Mushroom Hunting This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   My favorite activity is mushroom hunting. It may seem strange that I hunt mushrooms, when one would think that one picks or gathers them. The mushrooms in the woods of New Hampshire are tricky and elusive, they do not want to be found and picked. The mushrooms that I pick grow on trees. They know when I am out there driving by so they go to the other side of the tree, so I cannot see them.

This semi-Italian (I am 100 percent Italian) New England tradition started with my father's father and has now been passed on to me. My grandfather loves mushrooms, and he used to hunt them in Italy, before he came to America. When he migrated here and settled in Massachusetts, a state in which every poor immigrant should live, he found mushroom growing on trees that were like the ones he found in Italy.

So the saga began. We hunt them in New Hampshire in the fall only because Massachusetts mushrooms are too expensive, plus the scenery in New Hampshire is better.

I still remember the first time I went mushroom hunting. I was only seven. My father had told me the night before that we would be going mushroom hunting. He still uses that expression. I could not sleep all night. It may seem strange to lose sleep over some fungus that grows on trees, but to me it was a ritual that made me a man. By the way I still cannot sleep the night before I go. I was going hunting even if it was only for mushrooms.

We woke up at four in the morning and drove to New Hampshire, my grandfather, my father and I, all in an old 1965 Mustang, which is now mine. My father would tell me how the mushrooms hid themselves and why I had to be alert and quick so as to grab them before they ran away. I still find his caveat necessary today; he was not lying.

On a typical hunting expedition we will first go to a small truck stop restaurant and order piles of hash browns and eggs. I always order hot chocolate with whipped cream to drink. I will still be drinking hot chocolate when I take my son up there, and he will probably order coffee. After we gorge ourselves, we psyche ourselves up. Imagine three grown men chanting, "Mushroom, mushroom!" We drive around and look for mushrooms all day and find maybe a handful. They are out there, the problem is that we are getting sloppy. After another morning of humiliation we stop for lunch by a river. I usually fall in because I like to hop across the river on the rocks. Last time I fell in up to my waist. I have been given the name "Old Wet Foot." Afterwards we head for home, empty handed but in good spirits. After all, we spent a day mushroom hunting.

That is why, even now, I still get excited when October comes and the leaves turn. I smell foliage and mushrooms waiting to be caught, and I am 17. Call this immature, but I cannot make it through the fall without going mushroom hunting, or fungi hunting as I call it. If I did not go, I might have a breakdown and mumble mushrooms until the fall came again. We are not always successful in catching them, but we do have a good time trying. National Fungi Day is more important and exciting to me than Christmas. I think I am a little crazy. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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