Searching for mushrooms took knowing the right place

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The sunrise moments ago brought sunshine flooding over our farm, a promise of a beautiful day ahead. It looks like this will be a perfect day for mushroom hunting.

Spring brings lightness not only for us but sets in motion new life in the woods and along the creeks. Every wild bloom is a reminder of gifts we are given without any effort on our part and seems worthy of celebration.

When finding my first mushroom as a little kid, after long days of disappointment in the hunt while others filled paper sacks of them, I still recall the thrill of it. I remember my sisters telling me to look verrrry closely under an old oak tree on the edge of the woods.

Weeds everywhere

The weeds we called maypoles had shot up everywhere, and we had been told they often suggested the possibility of wild sponge mushrooms hiding beneath. I realize now that my big sisters had very likely already spotted the bounty and were sweetly leading me right to them, holding back and letting me be the one to claim the discovery.

(And boy, I did. I claimed it the rest of the day!)

After we all jumped into the bounty, it soon proved that our little paper sacks were going to fall short in claiming the find from that morning’s hunt.

I was chosen to run as fast as I could back to the house and bring something much bigger to the maypole garden under that mighty oak.

I remember returning with a couple of pillow cases.

We enjoyed a feast for a couple of days — a buttery, salty, crispy feast that made everyone gluttonously happy. The amazement of it all made me question how in the world those mushrooms got there — we had hunted under that tree just the day before and found absolutely nothing.

As the daughter of a farmer who loved to plant corn, I questioned who had planted those mushrooms and the maypoles that led us to them, hiding deep in green cover. I was confused by all these magical sprites in our world — the Easter bunny had just brought us candy, the Tooth Fairy had just left me a nickel for my first lost tooth, and Santa Claus had visited months earlier.

Kept searching

There was apparently another great magical creature who lived in the woods that no one had thought to mention. In the days after our big discovery, we kept hunting that same amazing woods that sat behind our house.

I remember that we found a few more tasty mushrooms that spring, but nothing compared to the day of the feast. My husband tells a similar story, searching through various woods with his brothers and cousins, their dads leading the way, and landing an enormous batch of mushrooms.

His mom’s sister, sweet Aunt Loie, one of the best cooks in all the land, fried up the delicacy in butter and the boys dug in with the hearty appetite of the hunter. Not sure he would like them, he was encouraged to give them a try.

He ate till his belly hurt, which he says didn’t take very many. He still enjoyed hunting them after that day but never again had the hankering for the taste. Some things are meant to be enjoyed in small doses, and finding only what we can handle is sometimes a gift we are not quite bright enough to appreciate.

This is the lesson taught by the mushroom. Maybe there is a magical creation behind this after all.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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