A bountiful wild mushroom crop

There has been a burst of late-summer-fall mushrooms in the West Country. Recently I found a prime specimen of the delicious aspen bolete, or “red cap,” last year designated Alberta’s “official mushroom,” and, not a metre away, a budding red-capped look-alike, amanita muscaria, probably Alberta’s deadliest mushroom.

Alberta’s official mushroom

Alberta’s official mushroom

There has been a burst of late-summer-fall mushrooms in the West Country.

Recently I found a prime specimen of the delicious aspen bolete, or “red cap,” last year designated Alberta’s “official mushroom,” and, not a metre away, a budding red-capped look-alike, amanita muscaria, probably Alberta’s deadliest mushroom.

That reminded me of the major reason I have always contended that hunting and eating wild mushrooms is the most dangerous of the outdoors recreations.

There was a time a few years ago when I saw a cougar entering my favourite morel patch, fortunately stopping me from going in there and presenting myself as a deer by bending over, even crawling to peer and pick. But that danger was an anomaly compared with the usual risk of the wild mushroom pot hunter committing involuntary fungicide.

In Italy, August thunderstorms and hot weather have resulted in a vintage wild mushroom crop and, apparently, the blooming of new hazard for hunters of wild fungi.

Reuters reports from Milan that at least 18 mushroom hunters have been killed recently, most from sliding off steep, damp slopes in Italy’s northern mountains, not surprising really, since Reuters reports the deceased were wearing camouflage and hunting in the dark.

The news agency does not explain why they were doing that but, knowing our own native wild mushroom hunters, and having taken a short course several years ago from Tuscan truffle hunters, I suspect the deceased Italians were either trespassing on private land, or trying to keep their favourite spots secret from other mushroomers, perhaps both.

Hard words have been posted on the Advocate website for my recent column and editor Rick Zemanek’s Darts comments on the hazardous habits of Red Deer River tubers and rafters. The theme of many seems to be that Rick and I have forgotten what it is to be young, that we should quit our whining and instead concentrate on educating these (young) people. Fortunately, as invariably happens when people can give their views anonymously, the “fers” and “agins” soon started scrapping among themselves.

Well, I can’t speak for Rick, but the older I get, the more I remember about the joys of my youth, back in the good old days when parents and other elders actually knew something worth passing on, and did, about how to do worthwhile, enjoyable things, how to behave and how to be safe and survive.

I am astounded that today’s youth seem to squander their abundant electronic tools mostly on playing games or “texting” and chatting. On the subject of Alberta rivers and tubing-rafting-paddling them, Mr. Google, if you know how to ask, can provide more answers and education than I can on how to be safe and enjoy the river, on distances between safe public launch-landing sites and the hazards in between, how to behave toward other users of the river, the environment and riverside landowners.

The website of Paddle Alberta, www.paddlealberta.org, is a goldmine of information, including their excellent pamphlet A Guide to Paddling Safety in Alberta, which can be printed on-line. They also still have for sale a few of the excellent Paddler’s Guide maps, by Clayton Roth including my favourite on the middle Red Deer River, and also the newer Mark’s Guide For Alberta Paddlers by Mark Lund, a copy of which I have seen at the bookstore of Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

Whining? The only whining here is about being lost, cold, wet, and hungry constantly being heard by riverside landowners from unprepared tubers who wash up on their shores and too often strewing and spewing onto their lawns disgusting substances from most bodily orifices.

Then there is that dull moan inside the heads of most Canadians as, yet again, self-serving debate drones on about a bill to end the long gun registry. Mine got worse with the recent arrival from the RCMP of the notice and the forms with the standard outrageous, intrusive questions, to renew my firearms possession licence. Gun control was sold to us as independent. Are we becoming a police state?

Yet I’ll happily go on licensing myself as a gun possessor, because I believe that process does some good. I’ll not have to pay a fee for that, but along with all taxpayers I’ll pay for a billion dollar long gun registry boondoggle that has yet done nothing to protect public safety.

As usual, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, at their recent annual convention, voted to recommend preservation of the registry, citing umpty-thousand times it is consulted per day. But the chiefs do not tell us that every routine traffic stop generates an automatic “hit” on the registry, nor do they mention the multi-thousands of dollars contributed to CACP annually by businesses that make mega bucks running the long gun registry.

Then there are the politicians who, contemplating the coming of yet another inconclusive election, feed off and foment misinformation based on whatever they think their audience wants to hear . . . Is dull that moan inside this head of mine getting louder?

Bob Scammell is an award-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.

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