered every eardrum in the school. Worms splattered against the walls, ceiling, floor and not a few students.

She was making frantic panting noises and shaking her hands when she looked down and saw my brother's face. He was devastated. His lower lip was trembling and tears spilled from his eyes.

"But Mommy likes worms," he sobbed.

She bent down and hugged him.

"So do I," she said, "I just need to know when I'm getting a handful.

"Thank you for the present."

All the kids in the hall got to spend the first few minutes of the school day picking worms off the walls and each other. We took them outside and put them into the shrubbery around the school "where they would do the most good."

Now-a-days when it rains, the worms don't come out like they did when I was a kid. Oh, sure, you see a few, but nothing like it used to be. There aren't as many butterflies either. Or frogs and toads.

I miss the creepy crawlies. I wish people would stop polluting the earth, air and water so the bugs, amphibians, snakes and all the little wildlife that so delighted me as a child could come back. We need them to keep our planet and our souls healthy.
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P.S. One of the most fun parts about rainy worm days was chasing Cindy Kraschenko. She screamed and danced and dodged better than anyone when we threw worms at her. She deserved it too, she was a snotty, superior kid -- really.


Kate said...

The biggest fear I had to overcome as a gardener was those icky wiggly worms. The big ones still kind of creep me out. :)

Wunx~ said...

I wouldn't have thrown worms at you. I like you. (Actually, it was my brother who threw the worms, I just laughed.)

I think my brother had a great first grade teacher. Now that I'm grown, I'm truly impressed that she was able to overcome the shock of the "gift" quickly enough to comfort a hurt and bewildered little boy.