Created September 28 for Short Shots
Mushrooms On the Trail by Apondia
“Beam hurry. I want to be on the trail by 9. If we are quick today I can be back in time to go to the library.” The 12 year old dragged into the kitchen.
Mom looked up from rummaging in a kitchen drawer. "Nope! You can't wear shorts to the woods. Go change and be quick."
Beam turned back up the stairs, taking them 2 at a time..
“Wear your heavy jeans, the brown walking shoes, bring down the flat bottomed basket from the sewing room, and wear a long sleeved shirt,” Mom’s voice followed Beam the stairs.
After she changed Beam found the array of sewing baskets. They all had flat bottoms. “Which one?” she shrieked down the stairs. “
"The square one with the red stripe on the handle it will be easy to handle and the mushrooms will stack neatly in the bottom.” Mom's reply sounded hollow as it flowed up the stairs.
The young girl bounced down the stairs holding the basket. Marla came out of the laundry room carrying two small trowels often used in the garden and another smaller flat bottomed basket. Setting the two baskets on the yellow marble counter she put a clean trowel in the bottom of each basket. She also added a roll of waxed paper, plain white paper cards and scotch tape to the basket. “ OK, I think we are ready. “ Put the baskets into the rack on the back of the 4 wheeler.” Mom instructed as she fastened a small pack around her waist. She packed writing pens, her cell phone, and two trail bars into the waist pack.
“Can I drive?” beam was already mounted in the drivers seat of the 4-wheeler.
“ Sure, just let me fasten down these baskets with the rubber tarp straps.” Mom was tieing down the baskets with straps.
Beam started the engine. Now the outing was looking more like fun. Beam loved to drive the 4-wheeler into the woods on outings. There were trails mowed all through the woods where wild animals grazed. She knew that wild animals preferred to graze on mowed trails or in the hay fields after the first crop of hay had been taken off, because the new growth was more tender than tall grass before it was mown.
Rabbits and grouse were more easily seen on the trails, than in the deep brush of some areas. The smaller wildlife hid, in the stands of wild blackberry, golden rod and other brushy vegetation.
Mom knew a lot about the ways to identify wild Mushrooms. She knew the way the caps ,scales, gills, pores, and other parts looked on different varieties. She often made spore prints on the cards she carried to be sure of identifying the mushrooms properly. She also knew where to find the varieties she used to cook.
Beam thought of the mushroom growing areas as gardens, in the woods. They were not real gardens, like a plant garden, Because mushrooms do not use photosynthesis or grow like plants. So, they are not plants. Mushrooms need to disperse the spores in order to reproduce. They can’t get up and run around like animals, so mushrooms are not animals. They have a way of absorbing food to live. Not being able to eat, also sets them apart from animals. Mushrooms have their own kingdom on the earth.
When they reached the part of a trail where the mushrooms would be found Mom taped her daughter on the shoulder signaling her to park the vehicle.
While Beam was lost in thought meandering along the trail, mom had stopped to harvest mushrooms. She was using the trowel to slice the stems. Next, she wrapped each individual mushroom in waxed paper and layed it in her baskets. Soon, both baskets had a layer of mushrooms across the bottom. Mom was ready to leave. She looked around but Beam was not in sight. Calling loudly, “Beam I’m ready to leave now.” No answer. Leaving the baskets mom walked around the next bend of the trail. She did not see her daughter anywhere. I wish she would not wander off, Most of the time when Beam was with her she stayed pretty close but there had been times when Beam would wander further onto the trail and Marla would have to round her up.
“Beam where are you?” Mom walked further along the trail and around the next bend.
The trails had a lot of bends in them because the mower took a path that curved around heavy tree growth. Mom knew that there was a platform built high in a tree about 500 yards further so she started hiking toward it blowing a whistle at intervals as she walked.
Mom heard an answering whistle. She hurried around the next bend in the trail. There was the platform 20 feet off the ground. It had been built to circle the entire trunk of the tree. A trap door was built into the platform so it could be closed and opened from the top. If a person was on the platform, which had a metal railing and a chain link fence, they could close the trapdoor and then would be able to walk the entire circle of the tree without falling. The ladder was solid metal 10 feet down from the floor of the platform but the lower 10 feet was made of chain with metal bars for steps.
Sure enough, Beam stood on the platform looking down at her. Mom was agitated now. Beam was not suppose to climb to the platform without an adult around.
Mom approached with a loud yell pointing at her daughter, “what are you doing up there it’s time to go home!”
“Mom there’s a bear,” returned Beam. “No bear games Beam I mean it get down now.”
“Mom,” Beam began to shriek, she was pointing behind Marla, jumping up and down. “Hurry, Hurry,” shrieked Beam.
She spun around to look up the trail, where there was a junction. At first she did not see any thing, then around the bend ambled a hairy figure. It was black and about the size of a large dog only fatter and woollier. Mom wasted no time. She ran to the base of the tree and quickly climbed the ladder.
Beam opened the trap door so Mom could climb onto the platform. Mom closed the door. Mom hugged Beam close to her and they both stepped back with their backs to the tree. “Be quiet."
The Young bruin snuffled around the base of the tree. It stood on it’s hind feet and leaned up against the tree trunk. Then it shuffled to the ladder. Like an acrobat, the bear hung onto the chain ladder. It climbed up a ways. and put one hind foot on the ground pushing to make the chain part of the ladder swing back and forth with its weight. losing interest in the game, it rollicked in the grass at the base of the tree, throwing a small object off the ground into the air. As it hit the ground he would bound after it rolling it along with his nose. After some time, passed the bear sat down raising his snout and sniffing high at the air.
Mom and Beam had quietly slid around to the side of the tree where the bear could not see them. Then, as they peaked back around the tree they watched it shuffle away in the direction from which it had appeared. Mom got out her phone but she was not able to get a signal.
“Mom, mom, it’s coming back whispered Beam. What if it can climb the tree?”
Mom pointed at the trap door “Open the door and just hold it. I’m going to loosen the top of the ladder and drop it down so it can’t use the ladder to climb on.”
The ladder dropping on the ground attracted the bear. It shuffled over to investigate. Then it snuffled the ladder and looked up. So, Mom and Beam slid around the back of the tree where the bear would not be able to see them and stood very still. Mom was hoping there was not enough odor from them for the bear to become attracted to their smell.
Soon, it seemed to lose interest. It began a shuffling waltz back down the trail. This time it went down the north trail. Walking down the part of the trail where mom had been collecting mushrooms.
They waited several hours. The afternoon light was changing as the day wore on. But, the bear did not return.
The view was pretty good from up in the tree. Marla could see the junctions of the trail that wound across the woods, above the north trail where the bear had disappeared. Marla thought she saw someone on the south part of the trail but they disappeared from sight.
“ Mom how are we going to get down now the ladder is gone?” asked Beam. Mom, pulled a couple trail bars out of her waist pack and handed one to Beam.
“ I’m not sure what to do now. The Bear went down the trail toward the 4 wheeler. Our phones don’t work. So, I guess we better stay put for awhile.”
Another hour went by, Beam asked, “Have you ever seen a bear here before Mom?”
“No sweet, I never have.” They sat quietly for another hour. Beam was beginning to fidget and wished the ladder was not on the ground. She was thirsty too.
Then Mom heard a whistle like the one Dad always used on hunting day. Mom and Beam both began to blow their whistles. Dad came down the trail. He was carrying one of the baskets of Mushrooms and a rope was strung over his shoulder.
“Hey,” he chuckled. “ what are you two doing up there?”
“ Help us get down and I’ll tell you,” She was not in a mood to think there was anything funny about the afternoon spent on the platform.
Dad, threw one end of the rope up and attached the other end to the ladder. After mom hauled the ladder up and rehung it on the ladder fasteners. She motioned beam down the ladder where her Dad stood waiting to help her down. Mom climbed down next.
“I brought your basket up from the trail,” said Dad. “ We can go back now and pick up the 4 wheeler.”
“ What about the bear,” asked Beam.
“What Bear? inquired Dad.
“Where is my other basket of Mushrooms?” There were only empty pieces of waxed paper in the bottom of the basket. "What happened to the mushrooms I put in here?"
“There was only one basket on the trail, I found this basket just the way it is?"
After they returned home Mon and Beam told the story about their afternoon. Dad was still grinning but he did not say much. As they were cleaning up the kitchen, after dinner, someone knocked on the back door.
When mom answered the door a tall man with brown hair wearing tan slacks and a brown t-shirt was standing there. . “
Hi, I just brought back your basket. I guess snuffles thought it was a good way to bring his snack back to the car."
Mom starred at him. “ Snuffles? Who is snuffles?"
Dad, came to the door. “ Hi Mark. Did you get him back?”
“ Yes. but he had a basket at the car and he was eating mushrooms out of it so I brought the basket back. I'm sorry he ate your mushrooms."
Beam peered at the little blue car sitting in the barnyard. There was a small black bear sitting in the back seat wearing a safety harness that attached the bear to the seat.
“Thanks Mark,” Mark waved, got into his car and drove away.
“ Mark asked if he could take his bear for a walk in the woods today, I didn’t know you girls were going back there so I let him. Then snuffles wandered off. It took Mark awhile to locate him. Mark noticed you were up in the tree so he called me.”
Dad kept laughing while mom was smacking him with a newspaper.
Beam was talking to one of her friends on the phone telling about her adventure.