The Rustic Authorities On "Mushrooms"

And what a self-complacent, patronizing, solicitous character this rustic mushroom oracle is! Go where you will in the rural districts and you are sure of him, or perhaps her - usually a conspicuous figure in the neighborhood, the village blacksmith, perhaps, or the simpler "Old Aunt Huldy." Their father and "granther" before them "knew how to tell a mushroom," and this enviable knowledge has been their particular inheritance.

How well we more special students of the fungus know him! and how he wins our tender regard with his keen solicitude for our well-being! We meet him everywhere in our travels, and always with the same old story! We emerge from the wood, perhaps, with our basket brimful of our particular fungus tidbits, topped off with specimens of red Russula and Boletus, and chance to pass him on the road or in the meadow. He scans the basket curiously as he passes us. He has perhaps heard rumors afloat that "there's a city chap in town who is tempting Providence with his foolin' with tudstools;" and with genuine solicitude and superior condescension and awe, all betrayed in his countenance, he must needs pause in his walk to relieve his mind in our behalf. I recall one characteristic episode, of which the above is the prelude.

"Ye ain't a-goin' to eat them, air ye?" he asks, anxiously, by way of introduction.

"I am, most certainly," I respond; "that is, if I can get my good farmer's wife to cook them without corning them and inundating them in lemon-juice."

"Waal, then, I'll say good-bye to ye," he responds, with emphasis. "Why, don't ye know them's tudstools, 'n' they'll kill ye as sartin as pizen? I wonder they ain't fetched ye afore this. You never larned tew tell mushrooms. My father et 'em all his life, and so hev I, 'n' I know 'em. Come up into my garden yender 'n' I'll show ye haow to tell the reel mushroom. There's a lot of 'em thar in the hot-bed naow. Come along. I'll give ye a mess on 'em if ye'll only throw them pizen things away."

"And how do you know that those in your garden are real mushrooms?" I inquire.

"Why, they ain't anything like them o' yourn. They're pink and black underneath, and peel up from the edge."

"How many kinds of mushrooms are there, do you suppose?" I ask.

"They's only the one kind; all the others is tudstools and pizen. It's easy to tell the reel mushroom. Come up and I'll show ye. Don't eat them things, I beg on ye! I vaow they'll kill ye!"

At this point he catches a glimpse of a Shaggy-mane mushroom, which comes to light as I tenderly fondle the specimens, and which is evidently recognized as an acquaintance.

Rustic Discrimination

"What!" he exclaims, in pale alarm. "Ye ain't goin' t' eat them too?"

"Oh yes I am, this very evening," I respond. "I think I'll try them first."

"Why, man, yure crazy! You don't know nothin' about 'em. I'd as soon think o' eatin' pizen outright. Them's what we call black-slime tud-stools. They come up out o' manure. I've seen my muck-heap in my barnyard covered with the nasty things time 'n' ag'in. They look nice 'n' white naow, but they rot into the onsiteliest black mess ve ever see. I know wut I'm sayin'. Ye can't tell me nothin' 'baout them tudstools! They keep comin' up along my barn-fence all thro' the fall - bushels of em."

"Well, my good friend, it's a great pity, then, that you have not learned something about toadstools as well as mushrooms, for you might have saved many a butcher's bill, and may in the future if you will only take my word that this much-abused specimen is as truly a mushroom as your pink-gilled peeler, and to my mind far more delicious."

"What! Do you mean to tell me thet you have reely eaten' em?"

"Yes, indeed; often. Why, just look at its clean, shaggy cap, its creamy white or pink gills underneath; take a sniff of its pleasant aroma; and here! just taste a little piece - it's as sweet as a nut!" I conclude, offering him the white morsel.

"Not much! I'll make my will first, thank'ee! You let me see ye eat a mess of 'em, and if the coroner don't get ye, p'r'aps I'll try on't."