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Thursday, May 2, 2013

WARNING: A Story with a Morel

Artist's rendition of Buzz & Lorri
It's the first week of May. Here in Southern Iowa, that means many things. But one thing in particular has me concerned enough to forgo my usual blog about writing, and instead issue this public service announcement. If my words can save just one life, then all of this will have been worth while.

Innocent? I beg to differ.
In Southern Iowa, and much of the Midwest, this time of year also represents the morel mushroom season. Thousands of people flood the countryside usually left only to farmers, (hillbillies such as myself), and the occasional lost (and drunk) Missourian. City people come to wander the woods and roadside ditches in search of morel mushrooms.

City Folk
Unaware of the dangers that lurk in these hills and cornfields, "city folk" load up their families and actually drive them right into the danger zone. Whether they're looking for trouble (or mushrooms) or not, odds are they're going to find it in the Iowa countryside.

"Be vewy quiet. I'm hunting mushwooms."
They arrive in Southern Iowa hunting for mushrooms. Many of them simply return home tired and empty handed. They're the lucky ones.

They had no idea that a morel mushroom is stealthy like a ninja, and are masters of the art of deception.

"I've got to hold perfectly still. Their vision is based on movement."
They are masters of all the ancient arts and can disappear in their environment, hiding themselves beneath leaves or under a single blade of grass. One moment you'll see them. The next moment, they're gone.

"City folk! Run!"
When cornered and fighting to defend their lives and their families, the morel can become vicious, dangerous, even predatory. Countless stories have emerged through the years of people who didn't know the dangers of the woods wandering out to look for morels...and never coming back.

R.I.P. Larry, Darryl and Darryl
In the 1990's, Russell, Iowa natives, and brothers, Larry, Darryl, and Darryl, all set out looking for mushrooms together. Even with their knowledge of the woods, they were attacked, killed, dismembered, and presumably consumed by a family of morels. Despite an intense police search effort attempting to serve federal warrants on the brothers for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine, their bodies were never even found.

"Stay in the city."
But the morels aren't the only dangers that lurk in these seemingly innocuous hills and woods. There are wild animals here. Lots of them. Some of them (like bats) can be scary too, and might even be considered dangerous (if you're like me and are terrified by what amounts to winged piranhas).

"Beware, city folk! There are millions of us waiting for you!"
In 2005, retired couple, Mr. & Mrs. Biggacity, left their home in the suburbs of Des Moines and ventured into the Southern Iowa hills to look for morel mushrooms. It was there that they wandered upon a den of angry, bloodthirsty garter snakes. According to the coroner's report, both of them died of heart attacks, having been allegedly scared to death...

Mr. & Mrs. Biggacity
...they were only 98 years old, and left behind a family of forty-three grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren. Please, I urge you. If you live in the city, DO NOT let this happen to you.

Mmmm. Fresh. Flavorful. Safe.
Some people have accused me of attempting to discourage city dwellers from eating morel mushrooms. Nothing could be further from the truth. I encourage everyone to eat them. For city folk, they can be found in abundance this time of year at your local grocer for a mere $20 to $30 per pound. A small price to pay for your safety.

Likewise, knowledgeable country people often bring their morels into the city for your convenience and to help keep your family safe and in the suburbs where they belong.

You will find these roadside mushroom vendors to be both courteous and professional. While you're purchasing your mushrooms, try not to make eye contact and DO NOT, under any circumstances buy any of Ned's "special mushrooms." Also, if asked, you probably don't want to see the "critter" they have in the back of their truck. Leave the kids in the car and let the experience be another reminder of why you don't want to venture into the country. 

We here in Southern Iowa would like to thank all you city folk for taking the time to read this public service message. And to remind you that due to the cold winter this year, all of our fish and wildlife have inexplicably died. So, please, stay in the city. There's nothing to see or do here at all. Really.

Thanks for reading!



  1. I really like this sentiment. Ha!

    1. Thank you, Danelle. I only hope that we keep people safe out there this year. Thanks for reading!

  2. Lol! They're just like clockwork, those 'shroom hunters. Every year, packs of people stalking the woods, milling and wandering about the brush with bags in hand. Always know what time of year it is when I start seeing them. Of course, to look outside today we seem to have made some sort of time jump back to winter...or ahead to next winter.

    1. 2013. It will always be remembered as the shortest summer on record. Brrr. I sure hope not!

      Thanks for reading! Stay warm!


  3. Oh the agony! How can you torment me so? I love, love, love morel mushrooms. My granddad and I used to go hunting them in the woods by our little house. (I used play in those woods keeping an ear peeled and an eye open for the creepy man with the scar face who lived on the other side). He never appeared when my grandpa was along so we were free to focus our attention on the gems hidden beneath musty brown leaves. Each trip we'd get a brown grocery bag (do they even have those anymore) full. Grandma shook em in a bag of flour, fried em up and I ate plate fulls over the next few days---pushing aside the green veggies. I don't think there are morels in the snow-peaked mountains of Colorado nor along the sandy beaches of the Caribbean...I doubt there are even any in the deep jungles of Belize (if so, I'm not spending time searching under rain forest growth with Tommy Goffs crawling along the jungle floor or jaguars peering at me between leaves as I gather food). But, oh I do miss a good mess of fried morels even after all these 30 years since my last one.

    1. Yeah, well...some of us get to live exotic lives on the beautiful beaches of exotic, tropical foreign lands where the sun always shines and there is never to be seen a flake of snow. And some of us get to eat mushrooms after a six month long winter.

      They do still have the paper sacks in some stores, but we almost always use bread wrappers these days. The days of easily filling huge paper sacks are long gone, remnants of the dutch elm disease that swept through the Midwest decades ago and killed off 90% of the elm trees, causing an explosion in the mushroom population beginning in 1960 or so and lasting until the early 1970's (they love to grow around dead elm trees).

      Isn't it a fine thing to remember though? More mushrooms than you could eat, and finding them with the old folks? It's very Midwestern...like quail hunting for me here in Southern Iowa was too. Thanks for sharing that Carmen!

      Thanks for reading!