By Larry Dablemont
Special to The Globe
Last year on the first weekend of May, it was so hot you couldn’t stand to hunt turkeys in a long sleeved shirt. Must have been 90 degrees or more.
This year on the first weekend of May, it snows almost three inches up here on Lightnin’ Ridge. It melted quickly, and there’s mud and water everywhere, but before it left us, I got some unusual photos of mushrooms sticking up out of the snow here at my place, and bright orange orioles feeding at a snow-encrusted feeder. I also photographed dogwoods and redbuds with snow on the blossoms. You can see a half dozen or so of those photos on my website, given at the end of this column.
Two days before the snow came, I took Gloria Jean over to Truman Lake to look for mushrooms and fish. But after an hour of searching old dependable places, we only had about 10 small morels. Then on the way back to the boat, beneath a huge sycamore across a swollen creek, I saw a big orange morel.
We crossed the flowing rivulet to get it, and there were about 30 of those huge orange morels sticking up out of the leaf litter. One of them was unlike anything I have ever seen. The flattened top was sticking out from underneath a rock the size of a small loaf of bread. I picked the rock and the mushroom stalk was back several inches under that rock, so far it could never have seen any light. The tip of the mushroom had grown out from beneath it. It seemed to be a mushroom trying to escape imprisonment.
Later that day, while going up a small creek looking for white bass, I found a dozen or so very small grey mushrooms growing out of a sand bar. There was nothing there but sand, and the mushrooms themselves were so full of sand I couldn’t get them clean.
When we fried them, we could feel the grit of the sand in the mushroom. The mushrooms were good, but I don’t much care for sand in my teeth, the first time that ever happened. My friend Rich Abdoler found about 50 mushrooms that day in a ridge-top cedar glade, without a tree anywhere near but cedars.
People ask me for tips on where to find mushrooms, and I can’t give them any about where they grow, because they grow anywhere and everywhere. You just have to get out and walk and walk and walk, and look and look and look.
The trouble with our society today is few people can — or will — walk that much. People expect to find them close to roads, and easy. Sometimes you do, but I’ll bet I walk 20 miles every spring in order to find mushrooms… and another 20 hunting wild turkeys.
Rich and I found a swarm of white bass up that little creek with no name, and caught a limit one evening in only an hour or so, on top-water Rapala minnows. I would rather fish them than the jigs most people use. You jerk the lure under a couple of feet and then let it float a little. That day whites were clobbering it, but 90 percent were males. I caught a 19-inch female white that day that I thought might be a hybrid at first, it was so big. Rich and I took our wives back there the next day and Gloria Jean caught a limit of whites again, though not as easily as we had the day before.
Behind us was a big sycamore with a pair of nesting eagles, and you could see the head of one fledgling sticking up over the edge of the nest. That day, along the creek I found a perfect three-inch long arrowhead, white on one side and grey on the other. As we eased back down the creek via trolling motor, a beaver swam along beside the boat, for several hundred yards, heading back to the lake with us. There was a muskrat playing along one bank, and the male eagle sat in a nearby tree at sunset, actually singing to us. Eagles do more than scream, they trill and tweet and sing at times, with a really unusual song. Maybe he was happy to see spring come, or maybe he was just happy to see us leave. The creek was full of black buffalo and yellow suckers, which I will go back and try to catch with grab hooks this week.
Unfortunately, there were also carp and gar, which I wish we could get rid of entirely. The suckers were good-sized, bigger than the ones I once grabbed from the Big Piney when I was a kid. Both black buffalo and suckers are great eating if you know how to “score” them, and grabbing suckers is an old sport that goes back 200 years in the Ozarks.
The snow and cold came the next day, and I am sure that the white bass spawn was put on hold. White bass are running late this year and that run should go on for a while. Crappies are also spawning late, and I would wager that Ozark waters are colder at this date in May than they have been for ages.
Because of the wetness and the snow, morel mushrooms that came up a week or more ago are still going to be there, fairly fresh. I am not figuring there will be more of them coming up in the next week, but there will be old ones to be found, still great to eat. On Sunday afternoon, I found six in the woods behind my house. I’ll bet they hatched in late April.
Celebration in Cabool
If you have nothing to do this weekend, come to Cabool, Mo., for a celebration of “Outdoors in the Ozarks”.
I will be there with my old wooden johnboat, working on a sassafras paddle, giving away my Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Magazine, and selling and signing my books. With the johnboat, we set up a display of photos and items used by old rivermen a hundred or more years ago.
There’s a lot more there than my displays however, all kinds of outdoor vendors selling things, and an archery range for anyone who wants to try their hand at shooting a bow. I understand that nearby there will be a display of antique tractors. Guess I ought to bring my old tractor lawn mower, which must be one of the first ones ever made.
If you have an old antique farm tractor, you should call the Cabool Chamber of Commerce about bringing it. Remember that this outdoor festival will run from 9 to 6 on Friday and from 9 to 4 on Saturday. I am speaking to whoever is there to listen at noon Saturday, at which time I will tell everything I know about the outdoors. That talk may not last long!
I hope some of you folks listen in to my outdoor radio program on Sunday mornings on KWTO (560 AM) from 8:06 to 9. You can also listen on your computer by going to radiospringfield.com. or newstalk560.com It is a call-in program, and we would like to hear your opinions or comments.