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Inside the Chrome Dome (archive May 2007)

Please refer to the Inside the Chrome Dome main page for columns published in other issues.




 MIA Shrooms

It would be a disservice to our readers if I didn’t thoroughly investigate the phenomenon surrounding this year’s Central Indiana mushroom season, or lack thereof.

This is, after all, a sports-related weekly column. Mushroom hunting is also a sport, in the eyes of those who participate.

I’ve hunted for mushrooms about five times in my life. On one trip, I actually found some, although I needed a lot of help. That was about 10 years ago and I trekked through the woods with longtime friend Bryan Rose, who was going to teach me the ropes.

I remember thinking momentarily that the new shoes I was wearing were the most comfortable I’d ever had. It felt like I was walking on pillows.

Bryan had practically filled his plastic bag with the morsels before I spotted my very first one. “It’s under your foot,” he said.

Sure enough, I was standing on a mushroom, which explained why I couldn’t see it, not to mention why the shoes felt so good.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard several friends complain about the sparse supply of mushrooms in the area this year. Some said this was the worst year ever for avid hunters. Investigating, I discovered that you really can’t believe anything a mushroom hunter says because they will never tell you the truth for fear of revealing their best locations.

Duane Estelle, known affectionately by many people as “Hoghead”, once told me he was hunting mushrooms with three other people in northern Indiana and the group became lost in the woods. They survived for two days by eating on one huge mushroom he had found.

When it comes to mushroom hunters, there are always more tall tales than truths. But one fact is without doubt: There is no cure for mushroom poisoning. If you eat the wrong one and have a bad reaction, you will either live or die. Either way, you are going to regret eating it.

According to some area experts, traditionally, the best time of year for mushroom hunting in this area is Mother’s Day weekend, which occurred over two weeks ago.

It appears the window has been closed and the mushrooms are now being found in Michigan. As does happen occasionally, some of us missed out on the season here because of the freaky weather we’ve had this spring.

According the local mushroom hunters I spoke with, the warm stretch in April, followed by a lot of rain, should have made for terrific conditions for spring mushrooms.

Then the weather changed when that late April cold front moved in and just ruined the fun for everyone. Some mushroom hunters have told me they still hold out hope that the “Big Yellers,” whatever those are, can still be found, and a couple claim to have bagged some recently. Others say that’s just not true and the season has long passed us by.

Investigating further, my son Richard and I went to a double-secret, favorite fishing spot Sunday afternoon in Big Blue River west of Carthage and just north of the Fifth Street Bridge. While I kept Richard detracted by allowing him to catch all of the fish, I inspected the riverbanks for signs of mushrooms.

I surmised that if mushrooms had been in the area this spring, there would be telltale signs, such as tracks, droppings, temporary housing or mushroom litter. I found no such indications. However, my investigative journalism instincts did lead me to some abnormally deep prints that appeared to have been made by a really big cat wearing hoof attachments on his feet to leave the impression he was a deer.

Do big cats have feet?

After conducting extensive research on the topic, interviewing countless devout mushroom hunters, and then playing a game of rock-hammer-scissors with my two-year-old granddaughter Allison, I came to the conclusion that the mushroom season is over in this part of the state, and that cold spell in early May was the culprit.

I’ve also concluded, for the purpose of historical records, that this may very well have been the worst year ever for mushroom hunting in this part of the state.

I challenge anyone who feels differently to prove it by cleaning, breading and cooking those morsels, then promptly delivering them to me at The Banner office for further inspection.

I’ll be happy to run a correction.




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