April 10, 2012

On Mushroom Hunting and Gary Gnu

My daddy hunted mushrooms every Spring and put them in a pillowcase. He went out first thing in the morning, looking for morel mushrooms. 
He'd bring home these lumpy, bumpy, knarly looking fugal caps that were sometimes more than 6" long. Mom would wash them up in the sink first and then out came the dredge of milk, flour and seasoning. Then she'd fry them and people... oh Lord, the people that came. People would come in droves to swim in our pool and eat fried mushrooms and fried green tomatoes. It was like a community fish fry except with fungus. Sometimes frog legs were included, though I refused to ever even try them (too much in love with Kermit). 
The chief of police - my Uncle Harry - and his brother, my uncle Billy. Their whole family and that means like, 20 people.  
The mayor and his wife, Sandy.
Two or three deputies (dad was a deputy, too, you see), sometimes dropping in for a bite when they were still on duty.
The town banker.
And always my mother would cook. She took care of the lot of them, standing in the kitchen with her boufant blonde hair and polyester pants. It was the 80's you know. She was recently recovered from a radical mastectomy, radiation, and chemo at this time, too.
And then there would be Uncle Harry sitting on the last black stool at the kitchen counter. He hankered down on pickled pig's feet with such fervor that the juices would shout themselves onto our yellow flocked wallpaper. Ick. Damn, those pig's feet were disgusting. 
Once dark and tired of kids screaming, the men would retire to the dining room table to play a raucous game of pinochle with sunburns on their faces, and the ladies went to the den for Skip Bo. 
There usually weren't many children. Perhaps cousins Jessica and Johanna, but that's it. Usually it was just me, the only child with two kitty cats. I'd hover between the very loud and booming group of men in one room and the cackling group of hens in the den. I liked watching the ladies because they were so complimentary of one another and shared stories, always checking in to see how mom was recovering and how they could help. But I also enjoyed listening to the guys because they were loud and animated because they always cheated. All in good fun of course, but I clearly remember times when my dad would STAND at the table and slap his hand down. Oh boy. He meant business then. Makes me smile now.
On a completely unrelated note, my dad also turned on The Great Space Coaster on weekend mornings and would shout from the other room when Gary Gnu was reading the news. 
And nothing made him laugh - great big ole' belly laugh - harder than Prince John in Disney's Robin Hood, when Hiss the snake was talking in his little brown lion ear. His slithery, forked tongue would tickle and the lion would willie out with crossed eyes. Dad ROARED with laughter every time. Every single time.
So there you are: a walk down memory lane, complete with morel mushrooms, the chief of police, and Gary Gnu.

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