Winchester Worm

Chapter 1

Winchester Worm was happily gorging himself on matted turnip greens and lettuce leaves, when the bare fingers of a big (human) surrounded him and lifted him up out of the dirt. The young worm was certain he was going to be abruptly squashed or plunked into a tin can to become fish bait. He thrust his head up to get a glimpse of the threat and came eye to eye with a monstrous longhaired big, who shrieked, “Yuck!”  Moving quickly away, he roughly threw Winchester and the dirt to the ground.

Squirming as fast as he could back into the dark earth and quoting his grandpa Cyrus, Winchester grunted, “Worms get no respect!”

Winchester lived with his father Chester and mother Martha, in Mrs. Grafton’s flower garden just off the parking lot at Clatsop Memorial Park south of Astoria. A community of worms thrived among the flower and vegetable beds, rotting leaves and other debris at the edge of a stand of majestic fir trees propagating the park. Picnic tables located in open spaces invited visiting bigs to relax and refresh themselves during their time at the famous attraction.

Winchester and his friends often found tasty bits of food tossed to the ground by careless picnickers. From time to time he wondered why the bigs never seemed to notice worms. When they did, their reaction was usually insulting.

“How come bigs humiliate us like that… saying ‘yuck’ and ‘slimy,’ when they touch us?” Winchester asked his Gee Pa (his name for his grandpa) awhile later.

Gee Pa laughed and said, “Shows you’re smart.” Then, responding to the perplexed look on Winchester’s face, he explained, “You have to know you’re being humiliated to be humiliated.”

“None of the worms I know ever feel humiliated. No matter what bigs say about them, they just keep eating dirt. How come? Why don’t they rebel?”

“You opened a can of worms with that one.”

Winchester squinted.

“Well listen!” Gee Pa said, “Most worms don’t have the brains to understand the ways of the world.”

“Ways of the world… what’s that?”

“Winchester, there’s complicated life beyond this garden… wonders beyond imagination. Keep learning and you’ll see.”

“Why don’t they teach us wonders in worm school?

“They don’t know… the simpletons just know to keep burrowing through life… eating dirt.

“Yeah… they do, don’t they?” Winchester said brightly.

“… Mechanically following an ancient and eternal compulsion…” Gee Pa continued.

“Compulsion?” Winchester said. Giving Gee Pa a perplexed look he continued, “How come you’re always using new, fancy words?”

Gee Pa ignored Winchester’s question. “…Incessantly gobbling up organic debris, digesting it and leaving behind castings… the makings of rich humus and flourishing gardens.”

“Wow, Gee Pa… all those big words… How’d you learn what they mean?”

“I’m a bookworm! And remember, you’re gonna be a bookworm too. Big words are in the leaves… keep going through those leaves… reading them and you’ll know, too.”

“I promise.”

“Good!” Gee Pa snorted emphatically.

“Bigs get all the good out of us worms making the ground fertile… That’s not fair, Gee Pa! Winchester declared.

“Who said life was fair? It’s a worms’ calling… It’s our destiny. Worms slave all their lives without question or complaining.”

“I think we should start complaining,” Winchester said setting his jaw,  “Or quit digging,” he continued, “… that would teach bigs to respect us, wouldn’t it?”

Gee Pa laughed, “Go on strike, you mean?” He laughed louder nuzzling Winchester. “Organize ourselves into a worm union… that would do it… an army of worms marching across the clod field holding up signs, ‘worms of the world, unite!’” he laughed again.

“Why not, Gee Pa?

“Winchester… it’d be just us two marching… well, maybe a couple more. The rest will just keep eating dirt… you can bet on that.”

“It’s worth a try…” Winchester said hopefully.

“Winchester… Save your wiggles… Not only are worms slaves to dirt a good bit the time, but a lot of time our lives are cut short by a heavy foot or the professional eye and quick beak of a red-chested robin.”

“Yeah, I don’t like robins,” Winchester said emphatically. “They scare me.”

“Well, you ought to be… The best thing to do to avoid Robins is to stay out of sight… a robin spots you…you’re a goner. I stay out of their way and you better too.”

“How come you’re so smart, Gee Pa?”

“Can’t be sure Winchester, but I think it’s because ever since I was knee high to a lady bug, I paid attention… like I’m helping you do. You know, our brains are bigger than the other worms… yours and mine.”

“Yeah, I see that… but none of them seem to notice,” Winchester opined. “Is that why you’ve lived so long… cause you’re smart?

“Yeah, that’s why…  but being smart isn’t fool proof. We worms still have plenty to worry about. Bigs are careless… always stepping on us. Just yesterday, Grandson Squiggle was crushed by a big foot coming down on him.”

“Does that make you sad?”

“Yes Winchester… sad… for Squiggle. He was aware like us. But the rest don’t seem to know any better.”

“They don’t know when they’re being squashed?” Winchester asked a bit confused.  “How can that be?”

“They know something is happening, sure… But they don’t know what it means… It’s just their bodies reacting to whatever. Funny thing, their brains don’t care one way or the other. You and I are different. We’re aware. We want to live. We’ve managed to survive by using our heads and paying attention.

“I pay attention.”

“Good worm… that’ll go a long way to keeping you alive. You been doing your reading… reading the leaves?

“Reading is hard, Gee Pa.”

“It’ll get easier the more you do it, Winchester… Going through book leaves you can figure out ways to survive in this hostile world.”

“Like robins? They like to eat worms. A while ago I saw one pulling Nick Night Crawler and stretching him until he was as thin as a silk thread.”

“Yeah, robins. They are the worst… They hunt for us during dew time in early morning. ‘Those early birds get us worms,’ my mother used to say. So stay underground in the tunnels until the dew in gone. Robins look for us when it rains, too. Rain fills our digging tunnels, forces us to go above ground to keep from drowning.”
“I have to learn a lot about bigs’ feet and rain and robins. Is that it Gee Pa?”

“Yeah, and Night Crawler hunters. They’re bigs that come out at night with flashlights looking for night crawlers… better not to be a night crawler, if you can help it.”

“I’ll be okay, if I just stay in the ground digging tunnels like all the rest…” Winchester said dejectedly, “That’s no fun!”

Gee Pa chuckled. “You’re not always safe there either… You need to know … Bigs dig in the ground with hard things…. cut you in two just like that.”

“That scares me, Gee Pa.”

“No need to be scared… Being scared won’t change anything. Just accept it. We’re worms and we do what we have to do.

“I see what you mean Gee Pa… We get no respect… That’s what it is, isn’t it, Gee Pa?”

“Yeah, I’m telling you… ‘We get no respect’ and if that weren’t enough, they use us for fish bait.”

I don’t get it, Gee Pa. It isn’t fair. I don’t understand why bigs treat us the way they do. We don’t hurt them. Well, we’re a little slimy, maybe… but we’re quiet. We mind our own business and keep out of sight most of the time….

“And we aerate the soil…” Gee Pa added.

“Yeah!” Winchester yelled in agreement.

Gee Pa continued, “… And through our digestion process we turn rotting vegetation and other dead stuff into humus…”

Winchester gave Gee Pa a surprised look and asked, “Is that what we do?

“Think about it … our single-minded dedication to tunneling through the ground gobbling up debris and turning it into humus goes a long way toward keeping bigs alive… keeping them supplied with food.”

“We do? Why?”

“I’ll bet you didn’t know that, when we enter a patch of untouched dirt and work it over, it ends up being a whole lot more fertile than it was before we worked our magic….”

“Wow!”

“Instead of treating us like dirt, they ought to build a monument dedicated to worms…  well, at least a statue in every community park… you know… like bigs do with bigs and horses and bears and other creatures they admire.”
“It ought to be of you, Gee Pa.”

“Awe, it’ll never happen… Most worms have never given their fate a thought. Come to think of it, all the worms I know don’t give much thought to anything. Let’s face it! They aren’t very smart. They’ve never bothered, even for a moment, to pause from their industry of transforming waste into nutritious soil and look around them and think.

“Gee Pa, you sure do know a lot about stuff.”

“Winchester, I’ve been a worm all my life and that’s a long time for a worm. I’ve seen several worm generations come and go. And I know more than most worms. Though I’ve never talked with a big, I understand them. That’s why I can tell you with certainty that we worms get no respect.”

Chapter 2

Cocky Robin danced among the branches of the coast oak tree gracing one of the shaded roads of Clatsop Memorial Park. Life for Cocky and his friends was about as good as it gets. Of course, they had to be alert for predators. Most natural predators of robins feed on robin eggs and since Cocky and his friends were grown robins, they didn’t have to worry about foxes and bobcats sucking the life out of them even before they hatched. On the other hand they did have to keep an eye out for other enemies like hawks, shrikes, owls, crows and blue jays. But several defense courses offered in Small Bird School taught them how to minimize those dangers.

Colonies of worms living in the park worked the soft ample soil of the tillable acreage throughout the park, and Cocky and his friends, Strut and Swagger, gorged themselves on worms whenever they felt slightest hunger pang.

Older robins breakfasted their fill of worms in the early morning before the dew evaporated or just after sunset, when the ground became cool and moist. Cocky and his buddies were too lazy to get up for sunrise. Most days, well after the sun was up, they fluttered to the ground looking for worms. And most of the time they had no problem eating their fill. It only took a couple of scratches with a vigorous claw to unearth a patch of helpless worms. Then, a quick peck with a beak, a back-away pull, a snap, head back, beak in the air, a gulp and at least half a worm went down the hatch into a waiting gullet to be ground into life sustaining protein.

In addition to a diet of worms, Cocky and friends were able to feast off the bits of chicken – Swagger’s favorite), and other droppings left on the ground and tables by picnicking bigs. The pesky robins took sport in pestering tourists for bigger chunks of food. The three robins learned that screeching worked to elicit tosses of food from tiny bigs, but only annoyed grownups.

To please the older bigs Cocky and his friends worked up a robin dance. For the past three months they had spent an hour a day rehearsing a three-bird hippity-hop dance. The trio formed a line, touched wings and hopped up and down to the distant rhythms sounding in the forest.  Cocky heard one big ask if what they were doing was ‘river dancing.’ Cocky wondered why the big called it river dancing. It didn’t look anything like a river to him.

Lately, they added a hilarious wing fluttering leapfrog acrobatic routine….  Strut led the way running and hopping a few steps toward the park lodge where he abruptly stopped and crouched low. Swagger followed running the twelve steps to Strut, where he leaped into the air sailing over Strut, landing the ground smoothly easing into a feather filled somersault. Swagger remained low waiting for Cocky to dive over Strut, do a somersault… several steps… a dive over Swagger… a somersault and a wait for Strut and Swagger to dive over him. And so the serpentine continued until the nearby bigs were thoroughly entertained. The entertainers learned that other bigs would soon gather to watch the bird show. Of course, the antics of the bird trio caused bigs of all ages to toss generous bits of food in their direction.

Cocky liked the bounty supplied by tourists during the spring, summer and fall, but bigs didn’t come to the park during the rainy winter months. Worms were available year around and he still liked worms best. Yes, worms were his favorite.

Chapter 3

Early one spring morning Cocky Robin awakened before the old robins. Strut and Swagger were still roosting. Later that morning Cocky and his buddies intended to spend some time imitating eagles and Cocky wanted to have plenty of energy.

“If the others see us trying to imitate eagles, they’ll laugh,” Swagger had said yesterday when Strut suggested the idea.

“We can flit over beyond L and C River and do it… that way our friends won’t see us,” Cocky said.

“Good!” Strut said, “I hate it when they laugh at us.”

“You gotta admit… robins pretending to be eagles are funny,” Cocky retorted

That was yesterday. Soon Cocky and his friends would head east to engage in their outlandish imitations. But breakfast first. He stretched his wings and yawned before fluttering to the ground next to a flowerbed. Crawling among the leaves were several delicious looking worms. Cocky hopped into place. The dull worms didn’t seem to be aware of their impending fate. Regardless, it was too late… Peck pull, peck pull, peck pull and they were gone

Hop, hop, hopping between a pair of dahlias, Cocky encountered a small piece of chicken tossed aside by a yesterday’s picnicking big. Cocky was surprised that it was still there. Gangs of birds hoping to feast on dropped food always hover around picnickers and linger for leftovers when the bigs have gone.  Cocky gobbled down an overlooked morsel and strolled on looking for more.

Yesterday’s picnickers had been sloppy leaving behind several Styrofoam cups and a clear plastic plate resting on the ground among the flowers. One of Cocky’s feet caught the edge of the plate. His weight caused the opposite side of the plate spring up hitting him in the beak. The action startled him. He hopped back. The plate fell back to the ground.  For a fraction of a second light reflected off the shinny surface of the plate showing the image of a robin.  Cocky was curious. He hopped to the plate again, but avoided stepping on its edge. Instead, he stuck his neck out over the plate, cocked his head to look at his image reflected off its surface. He could see his reflection but he could also see the ground beneath the plate.

Beneath the plate laid a juicy worm staring helplessly at him… a look of terror in its eyes.

Chapter 4

Winchester found himself crawling along a spacious tunnel just beneath the ground surface in the flowerbed and summer garden Mrs. Grafton planted and tended every year. The dirt felt moist and cool… just right for easy digging and debris feasting. Winchester liked summers. There was just enough rain to keep the ground soft and pliable but not enough to flood the worm’s habitat. Still, the unpredictable, cloudy Oregon skies could open up and douse everything with a sudden downpour. Winchester decided to break through the surface to see what the weather was like.

When he surfaced, he didn’t get a chance to notice the weather. Instead, he came eye to eye with a fat robin standing just above him looking directly down at him. A cold chill shot through his long body. He had exposed himself to certain death. All the robin had to do was extend its neck down a little, grab Winchester in his beak… gulp and it was over. Winchester was sure he’d made a fatal mistake. There wasn’t time to retreat. He closed his eyes and waited for the fatal peck.

Gee Pa’s warning flashed across his mind, “Stay below in early morning is the warning and out of sight when it’s nearly night.

Winchester heard a strange sound… “Click, click, click.” He was surprised that he hadn’t already been picked up and swallowed. He wiggled to get under a nearby clod. He didn’t know how, but maybe he could make it underground and into a tunnel to escape the robin’s beak.

“Click… click… click,” sounded the rapid succession.

Winchester knew he should be wiggling for all he was worth to get deep into the soil but he turned to see why the Robin’s deadly blows hadn’t reached him. It wasn’t for lack of trying that robin’s beak hadn’t hit home. Winchester lay as if hypnotized watching the robin’s strikes. They were aimed right at him, but an inch or so from his head they stopped abruptly, making the click sound. Something invisible was between Winchester and the robin preventing the persistent bird from striking home.

Chapter 5

Cocky Robin renewed his efforts to snare the vulnerable worm beneath him. Each peck hitting the barrier sent a mini-strike through his head. He paused, cocked a frustrated eye for a closer look. Then to himself he said, “Hey what is this? You some kind-of-super worm?” He didn’t expect the shield to say anything… and certainly not the worm… but he heard a tiny voice coming from the worm.

“Why are you trying to eat me?” Winchester asked. He could have used his unexpected safety for time to dig into the ground out of reach of the robin, but the protection gave him a chance to learn something about malicious robins. “I’ve never done anything to you!” Winchester yelled at the top of his tiny lungs.

Cocky looked surprised that the worm could talk. Not only could it talk but also the helpless worm was defiantly looking him in the eye. Cocky raised his head to face the sun and laughed at the absurdity of a worm challenging a robin. “Why do I eat worms… are you kidding?” he asked. “I’ve always eaten worms… like every other robin and I’ll eat you when you let down your guard… What is this anyway?” he asked attempting once more to snatch the wily worm… click, click. Again, the invisible barrier protecting Winchester thwarted him.

Winchester didn’t know why the robin couldn’t reach him either, but he wasn’t going to let the robin know. “You ever hear of a worm helmet?” Winchester asked

“Worm helmet? That’s absurd,” Cocky laughed

“Don’t laugh… it’s like a worm shield… only different… smaller.”

“Worm shield… Get serious,” Cocky scoffed.

“A worm shield can go on a long way… a worm helmet works a little way,” Winchester bluffed gaining courage.

“I never heard of worm shields or worm helmets,” Cocky sneered. “How’d that happen… when’d you get… where’d you get your…” He paused feeling silly. “Worm helmet?” he concluded.

“Grandpa Cyrus made it for me,” Winchester fudged

“Nah!” Cocky responded.

“Yeah, and he’s making more… and he’s making a worm shield. Soon all worms will have a worm helmet or be able to hide behind Gee Pa’s worm shield.”

“Hey, that’s no good, what will we do for food?”

“Did you ever try eating dirt?”

“Eating dirt! You kidding?”

“How about mud pie? Mud pies are a staple for worms… tasty and very nourishing.”

“Mud pie… yuck!”

“Or maybe clod cake… Putrid pudding is my favorite.”

“You’re making me sick.”

“Now that you mention it, you don’t look so well. You feeling alright?”

“I was until I met you this morning… Now my jaw hurts and I feel a bit queasy.”

“It’s you diet! I can tell you that.”

“My diet? What’s wrong with a worm diet?”

“Well it’s not healthy for worms, I can tell you that… so what makes you think it’s healthy for robins?”

“Ha… robins have lived on worms forever.”

“Did you ever stop to think how much healthier robins would be if they became vegetarian? You ever see an eagle?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen eagles… my buddies and I play eagle…” catching himself, added, “… sometimes.”

“I’ll bet that eagles are vegetarians. And look how big and strong eagles get. You’d like to grow as big and strong as an eagle, wouldn’t you?

“What’s vegetarian?

“A vegetarian robin wouldn’t eat carrion or raw meat or worms even.”

“What would we eat?”

“Hey, bigs are always throwing good stuff away. Look, I’ve seen robins eat doughnuts bigs have thrown away. Don’t you like doughnuts?

“Yeah, I like doughnuts… But I can’t stay alive on doughnuts.”

“How about raisins soaked in water? I could help you with that.”

“Raisins? Yeah, I like raisins and they’d have to be soaked in water. You’d do that for me?”

“Worms deal with water all the time. That’s easy.”
“But raisins and doughnuts. I’d get tired of that stuff in a hurry.

“Yeah, I guess… How about suet and suet mixtures…”

“Suet’s good…”

“… Say peanut butter mixtures and peanut hearts?”

“Now you’re talking… add some cut up currents and strawberries…”

“… How about Bing cherries?”

“Being a cherry? Cocky quizzed.

“Yeah, Bings. They’re the best.”

“I don’t want to be a cherry … I just want to eat ‘em.”

Winchester rolled his eyes, “You don’t have to be a cherry… just eat ‘em… that’s all.”

“Oh, yeah,” Cocky said catching on, “you know where strawberries and cherries grow, don’t you? And I’ll want pecan meats, slices of pears and maybe some cottage cheese…”

“Hey, bigs drop or throw away that stuff all the time,” Winchester added happy the big bird seemed to be taking his bait. He hastily added,  “And they’re always dropping pieces of American cheese and cooked spaghetti…”

“It’d have to be plain spaghetti… I don’t like that stuff they put in it.”

“Okay plain spaghetti and white bread and even cornbread. We’ll have you feeling better and looking like an eagle in no time.”

“You really think being a vegetarian will make me grow… like an eagle?”

“It’s worth a try… you got nothing to lose and think about it, if you don’t, you can go back to your diet of worms and maybe even eat me… If you did though, you’d loose a friend…  think about that.”

“Friends…” Cocky said hopping back a step. “I didn’t know worms could think… you’ve given me a lot to think about and a new view of worms… he stepped forward for another look at Winchester. In doing so he stepped on the edge of the plastic plate causing the opposite side to flip up and smack him in the beak.

“Whoe… wait a minute. You throwing your worm helmet at me?” He stepped back again causing the plate to roll away, this time leaving Winchester exposed.

“What’s this?” Cocky said realizing what had happened. “You’re worm helmet’s gone, huh?”

Winchester gulped, “Yeah, I guess it is… but we’re friends now, aren’t we?”

“Some friend. You lied to me.”

“I didn’t lie… I didn’t know what was happening either.”

“But you lied… you lied about robins growing into eagles, didn’t you?”

“I just did a little inventing… you’d have done the same thing, if you were a worm, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah, but I’m not a worm?” Cocky snarled scratching the dirt near Winchester causing a clod to land on the worm’s middle.

The blow knocked the little wind out of Winchester. “Ow!” he managed to cry knowing that any second Corky would snatch him up and gobble him down.  “But I am a just a worm…” he said, “a little worm who wants to be friends with a big robin.”

“I never heard of such a thing…”

“Oh… the robin and the worm-man should be friends,” Winchester sang at the top of his tiny lungs.

“What you talkin’? … a worm singing… come on… that’s nonsense!”

“We been talking like friends haven’t we?”

“I don’t know…”

“Can’t we be friends?”

“I don’t know…” Cocky repeated hopping a couple of steps away from Winchester so he could think. This was all newness for him. He’d never thought of worms other than… well, just being food. Yet, here was a worm, who could talk robin … a worm who seemed to understand him… and still wanted to be his friend. And… can you believe it? … A worm smart enough to figure out a way for them to be friends. Cocky swiveled his head around to see if other robins were watching… or worms for that matter. He felt foolish talking with a worm… but he was and it felt good somehow. “Maybe,” he thought, “Maybe Winchester and I can be friends.” He liked the sound of Winchester. “It’s powerful… a name an eagle might choose for himself.” He eyed Winchester once more almost surprised the small worm hadn’t tried to escape into the ground.  There was no reason why he shouldn’t become a vegetarian robin. He liked all the foods Winchester mentioned. They would sustain him and, who knows, might even help him grow to be as big as an eagle… maybe. “Winchester,” he finally said looking at the worm

“You can call me Chester,” the frightened worm said relieved that he had not yet been gobbled up.

“I’m Cocky,” the changed robin said.

“You may be cocky, but you’re unique. I’ll bet you’re the only robin in Clatsop Memorial Park who’s brave enough to befriend a worm.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Cocky said feeling a little foolish. “If I’m the only one… means you’re still hunted by robins…. Means you better skedaddle… before my buddies show up.”

“Thanks Cocky… means Grandpa Cyrus and all my friends are safe from you, too … that’s right, isn’t it?”

“From me, I guess…

“Cocky… you’re an eagle!” Winchester gushed.

Cocky laughed.

“Well, you are to me,” Winchester flattered.

“Awe,” Cocky said hanging his head, “No one’s ever called me an eagle before.”

“You’re an eagle to me…” Winchester said boldly. He paused. It occurred to him that Cocky would surely soon discover that he would never be an eagle… And when he did there’d be the cost of deception pay. Cocky would likely abandon his vegetarian diet… and… Winchester decided to cover himself… “But you don’t have to be an eagle to be special, you know… You’re special enough as you are… Look at that breast… warm, reddish-orange. Eagles don’t have red-orange breasts… red-orange is friendly…”

Cocky arched his neck to have a look.

“And look at those attractive, gray-black wings… Bet eagles would die to have wings like that,” Winchester oozed.

Cocky gave Winchester a suspicious look.

“And those kind eyes…” Winchester flattered, “Eagles have a fierce stare… frightening.”

“Like this?” Cocky said turning his head and coming close to Winchester.

“Handsome, Cocky Robin. You’re down right handsome the way you are… Cocky Robin… that’s enough.”

“You think?” Cocky said mulling Winchester’s words.

“To me it’s enough!

Cocky strutted in a circle around Winchester. Winchester watched him closely.

Cocky stopped. “I can become a vegetarian… but how about the other robins?” he said. “Worm is all they know?”

“Wow, that’s hard,” Winchester said hanging his head, “One unguarded moment and you’ve lost a friend.”

Cocky tilted his head back and forth eying the little worm. “I’ll try to help you with that,” he said.

“Your authoritarian stance. You’ve got that,” Winchester encouraged.

“Huh? What’s that?” Cocky said giving Winchester a quizzical look.

“Lifting your beak and standing tall like you do sometimes. That’ll bring the other robins around,” Winchester urged.

Cocky stretched his legs and his neck to his full height, “You’re right,” he said, there’s no reason all the robins in Clatsop Memorial Park shouldn’t become vegetarians.

“Good idea… Now you’re talking. You’re not only handsome… you’re smart,”

Winchester enthused.

Cocky looked at his shadow on the ground and hopping a few steps away said, “I’m off to play eagle, now…  when my friends get here. I’ll start working on Swagger and Strut bright and early tomorrow morning.

“The early bird,” Winchester mumbled.

Cocky stopped, “Early bird… hmmmm,” Cocky said, “That has a certain ring to it…. Better not remind me.”

Winchester gulped, “I was just calling attention to your industriousness… that’s all I meant…”

“Better keep those loaded words to yourself,” Cocky responded and added, “Better keep out of sight until I get the others trained.

“Thanks Cocky.”

“Yea, I guess. I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon after I’ve made a food run on the berry patches… you better get underground. My buddies will be here any second.”

“Yeah, thanks … You’re a real friend.”

Chapter 6

During the days that followed, Cocky made vegetarians out of the birds who flocked together in and around Clatsop Memorial Park. And so it was worms and robins of the park became friends. The earthworm population of Clatsop Memorial Park thrived as never before. Winchester organized the worms into work crews… The grateful worms tirelessly tilled the soil under berry plants of all sorts into rich humus. There were clusters of blueberries, strawberries and huckleberries… all the foods necessary for vegetarian robins to thrive without resorting to a diet of earthworms to survive.

And the worms kept Mrs. Grafton’s garden loaded with the finest loam to be found anywhere. In return the stern lady protected her worm population. Like a jealous mother hen she’d shake her stick at any fishermen ready to plunge a sharp shovel into the rich soil looking for earthworms. She’d say, “Don’t you dare!” and that was it.

Among Winchester’s worm and robin friends the consensus was that Cocky seemed to be looking more and more like an eagle everyday

“Look at those thighs,” Swagger said, “like Rusty Eagle’s… wouldn’t you say?”

Cocky dismissed the idea saying that being a robin was enough.

Winchester was a worm hero at Clatsop Memorial Park… even to those who’d never before thought beyond devouring the next clod or being devoured.

Gee Pa Cyrus Worm summed it up, “Thanks to you Winchester, worms are finally getting some respect.”

Morris Pike © 

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