As I was leaving campus I saw an earthworm crossing the sidewalk. I usually rescue worms that are obviously alive and in danger but tonight I did not. It was a big one, with a lot of energy, cruising along pretty fast. It was already more than halfway across, and I was the only one on the sidewalk. I considered encouraging it to move more directly toward the edge–it was moving at an angle–but it might curl up and stop moving if I messed with it and I figured it only needed a minute to make it across at it’s current trajectory. And if I went to the effort of squatting, I might as well just move it to safety, but I didn’t see any little sticks handy to move it with and those guys can be hard to pick up with the fingers… Anyway, I didn’t intervene. Though it might not  sound like it, this took just a few seconds.

I was about five feet past the worm when two young women, deep in a conversation about not overdressing for a party they were planning to attend, crossed the street and walked past me, towards the worm. I considered saying something like “Look out for the worm,” but I did not. It felt awkward when I thought of saying it. I thought “What are the chances that one of them will step on the worm anyway?” I did turn around to see, though, and one of the young women stepped right on the worm. I went back and checked. Maybe there had been a stick nearby. No. The worm’s guts were all hanging out and half of it was writhing around. It looked pretty painful. Now I took the time to find a stick and move it to the side. Sometimes worms can survive this kind of thing, right? It didn’t look survivable.

This morning, as I was walking to the bus stop, I saw a family of ducks trying to cross the road. The traffic at that spot on Franklin Boulevard, right before it crosses the Willamette River, is  heavy. It’s the main drag into Springfield from Eugene and the I-5. Prospects were not good for these ducks. It was a mother and seven or eight tiny, fluffy, cute ducklings. I love baby ducks. They are about my favorite animal. They were already off the curb, committed. What could I do? I stopped traffic and herded them across. It took a while, but the motorists seemed supportive. One old hippy  gave me a thumbs-up. When they were across and the traffic started to whiz by again, I realized that the ducks were still screwed. The mother hopped up the curb to the bank, but the babies couldn’t make it. They aren’t very good jumpers. So I decided to help them out again. When they saw me walking towards them, though, they ran away, directly onto the storm grate. It turns out that baby ducks are the perfect size to fit through a storm grate. Immediately, several of them are caught in the grate and I rush over and start pulling them out and setting them on the curb as fast as I can but one of them falls through. It was only about four feet down, but I couldn’t reach through the grate and I couldn’t lift the grate up. It was either locked somehow or super heavy. That little duckling was so pathetic down there, peeping and swimming around in the muck. It was distressing. The mother was already heading down the hill with the others trailing behind.

A homeless woman panhandling on the next corner asked if I’d stopped traffic for those ducks. She seemed to approve. She seemed nice. I wondered later if she’d been thinking something like, “Wow, a guy who helps ducks. Surely he’ll give me a buck.” I did not give her any money.

I called the Springfield Public Works Department and left a message about the duckling and a couple hours later got a message back: “Hi Nathen, this is Linda at the SPWD. We did send over our first truck driver and he checked all of the catch basins, east and westbound, north and south side, at the bridge, and we did not find a duck, but the water is moving pretty fast through there, so either it got swept away or it safely got out. We did not find a duck. Thanks for the call.”

I was a little suspicious, because the water in the drain had hardly been moving at all, and there seemed to be little tunnels down there that the duckling could swim through, so they wouldn’t necessarily have seen it. So, on my way home, I listened at the grate, but no peeping.

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