Danny Henley: Finding an unexpected treasure

Danny Henley is a columnist for the Courier-Post.
Posted: Apr. 17, 2017 12:44 pm

When it comes to finding food-related posts on Facebook that make me chuckle I frequently turn to those put up by Jeff Frame.

Among my recent favorites are:

•I mainly eat whole foods – whole blocks of chocolate, whole pizzas, whole cakes, whole tubs of ice cream.

• How do I like my eggs? Um … in a cake.

• I hate when I'm trying to eat a salad and it accidentally falls in the trash and then I have to eat pizza instead.

Recently his Facebook post made me not so much laugh as stop and smile: Morels … the adult Easter egg hunt.

Mushrooms are the incredible, edible springtime treat for those willing to invest the time and effort necessary to find them.

Many a time in springs past it was not uncommon to have someone come in the Courier-Post wanting their picture taken with a particularly large, or oddly-shaped mushroom.

But while happy to have their photo taken with their prize for all the world to see, or at least that portion of it served by the Courier-Post, their pleasant demeanor would immediately fade with one simple inquiry: Where did you find it?

Serious mushroomers would take a round of waterboarding rather than give up the location of their find, knowing full well that if mushrooms were there this spring there is a good chance they'll pop up there next spring as well.

Give up the location of a fertile mushroom patch of land? You'd stand a better chance of being given access to their 401K.

The thought of mushroom hunting conjures up memories of spring days long ago when my father and mother would drag me along on such outings. Typically I'd pick up far more ticks than morels on those excursions into the woods. In fact, the only mushrooms I would ever find were the ones my mom or dad had already spotted and called me over to "find."

I wouldn't begin to guess when I was last on an honest to goodness mushroom hunting excursion. Without a doubt it was long before I had a driver's license or a girlfriend.

One of the big challenges that faces the casual mushroomer is where to go hunting? Unlike some people, I'm inclined to pay attention to signs such as "Private Property," "Keep Out" and "No Trespassing."

I've thought about looking in places like Riverview Park and the Sodalis Nature Preserve, but haven't followed through, assuming that more hardcore fungi hunters had regularly been scouring those hillsides since the last bit of snow disappeared and the thermometer topped 55.

That is why what happened to me last Saturday is so amazing. On the homestretch of a walk/photo excursion that had started in downtown Hannibal, I was on the descent of Crescent Drive, between where Country Club Drive ends and Crescent intersects with Virginia Street.

Because of traffic I had vacated the street and was instead walking on grass. It was as I shuffled along that I spied something I never expected to see, especially in that spot, a morel standing out in the open.

I plucked the little fellow, already dried out by the gusty breeze, and immediately began searching for any of his friends. Before I resumed my trek home I found four more, all standing out in the open, as opposed to hiding in nearby leaves or at the foot of trees.

Cradled in my right hand I carried my unexpected treasure home. And while my haul was nowhere as large as what many mushroomers typically find, it didn't matter. I'm sure my folks were somewhere smiling because their son had finally found some mushrooms on his own.


The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Courier-Post.

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