…..heck, you know the rest.
And rest assured, my Mama, she ain’t nowheres NEAR happy! I been layin’ low since nigh on breakfast yesterday. That there’s when Daddy, him and Grandpap, ‘long with Linc and Lawrence, the big boys, they headed off to the ol’ Smoot place, down in the bottoms, hour ‘way as the crow flies.
An’ why they deigned not to be takin’ me, Liam Goodwell, third son and fifth chil’ of the Denton County Goodwells, and durned best mushroom hunter this side o’ God’s own heaven, why I’ll never know. I can fair sniff them delectables out half mile ‘way, I can. Them brothers o’mine, why, they ain’t got the sense the good God give ’em when it comes to mushroom huntin’. They be right now stompin’ ’round in they big ol’ boots, smooshin’ and smashin’ greens and growths what could be hidin’ the most succulent, delicious treat known to man!
Oh, they think they know. Oh, they be sure of it. But durned if my gleenin’s ain’t always near double theirs. They do consider themselves blessed I willingly share once we get back to the house with our lip-smackin’ treasures.
And true, ain’t nobody I’d rather have rustle up these heaven-sent prizes than my Mama. Now, ain’t possible to spoil a mess of them delights, but when they done right, it’s right spiritual. ‘Specially when my Mama, she makes ’em. All slathered in cornmeal, salted and peppered and fried crispy brown and golden, blackened a bit in the insides, poppin’ in fresh o’l in Mama’s biggest cast iron skillet. Takes a big ol’ mess to feed a family big as us Goodwells, but my Mama, she’ll stand hummin’ at that ol’ skillet till they all be fried and crisped to perfection. I note she always saves the extra done ones, fairly burnt black, off to the side, slippin’ her a taste ever’ now an’ a’gin. Cain’t blame her none. Them morels is hard to resist.
Law, my insides be turnin’ summersaults and the memory of that mouthwaterin’ woodsy flavor is leavin’ me faint. I can smell ’em cookin’ and taste ’em as I sit here, itchin’.
These here tidbits o’ de-vine deliciousness I be pinin’ fer? Why, they be wild morels, fer ain’t nothin’ in the worl’ like ’em, and I be roiled with certainty they be the food angels will be servin’ when I pass through them pearly gates! Finger length perforated and pleated, they resemble little white Christmas trees some, clusters o’ sprouts what pop up in the most unexpected wooded places come springtime. Lookin’ like mini-a-ture done eat corn cobs with little stumps what keeps mice and such dry durin’ spring rains, these rapturous morsels, they blind me fer near an’thin’ else what’s set before me on the dinner table. They only come on ‘couple weeks o’the year, and some years, law, they don’t show ‘t’all. Ain’t no rhyme nor reason. No cultivatin’ nor plantin’ nor plannin’. Pop up ‘hind that stand o’ trees yonder this year? No sign the next. But go look down to the river, by them mossy rocks, and they they be, playin’ hide ‘n seek with those of us who has mouths a waterin’ for a personal pile o’ golden fresh mushrooms sizzlin’ and teasin’ on tonight’s plate.
Gotta step careful, light. Keep your eyes peeled and your nose to the wind. And, ‘course, know the diff’rence ‘tween good ones and bad. That there’s where brothers Linc and Lawrence, they fail. They got they heads in the clouds half the time, be it rodeo (that’d be Lincoln) or runnin’ off to do some soldierin’ an’ be a he-ro (that’d be Lawrence). Either path you choose, they be steppin’ all over my mushrooms and I’m near fit to be tied.
An’ this year, why, all I kin do is set and wait ‘fer them all to darken the door. An’ watch Mama fussin’ and flusterin’ at the stove, back stiff with exasperation and displeasure.
For my Mama, she loves her her mushrooms near on as much as me. And that them fellers left me behind, why, she’s beside herse’f, fearin’ (an’ rightly so, by my thinkin’) they’ll come back empty handed.
‘Course, they woulda taken me, (me and Mama, we venture they shoulda!), had not Doc Allen been by the house ‘couple days ago, examinin’ me, stem to stern. Mama coulda tol’ him, law, I my ownself coulda tol’ him, but after his checkin’ and proddin’ and pokin, he pronounced, to no one’s surprise, “Liam, son, you got yerself a fine case of the Chicken Pops. Best you stay out the sun, best you stay inside and he’p yer Mama fer the next week or so. Don’t want nobody else a gittin’ what you got.”
Well, for ’bout a minute and a half, that forced re-laxation sounded plumb like a va-cation. Till I thought o’ how Miss Meadow down to the school would fluster herself gettin’ work home fer me to complete, how the horses out to the pasture would whinny and neigh, as I can fair speak their language, how I am the durned last of the Goodwells to suffer this malaise and would gleen the laughs and torment I bestowed on all my brothers and sisters whist they was spotted and runny.
So yesterdee at the breakfast table, when Grandpap ‘nnounced Raymond down to the Feed and Seed, he seen fer himself a mess growin’ out to his back forty, we all set right up.
“We goin’, Grandpap?! We goin’?!” I sang out, joyous.
Grandpap turned his clear as the sky blue eyes to mine, blinkin’ only once.
“We goin’, Liam, but boy, you shore ain’t. Not with them specks you got. Doc said sunshine might make you blind.”
Don’t mind. Don’t care.
“But Grandpap!” I began, stunned. Felt Mama step behind my chair, hands on my shoulders, “Now Daddy,” she begun, but Grandpap, he held up a firm hand, bade us both be silent.
“Won’t have it, won’t have none of it. Liam, ” he looked me dead on, “Son, we’ll miss you, boy, but it’s ’bout time somebody else in this clan learn to sniff out them ‘shrooms.”
And with that, it was done. Linc and Lawrence, they gathered they kit fer an overnight, and stomped out to the back porch, screen door slammin’ ‘hind.
And so, I got me the Chicken Pops, and covered in oozin’ speckles and itchy like a house a’far, I ain’t s’posed to see the light ‘o day, ‘ccordin’ to Doc Allen. So here I set, me and Mama, hopin’ and prayin’, but fair knowin’ we”re likely bound to be waitin’ till nex’ Spring.
That be be yesterdee. This be today. And me and Mama, we ain’t neither of us happy.
I am a’itchin’ in more ways’n one, I tell you what.