"Let's go up to the woods and pick morels," said
Mamma as she put on her sunbonnet, picked up a basket and closed the
kitchen door. Naomi and I ran around to the summer kitchen to get the
pokes we made the previous day by tying red and white handkerchiefs to
the ends of willow sticks. Swinging them over our shoulders, we pretended
to be hobos, as we followed Mamma down the lane. Our little puppy ran
along behind us. Papa was in the pump house washing the milk pails.
"Hope you find a nice mess of morels for supper," he shouted, as he
On this balmy spring morning I am reminded of that
trip to the woods with Mamma. The first hot, muggy day of May, 1910
brought on a sudden, short, thunderstorm, followed by a warm shower.
The sun was still partly hidden by scattered clouds; the air was humid;
sound carried for miles, and we heard the neighbors dog barking in the
distance. On such a day a hushed silence fell overall, and you felt the
world was standing still.
After climbing over the stone fence, we cut
cross-lots through the cow pasture where our herd of cows were grazing.
Our little puppy nipped at their heels, and, much to our amusement,
scattered them in all directions.
Coming to the creek, Mamma gathered her skirts
and carefully stepped from stone to stone, crossing to the opposite
bank where she sat down to rest. Before hopping across the creek on
the mossy rocks, Naomi and I looked into the little pools of water
for schools of shimmering minnows. The pollywogs, still a dull shade
of brown, would soon be changing into green frogs. Tiny tadpoles darted
around among them like arrows.
With the ends of our sticks we poked under the
driftwood to dislodge a sluggish crawfish. Catching one by his rib
cage, we watched his dancing feet as he struggled for freedom. Sometimes
one would manage to wriggle arounnd and retaliate by nipping us with
his scissor-like claws.
Mamma pointed to the meadow saying, "look girlies,
there's a patch of cowslips, lets pick some." We raced to the spot
and picked a few of the golden blossoms while she picked a supply of
the tender crown leaves to cook as greens for supper.
By the time we reached the edge of the woods the
sky was clear and the sun high overhead. We flattened our bodies close
to the ground and crept under the barb-wire fence strung to keep the
cows out of the woods. Mamma knelt close to the ground and Naomi and
I lifted the lower wire to enable her to creep through. On entering
the woods we were greeted by an indescernible aroma, greeting us and
inviting us to venture on. It was a combination of decaying
logs, blossoming trees, and the smell of sun warmed earth. We breathed
deeply of the good "woodsy smell," as we called it, and our clothing
and hair were soon permeated with the pleasant odor.
Mamma had a double purpose in bringing us to the
woods. Her great love of nature prompted her to teach us the names of
trees, flowers and birds. That day we were looking for the rare and
delicious morels, members of the edible nushroom family. The moist, hot
days of early May provided ideal growing conditions for morels. Thr
rapid-growing fleshy fungi, resembling a sponge, popped up among the
roots of trees, growing primarily around white oak and elm trees, or
around two year old stumps, and at times came up almost anywhere.
We were taught to recognize the bark and leaves of
trees around which morels grew and we learned that a dead branch overhead
indicated a dying root underground, a place where morels grew.
Naomi and I looked high and low in our search,
stooping and bending. Sometimes we would peer under the lacy parasols
of the lovely May Apple, or lift the heart shaped leaves of the
ginger-root, or peek behind Jack's pulpit.
My sister had excellent eyesight and more patience
than I did and found ten or more morels. As she placed them inside
her poke she counted out loud to provoke me. That was only a challenge,
and I, eager to over-do or match her gleanings, raced over to find Mamma in the
hope of picking part of a patch she found.
"Where is Mamma? We've lost her," screamed Naomi.
Thoroughly frightened, we clutched hands and ran around the woods
looking behind trees and bushes. The forest seemed like a jungle closing
in on us, and we sobbed loudly as we searched. Turning back we found
her only a short distance away. She was sitting in the middle of a
large patch of morels growing around an old stump. "Look girlies, see
what I've found."she exclaimed, unaware of the fact that we were
momentarily lost. "Fill your pokes, but pick the morels carefully,"
she cautioned as she pinched off the tender fungi and filling her basket
to the top. What a discovery!
"I hear Papa calling the cows up for milking,"
said Mamma. "It must be getting late." Eager to show Papa our morels
and our somewhat wilted bouquets of wild flowers, we started for home,
taking the short-cut through the meadow.
That night Naomi and I were tucked into bed,
weary but happy, for we had experienced a day filled with enduring
memories. I clearly remember that wonderful day. It truly was an
"Eclipeses Of The Heart"
Copyright © 2000 Bruce DeBoer
Used with permission of the composer