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My morel buddy

May 14, 2017
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

It seems like I say this every spring, "As soon as we get some warm days the mushrooms are going to pop." Then I get out into the woods and the ground seems dry. "I wish we would get some more moisture, then the mushrooms are going to pop." We get some moisture and I get back out into the woods only to find myself saying, "We need some warm temperatures now, then the mushrooms will pop."

Sadly, by that time the calendar has traveled too far into May and I am left only with hopes that next spring will be better. I had decided I wasn't going to let the mushroom season pass me by without a good effort this year.

I have a helper that lives only a few miles away. His name is Tate and he likes to go with Grandpa anywhere. So, when the conditions felt right we scheduled a mushroom hunt. Armed with our trusty bags and walking sticks, we ventured out to the nearby woods for morels.

Article Photos

The author's morel hunting partner with his May apple umbrella.
Photo by Kevin Williams

There were several good-lucking, dead elm trees there. At each one, we searched the forest floor surrounding the tree and we came away from each one with zero morels! At the end of the hunt, I had nothing in my bag. Tate, however, had many things in his. There are all sorts of other forms of fungus growing in the woods right now so he brought multiple examples of each back with him. He found more empty woodland snail shells than I care to count. Rocks are inviting sack fillers, as are feathers, leaves and flowers. At the end of that hunt he could identify bed straw, poison ivy, stinging nettle, May apples, blood root and deer poop.

The next week Tate would get out of school early. The perfect time to get out and go on hunt number two. Surely we would find a bucketful of morels then. After a hurried after school snack, we headed out to a new woods. Again, armed with our walking sticks and bags, we were off in eager anticipation.

This time, Tate's walking stick was different. My stick has a morel mushroom carved in the top and an old man's face carved into the side. Before our trip, I had carved an old man's face in the side of Tate's stick. Surely the newly carved stick would bring us luck.

The first half of our hunt was as exciting as that of the other day. Not one morel. Tate had an ever expanding bag of nature treasures including many mushrooms, just not the eating kind he would remind me.

Then success! I called Tate over to what had to be the one hundredth tree we had searched. I had first inspected the area around the morel making sure it was free of poison ivy or stinging nettle. He spied the object and quickly picked it. He dubbed me the "morel finder" and himself the "morel picker."

After the second and third morels, he asked if we could switch sticks. Awhile on down the trail, he asked me if this would someday be his walking stick. I told him sure if he wanted it. "When?" he fired back. "When Grandpa is too old to mushroom hunt I suppose," I answered.

We didn't need to find a single additional morel for the day after that. My day was made right then.

I really didn't think we were going to find another one. By that time, his dad had called and it was time to head home because Mom was fixing supper. As we headed up the hill toward the car, I looked at an inviting dead elm ahead. "We just have to check out this mighty good-lucking tree, Tate." As we neared the tree, I saw them first. Maybe twenty scattered around in the grass. "Oh, Tate, this looks like our tree." I had fulfilled my "morel finder" job. Tate took over the picking.

Morel hunting is a lot more fun with a special friend.



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