It is mushroom time in the Ozarks. Just last night my daughter found six up here on Lightnin’ Ridge. The best of the mushroom hunting will be between April 14 and April 20 in the northern Ozarks and a week earlier in the south Ozarks. On the first of April they were finding a good number in north Arkansas.
Southern Iowa woodlands will have good mushroom hunting in early May, and when I am in Canada in early June, I figure I will find at least a dozen or so along the lake where I fish. Those Canadian morels are monstrous. They average twice the size of the ones I will find in the next week or so. But the Canadian bush country where I fish is so thick that you can’t get out there and walk a mile or so looking for them. You have to look along lakeshore timber.
I am not going to try to sell mushroom seeds as I have in the past. Too many people complained that they didn’t get enough seeds for a dollar. The thing is, mushroom seeds are tiny, and if you put 500 or so in an envelope, it may seem like only a few.
I always told the folks who bought them to go out in the woods where they have found wild mushrooms before and scatter a few pinches here and there and within a couple or three years, maybe four or five, or six…there will be mushrooms growing… and maybe some lettuce and carrots.
I can’t help it if no one has any patience and can’t follow directions anymore. So I am phasing out my mushroom seed business and since I only have a few envelopes left I am going to reduce the price of each envelope filled with hundreds of seeds, to fifty cents, plus shipping and handling, which comes to five dollars.
Mushroom seeds must be sown from late March, to mid-April and it is best to cover them with dead leaves so they won’t be eaten by ground weasels and hickory rats. Don’t harvest small mushrooms, give them a couple of days or so to grow taller.
Well, I have come up with a great idea. But you will have to act upon it before school is out. Years back my first wife, Gloria Jean, was involved in teaching young boys who were having trouble learning to read. She said they just didn’t have an interest in what the school had for them to read. So she took a book I had written about 10 or 12 years ago and gave it to some of them to try. It was a book of outdoor short stories, mostly about boys, entitled, “Dogs, Ducks and Hatrack Bucks”. She said it changed the way they looked at reading, wanting to read the stories to conclusion and understand each.
It came to me, as parents began to tell me how much one of their boys had enjoyed the book, that I might oughta make it easy for kids to get it, so I am going to make copies available free of charge, to boys and girls who want it. It is best suited for kids from 9 or 10 years old to 13 or 14 years old, maybe even older.
If you are interested in getting a copy, notify your school or school library and give them this column. I will bring them a number of books to give away to kids who want it. It is too expensive to just mail one book at a time, but I can send several to a school without a great deal of postage.
In grade school, I remember being able to buy books through a publication they gave kids called, “The Weekly Reader”. The books were only a quarter or so, but my parents were poor and couldn’t buy many for me. So I started selling mushroom seeds to raise enough quarters so I could buy those books, and I remember how much brighter the sun would shine for me when one of those little books arrived in school. Those books did something to me as a kid that is hard to put in words.
Mrs. Frost, my first and third grade teacher, actually put together a little booklet of my poems with a blue cover, which I have today, since my mom saved it. Then in the fourth grade I wrote a book entitled, “The Adventures of Chippy the Chipmunk”. I have that, too, stored away in stuff Mom saved. I read it once and won’t do so again. Nor will anyone ever read it. Chippy was a real ne’er do well.
As I got to the sixth and seventh my teachers would have class writing assignments where we all hand-wrote stories on Big Chief tablets. The teachers would always pick a couple of the best stories to read to the class, and I would go to school with great anticipation on those days hoping that they would read my stories. They never did. I remember that the stories they selected were really boring and mostly by girls who made good grades. There were none you could sell to Sports Afield or Outdoor Life, where great literature was published in the 1960’s.
I remember one teacher reading something Nolan Don Akins wrote called “Our Family Shangri la”. Me and Virgil Postlewaite and Butch McNew had no idea what a ‘Shangri la’ even was. I knew Nolan Don would never make a writer. He had to settle for becoming a United Airlines pilot. What a disappointment that must have been, flying all over the world while I was floating the Piney trapping muskrats and catching black perch.
In the eighth grade I tried so hard to write something the teacher would read in class. I spent hours working on the story of a female bird-dog who fell in love with a big lobo coyote, and their life together until he was shot through the guts by a cattleman and she was so broken hearted she drowned herself in the river and all her pups starved to death in a dark cave. I was sent to the principal’s office for that one. The teacher didn’t like my graphic portrayal of woodland reproductive acts, and you were not allowed to use the word ‘bitch’ back then in describing a female dog. In the eighth grade, entrails are not referred to as ‘guts’ either.
My writing career nearly ended back then. I never ever wrote a story or essay in grade school, high school or college that was read in class. Life isn’t fair. But I think I sensed that when I wrote about the life of Chippy the Chipmunk, long, long ago. Nothing ever went right for him neither.
If you have and interest in receiving my magazine or reading any of the nine books I published, or want to get that book for a youngster just call my first wife, Gloria Jean, at 417/777-5227. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.