I will remember Saturday, June 1, 2019 for the rest of my life. And hopefully the lesson learned will have similar meaning to you as it did to me. Ok…story time.
Last year I took a week long course on cultivating (growing) mushrooms in a lab and outdoors. It finished with a mushroom foray into the forests of Oregon, and resulted in finding Morels. Antonella and I were hooked. They’re delicious, sell for $30-40 PER POUND, and are notoriously difficult to find. They only come out once a year, just after Mother’s Day, and only stick around for about a month (and you better find them before someone else does!!). You’ll mainly find them in burn areas, but they’re masters at blending into their environment, and no one wants to share their secret morel spots with anyone else.
Last year, I found a grant total of less than 10, in 3 different locations, after spending several days searching.
So I prepared myself for 2019, did the research, knew where I wanted to go, and had the timing all prepared (well, Mother Nature decides when they pop up, but I was as prepared as possible).
Then I got a job!! Yay! Stable income! Except I started the same month that Morels make their appearance 😭😭😭 We went on a short day expedition, but came up empty handed.
Well, this past weekend Antonella taught a portion of a 300hr TT in Yakima, and I had it on good information that you could still find Morels since the season was a tad bit late this year. So I set off deep into the wilderness of the cascade foothills on Saturday morning, excited for the possibilities.
After hours of searching and coming up short (I did find a patch of crispy morels, burnt from the heat of the sun. It was 90+ degrees outside…), I decided to just drive super high into the mountains and go on an adventure. Eventually I found a good spot to pull over and eat lunch (still with Morels on my mind). After wandering around, I found one!! And then another, and then another! I was giddy, basically doing a little dance every time I found one. In total I found 5 that were in pristine condition, and left the other dried out ones.
I kept searching in other places throughout the day, but never found another goldmine. I had found my prizes tho, and I was content, so I decided to call it a day. It was more than I had ever found in one place, and I still had the next day to locate another spot.
As I was driving down the rugged forest service mountain roads, I saw a truck pulled over on the side of the road, with a very obvious flat tire. I had no place to be, so I pulled over and asked if he needed a bit of help.
“Do you know where the damn tools are?” he grumbled, cigarette in mouth. He was in his 60s or 70s, with his small-midsize dog in the passenger seat (who i later found out was named Gunnar). He was what I might consider a stereotypical older gentleman from Yakima – a bit crotchety, wary of outsiders and city slickers, and generally speaks very little. Luckily, his truck is essentially the exact same vehicle as mine (2018 Chevy Silverado vs my 2011 GMC Sierra), and I knew right where the tools were. So I helped him jacked the truck up and replace the tire, from start to finish. Now, keep in mind, there was absolutely zero cell service, so it’s not like he could’ve just looked it up on YouTube. But luckily I had changed the trailer brake system on my truck via YouTube last year, so I knew where all the secret things were hiding!
Sometime along the process, he asked if I was out hunting mushrooms. Told him yeah, but that I was still new to it, and I’m not from around here. He didn’t respond.
Eventually we completed the process, and he shook my dirty hand with his, and thanked me for the help. Then, with an almost passing remark, he asked if I wanted any mushrooms as payment. “Oh yeah? What you got?” I asked. “A few pounds” he replied. 😮 What?! He then proceeded to pull out two mesh bags packed FULL of Morels. BIG ASS MORELS. Fresh picked, stunning specimens.
Stunned, we walked over to my truck to grab my bag. He let out a hearty, guttural smokers laugh when he saw I only had 5 🤣😭. He then proceeded to dumb BOTH of his bags into mine. I told him I didn’t need them ALL but he said the Morels upset his stomach anyway, and it’s the thrill of the hunt that he loves (despite admitting that he loves how they taste even if they make him “cling to the toilet all night”).
Side note: he plucked one mushroom off the top and goes “except this one” and smirks as he plops it on the rim of my truck bed. “Ooooh, a bolete!” I exclaimed. His smile spread across his entire face as he realized despite being an amateur, I knew my shit.
So we chatted for a bit amount various mushrooms, exchanged stories of hunting for chanterelles and hedgehogs, and truffles, etc. We joked about me being young and still having time to master the art of morel hunting. At the end of it all, we simultaneously realized we didn’t know each others names, and went to ask at the same moment “and your name is?”. He beat me to the punch, hand extended, so I shook it and replied with my name. He smiled again, gripping my hand with the firm grip of a man who has lived through a lot: “Steve. I really appreciate the help. Now make sure and share those”.
As I walked off and got into my truck, I couldn’t help but shake my head. And as I drove off, I felt this huge wave of emotion sweep over me. I had gone out to hunt mushrooms, and I had been successful. Not wildly, but enough to be content. Then suddenly I found myself face to face with THE mushroom hunter (I picture the main protagonist from Trollhunter 🤣). The guy who spent years and years perfecting his craft. I had somehow hunted the hunter! All because I decided to be a Good Samaritan and help a fellow traveler. And the universe rewarded me with a bounty unlike anything I could have ever gathered myself. I drove away with multiple pounds of the treasure I was looking for, plus a heart bursting with love and energy.
The next day I made morel tacos for my wife, and that night (last night) we cooked up the majority of them and had a family dinner with my children and my parents. I regaled them with the story, and it made for a wonderful evening with family, shared over a decadently delicious mushroom that only fruits once a year, and under very specific conditions that are essentially impossible to recreate.
So to you, Steve, thanks for giving me a story that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Hopefully one day we cross paths again!
And to those of you that have read this short story (aka Facebook novel): remember that the smallest good deed can create a tsunami of good in the world. You all have the potential to make a difference in the world, even if it’s just to bring a smile to someone’s face for a passing moment. The world is full of amazing individuals, despite the chaos and hatred our feeds are spammed with. What can you do to help someone else out today? For no reason than just to help!! Because who knows, maybe some day you’ll end up helping an older version of yourself, from an alternate timeline, and they end up teaching you one of the most valuable lessons of your life. I know that’s a bit “woo-woo”, but i felt like Steve was me, in 40 years, living away from the hustle & bustle and chaos of city life, out hunting mushrooms in the forest. Some “Matrix” level shit. Because there’s levels to this life, and the more you can help others level up, the more you’ll level up too.
Now go be a good person today. Your future self depends on it 😉