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Losing my mind over brain-shaped mushrooms

May 07, 2002|BY TIM ROWLAND

Every year about this time, people around here go wild searching the woods looking for wild mushrooms, an urge I've been able to resist basically because I have trouble even finding my car keys.

These morel (which, they say, "look like a brain") mushrooms that ostensibly grow in this region are apparently what foam rubber is to seat cushions. They are so delectable, so tantalizing to the pallet that one bite would send a person off to culinary heaven.

All the mushroom hunters would make you think they are easier to find than lies on Dick Cheney, and they say that all you have to do is go to Clear Spring and then turn right, and then turn left and then turn right and then turn left and then turn right and left at approximately the same time and then look for an unmarked piece of ground.

These directions are very helpful, unless you are actually trying to find something, in which case they are no good whatsoever. As specificity goes, this would have been like telling the crew of the Titanic to, "head west, watch for ice."

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So this year I tried to find these mushrooms, heaven knows I tried. We took our cerebrally stunted dog Jake out along some Perfectly Legal property and commenced to find us an appetizer, which of course, we didn't. Here are the things we found:

1. Briers.

2. Poison.

3. Mud.

Here are the things that we did not find:

1. Mushrooms.

2. Jake. Yes, never mind that there were five of us heavily scented humans in the woods. Jake could not locate any of us even though, given all the greenbriers, you could have climbed atop all of our profanity and seen all the way to Baltimore.

We started calling Jake, but in truth we may as well have been calling the mushrooms, expecting them to come bounding up into our laps. We found him eventually, but it was only by accident, since he'd become caught in some brush and couldn't move around on his own.

It was then I started to notice something about this Perfectly Legal ground we were hunting upon. But before I expand on that, can I just take a moment to tell you what a wonderful job our fine park officials do in this great nation of ours? I say we should all tip our hats to these fine men and women in hopes that they will continue to provide outstanding service and will not put a trace on us.

So anyhoo, the thing that bothered me about this Perfectly Legal hunting ground, was this: You apparently find these mushrooms under dead trees, and so help me, every last dead tree on this Perfectly Legal ground had a path beaten to it that resembled the Santa Monica Expressway.

It really bothered me. You know how it is about laws. They're OK when they apply to other people, but for yourself you're more judicious.

So I tried a few more times. A friend gave me directions, which were good, but mildly so. He said, "Look for the place where there used to be an apple orchard," and then head for the Private Property, No Trespassing sign. But, I protested, they don't want trespassers.

No, he replied, that sign was put up by mushroom hunters trying to keep other people away. And so it goes. You're not only fighting nature, you're fighting other human beings.

At this point I gave up. There may indeed be such a thing as wild mushrooms out there, but you couldn't prove it by me. They may look like brains, but if I had any, I never would have started looking in the first place.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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