Archive for the ‘Let me tell you my story’ Category


Hydroslide ‘kneeboard’

When we were growing up my dad bought a small boat and a low frills pair of water skis.  The boat proved to be not quite powerful enough to lift you up for slalom skiing, and both my brother and myself found regular water skiing a tad mundane.  So my brother went out and picked up a ‘hydroslide’ – one of the first knee boards available (or at least here in the midwest).

We’d used it quite a bit that summer and had a lot of fun, but along came winter.  My brother managed to chase down an old Massey Furgeson snowmobile and dropped a bigger engine in it. (it even required cutting away part of the frame to get the exhaust manifold to fit)  After much fussing he managed to get it workable enough to afford him some good Michigan winter fun.

One day he asks me if I want to try being pulled behind it on my downhill skis so I said sure!  (hey, teenagers aren’t big on brains)   We decided to go down to the lake across from the neighborhood and the snow was deep enough that I suggested “hey, why don’t we get the hydroslide and try it out?”

Walter's Lake

Walter’s Lake

Since it was his snowmobile, I ended up being the guinea pig on the knee board.  The lake (pictured above) is just over a mile long.  We started off from ‘sunny beach’ (on the top right side) and he started off slow and straight across the lake.  As it turns out, the wind was blowing from that direction flowing toward the direction which we were heading.  Thus the further he went, the more I ended up in deep(er) snow, the more I could control and turn.  As a result, I gave him the signal to speed up.  He did.

He cut a short turn and headed back toward the shore where we had come from in a tight circle.  It was a hoot.  If I leaned I could get just enough of a turn going, so I signaled him again to speed up even more.  As we came back to the far side of the lake, I noticed the snow get a little shallower, but I could still do a slight lean to turn so no biggie.  I shot around a bit doing some short zig-zags and eventually did a wide shot out to the right as he did his long counter-clockwise turn.

Now we were getting real close to the side we had started from (and the side the wind was coming from) and suddenly realized I didn’t have enough snow to turn.  Still no biggie, I contented myself with just kinda ‘riding it out’ on the outside  edge until the snow thickened up again.  Another thing I quickly realized as I made that wide right sweep was that in that shallow snow, I had even less control when the rope went slack.  This became very important soon thereafter.

We started to approach the beach again and my brother wasn’t turning.  A few houses down from the beach was where the Gregory’s lived.  Mr. Gregory regularly came out every winter with his lawn tractor to plow out a really nice ice rink for his son and his friends.  He had already plowed it with the tractor by that time but was out hand shoveling some of the drifts as we were conducting our ‘experiment’.  Upon seeing him ahead, my mind started doing geometry and primitive calculus:  ‘inability-to-turn-kneeboard + wide-to-right + Tim-not-turning-snowmobile + Mr.-Gregory + high-rate-of-speed + me + kneeboard = hospital + lawsuit

I start waving to my brother trying to communicate my predicament.  But although we’d come up with hand signals for left, right, speed up, slow down and stop we didn’t have one for ‘HOLY CRAP I’M ABOUT TO KILL MR. GREGORY!’  I considered letting go but my course was currently dead on for poor Mr. Gregory.  So I gave my brother the signal for ‘GO LEFT’ as he was looking quite confused at what the hell I was doing and couldn’t figure out what the one hand waving frantically and pointing meant.  Apparently he couldn’t see the single finger going across my neck inside my mittens then pointing to Mr. Gregory through blowing snow, exhaust and a helmet visor.

It suddenly occurred to  me that I was screaming and it also occurred to me that my brother wasn’t hearing any of it over the engine of the snowmobile, but it had drawn the attention of Mr. Gregory.    He could hear me!  Good news!!!  I yelled as loud as I could ‘I HAVE NO CONTROL, GET OUT OF THE WAY!” and judging by how Mr. Gregory went into a good imitation of Wiley Coyote on an oil slick, he apparently figured out enough of the message to attempt compliance.

By this time my brother had already started a considerable turn which now kicked in this little magical thing I’d used shortly before for cheap thrills and was now finding out it could be applied to other types of thrills as well.  A little thing called centrifugal force.  I found that my state of lack of control was now being augmented by a state of HOLY-CRAP-SPEED!!!

What happened next is still a blur to this day but I remember leaning back as I approached the first bank of snow on one side of the rink, catching air for about 30-40 feet (I’m not sure how much of it was ‘over’ Mr. Gregory but there were no sudden thuds or screams of pain until I came down on the ice myself – then there was both).  Then came the realization that a hydroslide that has very little control on 1-3″ deep snow has absolutely no control on slick ice.  Even though I was probably whipping out behind the Massey Furgeson at a good 60-70 mph, I ended up doing a couple of [involuntary] 360’s for style points before coming in contact with the snow bank on the other side of the rink.

I caught that snow bank at a slight angle on the board which turned out to be a good thing as I could lean a bit to get over some of the lumpier hard snow and then caught air for another 30-40 feet as I was yanked over the other side.

Don’t ask me how – probably the fear of getting beat silly with Mr. Gregory’s shovel if he caught up with me – but I somehow managed to hold on to the rope and stay on the board.  My brother was smart enough to gun it for the far end of the lake in a straight line.  I can’t be sure through all that snow and exhaust, but I think the look on his face said something about the potential abuse at the hands of Mr. Gregory’s shovel also.  When we got to the far end of the lake again, he started to get off his snowmobile to turn around and ask me ‘What the hell did you think you were doing?” when he was met with a bitch tackle from hell and me screaming the exact same words before he could get them out.

It didn’t take too long for us to wind down and laugh our butts off over the whole thing, but as I recall we avoided Mr. Gregory for a while after that.

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ground bees

ground bees

I grew up in a typical middle class, semi-rural neighborhood. As with most middle class neighborhoods, we had our fair share of hyjinx. I was recalling a few of those stories this morning that thought they might be fun to share.

Our closest neighbors right across the street were the McVetys. Our house and the McVetys both had very large yards which meant that a lot of the neighborhood activities were centered around our end of the street. The games of kick-the-can either we or the McVetys hosted were epic! This was assisted by the fact that the McVetys also had one of the biggest families in the neighborhood – 3 boys and 2 girls. (the youngest in particular I recollect, not only because he’s the only remaining resident in the neighborhood having taken over the old homestead when his parents retired, but because he is the only one for whom I know his full legal name, as well as the full names of the rest of the children. In fact everyone in the neighborhood knew their full names, because – as with most middle class neighborhood families – his mom would yell the full name any time she was perturbed “{first name} {middle name} McVETY – GET OVER HERE!!”

During one of the epic kick the can games that would extend from our 2 acres over through the McVety’s 3 acres and occasionally encompassing yards of the adjacent houses, most all of the McVety family and half the kids in the rest of the neighborhood were taking part. I forget who was “it”, but can always remember the mantra. Count to 200 by 5’s!

We had that mantra down to where we could roll it off in our sleep. And played so often, we probably did. “Five-ten-fifteen-twenty-twentyfive-thirty….” It would be come a blur of mush in our mouths as we tried to roll it off before everyone could find their respective trees or bushes or old boats in the long grass. There was also a small creek that wrapped itself around the entire neighborhood. Although creek is being gracious. Yeah the water flowed and if you stood there long enough watching it, you could satisfy yourself of that fact, but it was mostly an 8′ wide trench of mud with a little standing water on top of it.

As the ‘crick’ passed our house, it was mostly at ground level, but next to the McVety’s there was about a 4′ bank. A great place to hide for kick the can. Apparently the McVety boys knew this better than I did, seeing as how it was their property and all, so when I picked a spot along that bank to hide, I soon discovered the oldest of the boys had the same idea in mind.

He told me to move or find another spot. I like to believe I moved over out of respect for it being his property, but it’s more likely that I did so because he was much bigger than me. As I moved, however, my foot slipped down into the water making a splash. I tried to correct my footing and made another small splash. I didn’t think much of it at the time and eventually found a good footing.

I didn’t think that much of it at all until I heard the humming and saw the look on the McVety boy’s face. The look was so perplexing I hadn’t even noticed the humming increase and was only mildly aware of the things landing in my hair and finding their way into my shirt and alighting on my bare skin. Jerry took off like a shot. Apparently his few years of age on me gave him more common sense when combined with the fact he was closer to the way out of the hiding hole as a result of telling me to move over. The manner in which he shot out so quickly also perplexed me and held my attention – but not for long.

‘Ow, ow ow ow – OUCH!’

I soon found I didn’t need to think about it too much either and found myself running after Jerry, but I wasn’t quite sure I knew where I was going. Jerry ran in his house, but I couldn’t rightly do that since I didn’t live there. So instead I started heading toward my house, becoming more aware of the clear and present situation:  Bees!!! Upon realizing this, I slowed down to swat, slap and pick at the dozens of the buggers now stinging me all over the place!

It wasn’t too long and Mrs. McVety came bounding out of the house with a fly swatter. By this point in time, I had become aware that I was making quite a ruckus (screaming and crying as kids of that age could be expected to do) as a result of the whole affair. It was about this time that Mrs. McVety caught up with me and was trying as daintily as possible to swat at the bees on my skin with her fly swatter. Unfortunately for her, it was also about this time that my dad became aware of a kid wailing in pain somewhere out in front of the house.

So imagine this scenario as a parent: You are trying to enjoy a weekend off from work, sitting in the living room and you finally got the kids out of the house to get some ‘me‘ time. You’re just settling in to relax in front of the TV when you hear a kid crying. You head to the front door only to learn the horror of horrors – it’s your kid!!!!! and the crying is getting progressively worse….. and then you notice that some woman is standing by your kid – HITTING HIM WITH A FLYSWATTER!!!

My dad turned into a raging bull, he flung the screen door open and charged leaving a trail of uprooted grass and dust in his wake. Mrs. McVety looked up just long enough from her swatting to try to determine the source of this coming maelstrom only to see the beat red face of Mr. Wood barreling down upon her! A moments hesitation of ‘oh crap’ mental dynamics ran through her head as she groped for the right thing to say to immediately clarify the situation.

“*uhhh uhhhh*…. BEEES. BEES BEES BEES!!!

24 of the little buggers to be precise. I got to enjoy a few days of epsom salt baths and laying in bed with little dots of baking soda speckled across my body. Good times!

(originally posted to facebook)

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Public Act 165 of 2003, known as the Driver Responsibility Law, took effect October 1, 2003. This law was amended by Public Act 52 of 2004 and Public Act 460 of 2008.”
(mcl Section 257.732a)

So says the Michigan Government website dedicated to the Michigan Driver’s Responsibility Law under the heading ‘What is Driver Responsibility‘.  They go on to say:

Its purpose is to encourage traffic safety by deterring potentially dangerous driving behavior. Other states, including New Jersey and Texas, have implemented similar laws.

The reality is that the MDRL is a controversial law that has been subject of considerable debate since it’s enactment, including recent legislation aimed at eliminating many of the fees.  (most recently, Senate Bill 166 dubbed ‘repeal the “Bad Driver” Tax” put forward by Sen. Bruce Caswell (R) – it is currently stalled in committee)

The alleged purpose of the law is to act as a ‘deterrent’ to various forms of bad driving and other violations such as drunk driving or not having the proper insurance.  The alleged justification for the fees is to ‘cover the [additional] costs’ related to such violations and costs ‘to Society’ related to the offenses or the people committing them.

Many of the voices speaking out against this law point out that it targets the poor, seems to constitute a ‘double jeopardy‘ violation (in that the fees are only assessed after and in addition to the fines of a specific violations), and aren’t even meeting the original goal of revenue collection. (49% of the fees have not even been collected [1])  There are even questions as to whether or not people of low incomes facing bankruptcy may still be held responsible for payment of the fees.

Double Jeopardy and the Michigan Court of Appeals

The issue of ‘double jeopardy’ has already been addressed in the Michigan Court of Appeals in case Docket No. 264103, Todd Dawson v. Michigan Secretary of State and Department of Treasury.  In that case, the plaintiff argued against the statute on three grounds;  the first involving violation of the ‘double jeopardy’ clauses of both the United States and State of Michigan Constitutions, violations of ‘equal protection’ clause of the 14th amendment to the Bill of Rights, and on violation of the ‘uniformity of taxation‘ clause under Michigan law.

The court found that since the the fees were ‘civil’ in nature and since the defendant did not establish they were ‘invalid’ in nature that they did not constitute a violation of either State or Federal protections against double jeopardy — which applies to criminal prosecutions and punishments.  Further, since the fees were assessed allegedly to cover the additional ‘cost to society’ resulting from specific acts, they could not be deemed as violations of equal protection or uniformity of taxation.

Although it should be obvious by anyone reading their ruling that this almost seems ‘contrived’ and leaves a sour taste in your mouth, the ruling appears to be consistent with the law.  (What is distasteful is that it appears this may have been considered by the lawmakers who supported the law in the first place and thus constitutes an ‘end run’ around these very Constitutional protections)

The plaintiff attorneys in the Dawson case filed an appeal but the motion for appeal was denied.

Due Process

One of the issues that was not addressed by the Dawson case was the matter of ‘due process‘.   The fifth and fourteenth amendments to the US Constitution protect a citizen’s right to have their day in court, to face their accusers, and not be required to testify against themselves and to be able to address any charges levied against them in a fair and reasonable manner.  This right was not only addressed in the original 10 amendments but was clarified further in the 14th after these rights were denied to citizens such as slaves and Native Americans.

People assessed these Driver Responsibility Fee have no means of appeal.  The Michigan DRL website says as much in their list of Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I appeal the suspension?
No. In accordance with MCL 257.322 and 257.323, there is no hardship appeal of the Driver Responsibility fee or Driver Responsibility suspension.

(It lists no other comments on appeal for other ‘non-hardship’ related reasons.)

Furthermore, the Michigan law [mcl 257.907(4)] already addresses the ability of the district courts to assess both fines and additional fees for costs related to these offenses, stating:

“the judge or district court magistrate shall summarily tax and determine the costs of the action, which are not limited to the costs taxable in ordinary civil actions, and may include all expenses, direct and indirect, to which the plaintiff has been put in connection with the civil infraction, up to the entry of judgment*.”

*this section further limits such additional charges for costs to a maximum of $100.  (MDRL fees can be up to $1000 assessed for two years in a row for a total maximum of up to $2000, 20 times as much)

The end result is that the views of the Appeals Court that “the Legislature intended to impose a civil, and not a criminal, penalty” would seem to suggest that the ‘civil’ fee is being treated as separate and distinct from the legal action — except to the extent that the one is incurred as a result of the other.  Since this fee is assessed not through the criminal ruling of the court, and since there is no avenue to challenge or appeal it’s being levied then it would seem to be akin to a Bill of Attender (forbidden by Article I, section 9 of the US Constitution) and a clear violation of the principles of due process.

Why should I care?

Of course, if you don’t get stopped for traffic violations and keep your insurance coverage current, you will likely never experience one of these fees.  So why should you give a damn about having it repealed? Among other things, the same types of arguments in regards to ‘due process’ violations for flat fees are being addressed regarding other types of legislation.

Just some examples of these include the national healthcare reform  mandatory requirement under President Obama’s Comprehensive Health Reform package and things such as windfall profit taxes and retroactive penalties on corporate bonuses for executives.

[1] Huron Daily Tribune (michigansthumb.com) May 10, 2011
 Fees Exist Beyond what’s paid at the Court House
“According to Caswell’s office, roughly $1.2 billion has been assessed in driver responsibility fees, but only about $626 million has been collected, which is a return [of] about 51 percent. As of January, nearly 2.5 million people have had their license suspended.”

(I was going to post something else tonight, but moved it back a few days as this has become a more ‘pressing’ issue today – I’ll add a comment as to why below)

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Back when I was in high school I was doing quite a bit of bird hunting.  That also meant I was doing quite a bit of shooting practice.  I had gone out and picked up an entire box of 20 gauge shells to use for both practice and for hunting.

Bald Mountain recreation area was the closest range to where I lived and all they had for shotgun shooting was a skeet range.  So once a week I would stop by to shoot 2-4 rounds of skeet.

Skeet involves shooting at various ‘stations’ at a total of 25 targets.  The score is based on the number of targets hit.  The targets are launched from two towers on either end of a half circle.  Some targets go one at a time, depending on the station, some are launched simultaneously from both towers, one high and one low.  The final station is in the middle and thus involves half the distance and therefore half the time to hit the target launched one at a time from each of the two towers.

Although the rotation around the various stations provided different combinations of target motion and shooting angles, skeet is not the best possible practice for hunting type scenarios.  For one thing, the targets are rather predictable and they are launched when the shooter calls ‘pull’.  But, I wasn’t there as much to shoot a flawless round of ‘skeet’, as much as I was to keep my shooting skills up.  The end result was that I would usually shoot around 18-19 out of 25 targets on average.

There were young guys that worked out at the range who would load the ‘houses’ full of the clay pigeon targets and then serve as the range ‘puller’, pushing the buttons to release the targets when the shooter called ‘pull’.  (it was kind of a standing joke that the guys guy so used to pushing the button on the word ‘PULL’ that if you walked into the office and shouted ‘pull’, their thumbs would involuntarily twitch as a result)

Most of the young guys were easy going and a fun bunch, but there was one young guy that I didn’t particularly like.  He was a good shooter, and he knew it, but he wore it like a chip on his shoulder and it tended to rub me the wrong way.  But there was a fun bunch of guys that would show up regular on the days I would shoot and we’d have a good time regardless who was pulling for us.

Well, one particular day we get lined up with the arrogant young kid.  I tended to avoid him so as a result I tended not to have him as my puller.  I missed one of the targets on the second station and showed a little frustration and he decided to proffer me some advice without my prompting it.

Mind you, I’m there to practice for hunting.  So my shooting style wasn’t the same as most of the other guys.  I would hold my gun at my hip not much unlike I would walking through the woods.  You don’t hunt walking through the forest with your gun at your shoulder waiting for a bird to pop up on command!

His advice dealt with this unconventional stance.  Without knowing (or caring) what my motivation was for being there shooting, he decided to criticize my stance first then suggest that I start with the gun on my shoulder.  He was right, but he took no consideration for my goals in being there.  I was in fact frustrated at my miss so this just irked me off more.

I decided that I had to shoot better than I ever had.  But I had to do it my way.  I wasn’t going to walk through the woods with my gun already on my shoulder and my finger already poised on the trigger.  But the thought had occurred to me that if the bird dog got on a scent or a bird had already gone up, I wouldn’t walk around with my gun at my hip either.  Instead I would hold it in a ‘ready to shoot’ position part way between the two.  So this was how I shot the rest of the round.

I’d already missed two targets by that point in time so the best I could possibly shoot the rest of the way around the course was a 23.  My end score was 22 of 25.  After that incident I only missed a single target and there was some doubt as to whether or not I didn’t put a pellet through that one as some of us saw dust fly off it but it didn’t ‘break up’ as they were supposed to do.

Initially I rebuffed the puller for opening his ‘trap’ when it wasn’t solicited.  I stuck by that.  As I pointed out, he had no idea of my motives and he didn’t care.  So my hackles going up as a result of it I still considered justified.

As a general rule they put a puller out with 3-4 guys to shoot a single round of skeet.  As a general rule, each of the guys throws in a buck at the end of a round to give the puller as a tip.  I can’t remember the exact conversation I had with the kid when I came in (I say ‘kid’ – at the time he was only 3-4 years younger than I was) but it went something like this.

I set a $5 down on the table in front of him and I told him:

“Your ‘pointers’ took no consideration for my reason in being here.  I’m not here to shoot skeet, I’m here to practice for hunting.  I don’t hunt with my gun on my shoulder so I sure as hell am not gonna do it here, skeet or no skeet.  I wasn’t seeking advice, didn’t ask for advice, and your advice was and still is unwelcome when it takes no consideration what-so-ever for my own goals and desires.”

“But this $5 is yours because that’s the first time I’ve ever shot a 22 score, and I want you to know right now – now that you know my goals and desires, don’t EVER be afraid to give me advice again.  But if you ever want a tip from me again, don’t EVER say another word that only serves to air your own opinion of my style.”

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When I lived in north Ann Arbor, I had a real problem with ‘cat owners’. My real problem was not necessarily specific to the cats themselves, but the problem resulted from the all-too-typical irresponsible behavior of cat owners who assume that kicking their animal out the door at night so it becomes all their neighbors’ problems to deal with is perfectly sensible and reasonable.

I tried a great many things to solve the problems but quickly  learned that all it really requires is to get creative. In my case, I developed a methodology that I still use to this day in various circumstances that I refer to as the ‘nice prick’ solution.

When I first moved to town, I specifically chose a town-house style apartment complex near the Huron River on the outside edge of town. I specifically chose an apartment on the outside edge of the complex right next to a small, undeveloped plot of park land across the road. It was very naturesc and was ideal with only a few short comings. It was close to the expressway but not so close I heard traffic all night. It was close to fishing with the river down the road. It was surrounded by natural setting.  The only real draw backs was a train that would run at night (but quiet enough as not to be a big deal.  it was actually quite soothing to hear it ker-chunking by at night)  And a canoe livery down the road that would sometimes wake you up at 8 am as they took their first load of canoes *kerbanging* up the hill to go up river.

One of my big beefs was that according to the management, I would not be allowed to get a dog. They had a condition in the lease that allowed for small dogs or cats, but upon my doing the ‘right thing’ and checking with management first, they told me that the type of dog I wanted to get (an american water spaniel) was not ‘small’ enough to adhere to my lease. There were dogs in the complex, including some as large as an American water spaniel. The claim of management was that they were grandfathered it when the new management company took over the property, but I later learned that at least one was obtained by the owner after the purchase of the complex but that there was no way to ‘prove’ that it was not ‘grandfathered in’ – or at least not in a ‘cost effective’ manner.

Ann Arbor has a license law for dogs, but no such license law for cats. Ann Arbor has reasonable laws relating to controlling your pets, both cats and dogs. But Ann Arbor, like most municipalities, has ‘cost effectiveness’ issues related to animal control. Namely, they will not trap an animal. If an animal violates your property rights, it is contigient upon the property owner to ‘trap’ it prior to calling an animal control officer to come get it.

I had bird feeders. I had a motorcycle. I had a truck. I had a flower bed.  The cats booted out by other apartment dwellers as well as adjacent houses in the neighborhood would regularly stalk my bird feeders scaring away the wild birds. They would crap in my flower gardens leaving wonderful little ‘surprises’ for me when it came time to plant or pull weeds. They would crawl all over my truck at night leaving dirty little footprints and they especially loved to crawl up under the cover of my motorcycle (which I parked right under the window on my front porch) to sit on the nice cooshy padded seat while the engine was still warm since their owners didn’t seem to give a crap that their cat was outside freezing all night long. To crawl up under said cover, they would have to dig their claws into the seat, chrome and/or paint finish.  It was actually ‘damaging’ my motorcycle for them to do this.

Of course there was more than one cat being thus booted out at night and sometimes they would end up finding one another, generally in the proximity of my bird feeders or my motorcycle and get in fights or worse, fucking for hours on end. (if you’ve never heard two cats ‘getting it on’, it’s hardly something you can sleep through) This was occuring regularly at 2-4 am in the morning.

First, I solved the problem with my motorcycle with a rather simple fix. I’d tried contacting the management. They did nothing. I’d tried posting fliers all over the complex outlining the problem roaming cats cause, the local laws as well as the restrictions spelled out in the lease that the management refused to enforce. I tried manually ‘scaring’ or ‘shooing’ the cats away when I would hear them at night. Generally they would come right back or would simply go to the empty lot across the street to fornicate where it was still well within earshot. Nothing worked.

Ultimately, I bought a couple of spring mouse traps. I would put one ‘set’ under the cover on the seat of the bike. It only took 3-4 times of cats getting ‘snapped’ by the traps to stop them crawling under the seat at night. But they still harassed my birds, still were using my flowerbed as a litter box and still screwed or fought making a terrible ruckus all night long.

I had to resort to a new strategy. I set out, ‘behind’ my motorcycle in a space only about 3-4″ wide, a small bowl of milk – sometimes an emptied can of tuna or sardines. I set up some bells on strings around the perimeter and started sleeping on the couch directly below the open window. When I would hear the cats climbing over the strings or hear their nightly ruckus, I would go outside, move the milk and fish cans more into the open and talk nicely to the cats until they came up close enough to pick them up gently. Even if they ‘spooked’ upon my opening the door, they would generally come back for the milk.

Once I had them scooped up, I would keep them calm by petting them and talking to them etc. If the cat had no tag, I would call animal control. Most of the people at least adhered to the policy of management that you have your animals tagged identifying the owner. That was where the ‘nice prick’ part came in.

Mind you, these cats were doing this at 3-4 am in the morning. I was being woken up regularly by them. I didn’t want to be woken up by them. Their owners meanwhile were somewhere sound asleep while their cats became ‘my’ problem and ‘my’ wake-up call. All I wanted was the problem to stop. What better way than to subject the owner to the same treatment that I was receiving?

Shortly after scooping up the kitties coming for the milk and finding a tag identifying a particular owner, I would find said apartment and knock on the door until someone woke up and came down. I would then very sweetly and sincerely express my concerns that I ‘saw their animal down by the road’ and was ‘worried that it might get run over by a car or the canoe guys or a train’.

It seldom took more than once, and never took more than twice of doing this and the cats no longer were seen (and more importantly, ‘heard’) outside at night. Of course, part of the scenario involved my suggestion that ‘since the lease says you have to keep your cats on a leash’ that it must have ‘just got out’ so I ‘assumed you were up – so sorry to wake you!’ I would say with a big smile.

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In that both of my parents were school teachers, we used to spend our summers up at the Canada Creek Ranch during the summer break from school.  Many of the other kids that were up there for the duration of the summer were also children of school teachers.  Sure, there were other groups of kids that would come and go, but the one’s that tended to be up there for the entire summer tended to all be teacher-kids and thus we ended up hanging around together a lot  more than any of the other kids.

One such kid was my friend Mark.  He was an outdoors dork like me.  In fact, Mark could be a bit more of an outdoors dork than me sometimes.  We were both skinny little guys at the time, but Mark had dark, thick rimmed glasses, brown curly hair and was seldom seen without wearing a fishing hat like something you’d see Marty Stouffer wearing.

That particular summer, Mark had picked up a nickname.  Both his older brother and my older brother got to calling him ‘Ulee’.  Mark had taken to reading any magazine on fishing, hunting or the outdoors that he could get his hands on, and doing whatever the article said.

He drilled out all his crank baits and put BB’s inside. He started re-painting all his jigheads in flame orange and chartreuse. He broke the barbs on some of his fish-hooks to make it easier to set the hook. He stuck reflective tape on his spoons. He started building special rigs for perch fishing even though there were very few perch in any of the lakes.  He even started learning and tying all sorts of knots for practice.

…and this here knot used to be used to tie indians to posts for target practice…” (ok, that’s a tad of an exaggeration, but you get the idea)

Someone – it may have been his dad, one of his many older brothers or maybe even my dad – suggested one day that if Mark saw one of Ule Gibbons TV shows that told you how you could eat tree bark, Mark would be out there scraping at the trees with his pocket knife inside of 10 minutes.  My brother Tim and Mark’s brother John were within earshot of the comment and the nickname stuck.

Mark’s and my families both had canoes.  With a little coordinating, we figured out how we could canvas any of the three main lakes in the cabin area by keeping each of our canoes on a different lake and fishing together.  For example, we found out one day that it wasn’t horribly difficult to carry my family’s Michicraft up over the hill between the Lake Geneva beach and down to Wildfowl lake.  From there, it was a short paddle over to the docks and then just a short portage across the road over to Horsehead lake.

On this particular day, we had a plan and we were on a mission. I’m not sure which one of us had gotten the crazy idea first, but we had both seen a bunch of snakes hanging out sunning themselves on a beaver mound near the back corner of Horsehead lake.  Neither of us had seen any rattles on any of them so we determined that they must be northern water snakes.  The only snakes with any kind of venom to worry about were the rattlers.  (Massasauga rattlers are the only pit viper in Michigan)

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Our idea was to clobber one of those water snakes to get it’s skin.  I was already diddling in leather work at the time and Mark kinda liked the crazy idea as a change of pace.  It was like huntin!!!  And we were frankly getting bored with fishing every day.

So we hauled the canoe across the hill, then over to Horsehead and set off for the Beaver mound.  We weren’t disappointed either.  Even before we got close we could make out a whole slew of snakes already slithering down into the branches or off into the water.

We pulled up along side the mound and scanned the remaining visible snakes.  We wanted to make damn sure we didn’t see any rattles on any of them.  After looking good and hard but not seeing any rattles, we picked out a snake and proceeded to clobber it over the head ‘but good’.  (of course, not without a few misses, a whole lot of splashing and nearly tipping over the canoe twice)

The snake ended up in the water just off the edge of the beaver mound. Since I was the one that would likely get the job of skinning it, I got stuck with the job of scooping it up in the net.

I got the snake into the net and picked it up out of the water, pausing to let the water drip out of the mesh, then moved the net into the boat.  The next thing you know, the snake starts to move around.  Both of us panic!

Even though the idea of a northern water snake didn’t really skeeze either of us out, the thought of a snake squirming around inside of a wobbly canoe wasn’t the most pleasant notion to consider.   Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was to donk it over the head again.  But I didn’t want to rip a hole in my net either so I told Mark to get his paddle ready because I was going to dump the snake out into the bottom of the boat.

As I flipped the net over, the snake’s “fangs” hung up in the net.

Mind you, I already mentioned that northern water snakes don’t have fangs.  Massasauga rattlers have fangs.  Massasauga rattlers are the only snakes in Michigan that are considered deadly poisonous.  So, obviously, this snake must be a Massasauga rattle snake and not a northern water snake.

This is approximately the same thought process that was running through both of our minds at that very moment; me holding a fish net out at arms length with a half stupefied snake hanging off it by it’s fangs, Mark holding his paddle dangling out over the side of the boat.  Both of our eyes scanned down to the tail at the same time as we continued our thought process in sync with one another.  Nope, no rattle – what the…. ?!?!?

Now is about the time a real panic started to set in.  Now is also about the time it would have been appropriate for someone, anywhere nearby to start the song ‘Dance of the Cuckoos’ because events quickly degraded into a bad scene from a Laurel and Hardy movie.

Ahhhh, why does it have fangs?” I said.

uh… uh… crap! THROW IT OUT – IT’S STILL MOVING,” stuttered mark.

*wobble wobble* said the canoe.

“No wait, I have an idea!” I responded as I slowly lowered the snake’s body back onto the floor of the boat.

“What the heck are you doing?!?!” cried Mark, “Get it out!”

“No trust me…. He’s stuck in the net.  I’m going to stretch him out see?”  Realizing the snake was still somewhat out of it, I stretched his body out in a straight line using the net to keep him ‘hung up’ so he couldn’t move – much.

“If I stretch them out like this they can’t coil to strike.  Right?”  I asked the question in part to put Mark a bit more at ease, in part hoping he might answer it and do the same for me ” He’s still dazed anyway!” I added, hoping that if it wasn’t so, that saying it might just make it so somehow.

At that point I grabbed for my paddle with my other hand.  Before I completely set the snake down, I stuck the blade of the paddle right across the middle of it’s neck behind the head.

“Just like that see?  Now hit my paddle.”

“OK, now hit my paddle with yours!”

Before I could say anything, Mark swung his paddle out to the side and gave a hefty lateral swing.  In his panic state he almost took out my fingers in the process, not to mention that he made me lose my hold on the snake with the end of the paddle.


I quickly moved the blade of my paddle back onto the neck of the snake.  My shouting seemed to snap Mark back to a reasonable level of sanity and he made sense of the idea.  He gave the top of the paddle a good 4 to 5 thumps with his.

We both stood back as I released the pressure off of the paddle and placed the net over the top of the snake, keeping it’s fangs hooked up in the net for ‘additional safety‘ I thought.  After a few seconds we looked at each other and nodded.  Without needing to say a word, we quickly sat down and paddled back to the dock.

I’m not sure which one of us landed on shore first, but we were leaping out of the canoe at the same time without any need for further instruction.

After a few minutes passed, we determined the snake was really a goner this time but still didn’t have the nerve to take it back to skin it right away.  Instead we stuck it down in a shallow marsh puddle behind where we pulled the canoe up and resolved to go hit the ‘Trading Post’ for a pop.  Then we would see if it was still wiggling by the time we came back.

It was a good 15 minutes, even from Horsehead lake, up the hill to the front gate of the Ranch on foot. So we figured that would be more than enough time to make sure it was dead.

Now I don’t know if those 4-5 whacks didn’t do the trick or if someone (or some critter) came by and spotted the snake, but there was no trace of it when we came back a half-an-hour later!  For the next few weeks we were extremely wary any time we fished Horsehead lake for fear there was an irked off rattlesnake wearing a neck brace lurking somewhere back in the bushes!

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Back when I was still attending Oakland University (and still trying to cope with the calculus and physics requirements necessary for a CSE degree) I needed to fill in a class period.  Money was tight so I was looking at 1 and 2 credit options that would help fulfill my major requirements.

I’d had a CSE110 class with professor Marsh and liked his teaching style and I noticed that he was doing one of the ‘language labs’ for that semester, in of all things, Fortran programming language.

For those of you that are not CSE geeks, a language lab is just that – a one credit lab to help students learn various programming languages.  As a lab, it wasn’t necessarily a requirement to show up during the scheduled time for the class.  In fact, most professors (including Mr. Marsh) wouldn’t even show up in the computer lab during that time period but would just make themselves available for questions during their class period.  It was pretty much up to the students to pose questions and learn the material on their own, the professor only making themselves available to help them through any trouble spots.

Professor Marsh wasn’t the type to post grades or leave graded papers on his door, but he would place the weekly assignment with a reference to what pages in the text book were relevant to completing it in a slot outside his door.  There were 10 assignments total for the whole semester.

Now I say that he didn’t show up in lab and I had already talked to him about it prior to the semester starting.  But he did apparently show up in the lab briefly on the first day.  As a student employee of the computing department, I was in the lab much of the day anyway so I didn’t bother to go to the scheduled time period.  Not even on the first day.

The assignments themselves were a cinch.  I wasn’t aware of it at the time, because I never once went to Mr. Marsh’s office during the first five weeks of class other than to pick up the new assignment and turn the previous one in via a slot in his door, but most of the other students apparently were frequent visitors.  As a result, some of them found out that I was a good reference for assignments and thus I was getting feedback on any visits Mr. Marsh did make and any special instructions on assignments because inevitably, another student would come to ask me what I was doing for assignment #x.

About 6 weeks in he gave us an assignment for something called a magic box.  I can’t remember the particulars, but recall it was something like a bizarre sudoku.  A different number in every box but with each row and column adding up to the same integer.  There was apparently a formula to build these at any size using consecutive integers from 1 to the product of the X times the Y dimensions minus one – so long as the grid was a square (X = Y).  He included the formula on the assignment and wanted us to write a program to make one of any size and then print out various examples based on specific dimensions.  (something like 5×5, 10×10 and 25×25)

I ran into my first problem and needed to go see Mr. Marsh for the first time that semester.  My problem was not programming the formula.  That was a breeze.  My problem resulted from the fact that Fortran was built to be a math/number intensive language and not a text formatting language.  I (and all the other students) found that when trying to display your output for any boxes greater than 3×3, the differences between the 1 digit and multi digit numbers quickly caused your columns to go all out of whack!  The output looked horrible.  I didn’t like my output to look horrible.

So I went to see Professor Marsh and he told me basically what I’d already discovered.   Fortran wasn’t built for text formatting.  While I was there, he remembered that he had my first 5 assignments.  I knew that they were all correct so I hadn’t bothered to pick them up.  But when he handed them to me, I quickly noticed that on every single one of them I had scored a 9 out of 10.  I was like, wtf????

So I asked him about it.  He told me that on the first day of the lab, he’d explained to everyone that you need to write out manually the solution to the problem to show that your program works.  Since I wasn’t in the lab on the first day, I was never made privy to this fact.  I was irked.

I said, “Come on Mr. Marsh!  If I had any reason to believe that my program wasn’t doing what the assignment required it to do, I would have been down in your office just like I am now to find out how to make it do what it’s supposed to do!”

Mr. Marsh started to laugh and pointed out, “Don’t panic, I grade my labs on a curve and right now you’re the top of it.”

This fact this surprised the hell out of me because I knew there to be a number of other proficient programmers in the class – and that the only way I could be on the top was if they were consistently getting more than 1 point worth of ‘wrong’ programming in their assignments since they all ‘knew’ to include a manual proof and thus weren’t loosing the 1 point per assignment that I had.  (Fortran is not complex and the problems he gave were easy – at least to me)

So I left with my 5×9-point papers, still irked that no one had told me about the manual proof requirement, but even more irked that the output of that particular lab was going to look like crap.  I would not be outdone by a programming language!!!!

I can’t remember the exact specifics, but it was something akin to this that I came to as a solution.  I figured out that I could, in fact, get Fortran to draw a single space.  And of course, Fortran could do great math and like most programming language, had simple control structures.  I was able to build a little subroutine that would divide numbers by incrementing powers of ten, incrementing a counter each time if the result of the division was greater than 1 and exiting the loop the first time that it wasn’t greater than 1.  For non-programming types, this in essence counts the digits in a base 10 number system.

I could then take the dimensions I was using for a given execution of the program and square them (X*Y)-1 and run it through my subroutine as this would give me the ‘maximum’ number of digits.  Then for each square, I run the value in the square across the subroutine again to get the number of digits going into that square.  By subtracting that number of digits from the maximum number of digits, I could get the number of ‘leading’ spaces I would need to get the columns to properly line up on the print-out.  In essence, writing my own little sprintf for inserting leading spaces on shorter numbers.

I also learned that I could send a command to the printer to make it go landscape and use a much smaller font when sending my output.  So for chuckles and giggles, I not only did a 5×5, 10×10 and 25×25 but then also output a 50×50 and a 100×100 just to show I could!

He did give us a break that all we had to show manually on that assignment was a written out version of the 5×5 so I submitted that with my program and got 10 points on it (and on each additional program until the end of the semester).

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8-trackI remember growing up, dad was always a bit of a square peg. (and I loved him for it!)  One such time, we were spending a typical day shopping – mom going through Sears (back when it was still coupled with Roebuck), dad stuck watching me and my brother.  Poor dad.  So dad heads for the electronics department.

We’d recently gotten a new blue Ford van to replace the old white one that finally needed to go.  My dad opted for the latest in technology and had it fitted with a brand spanking new stereo 8-track player!!! (everyone can ooooo and ahhhh now!  Yeah, I know – I’m old!)  He didn’t opt for much else.

Dad didn’t have any 8-track tapes.  So we get to the electronics department and lo, there is a bounty as good as gold to an eclectic man on a school teacher’s salary, that just spent most of his money on a new van and has to also pay to feed two kids!  An 8-track bargain bin!!!!!!

So as my brother and myself look about the various gizmos and gadgets doing our best to behave (and no doubt failing miserably), dad scours the pile of fools gold.  He came out with three tapes that day:

  • Everly Brothers - Pass the Chicken and Listen

    Everly Brothers – Pass the Chicken and Listen

    Roger Whittaker – All My Best

  • The Everly Brothers – Pass the Chicken and Listen
    (a bluegrass album they did produced by Chet Atkins)
  • Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits (pre-1968 ‘hits’)

Now mind you, I already eluded that this was back when 8-track tape players were considered ‘new’ technology.  And since the tapes were in a ‘bargain bin’, most of them were old titles already.  The Neil Diamond ‘hits’ album for example had all the old classic hits (including his own, original version of I’m a Believer and even a few covers like his version of the Gary U.S. Bonds New Orleans and the song Hanky Panky with the girls at the beginning begging him to ‘do it, do it!’)

Over the next half-a-dozen years, those three tapes got burned into my brain every summer when we would make the four hour trip ‘up north’ to the Canada Creek Ranch (where my parents are currently retired – CCR is a property owners association for hunting/fishing/camping)

I never once hated any of those songs and have a copy of Pass the Chicken and Listen as well as a few of those old Neil Diamond and Roger Whittaker tunes in my mp3 collection.

Oh I don’t believe in ‘if’ anymore…..

A few interesting asides about the ole blue van:

  1. The van itself was kinda low-frills.  It had a plastic covered floor that we of course threw mats on top of, and nothing but a white paneled fiberboard ceiling with alternating rows of punched holes.  My brother and I figured out on one of those four hour trips that if you hung your head back over the (vinyl) seats and stared at the dots, over time your two eyes would confuse the dots and little by little it would look like the ceiling was coming closer and closer to your face.  Funny, because this is the same method modern ‘stereogram’ images use, yet I can’t seem to get any of them to resolve for me.
  2. It was one of those vans with the little fold out windows in the back that opened no more than about 2″.  This made for an interesting dilemma the time that dad’s friend Bob discovered completely by accident that the coffee candies he brought along for a fall hunting trip created the most devastatingly putrid farts you have ever smelled in your life!  To this day, nothing has ever topped those coffee candy farts and I think I still have an impression in the side of my cheek from the metal frame of those fold-out windows as I tried desperately to fit my entire face through that 2″ opening for fresh, unspoiled air to breath!
  3. I picked up a number of behaviors – either through genetics or proximity – from my father.  One of my father’s typical things was a ‘knee-bob tick’ when he was idle.  He’d sit reading a book or a magazine and he’d start bounding the heel of his foot causing his knee to bob up and down.  I do similar things.  Many a time while riding shotgun in the blue van, I’d dangle my foot down inside the step rail of the  passenger’s side door but since my foot was dangling I’d twisted it left and right instead of bobbing it up and down.  Often I’d ever-so-lightly touch the inside edge of the step rail’s metal side creating the slightest little *tunk tunk tunk tunk* sound.  As with my father, I was seldom aware when I was doing it.  This gave poor old dad many a gray hair as he would suddenly become aware of a slight ‘tunking’ sound and strain to hear if the engine was missing or something else in the engine or drive train had gone awry.
  4. Although we were still quite young, as the van got older we were often allowed to drive it down the two tracks at CCR.  So although we seldom went faster than 10 miles per hour while out deer spotting prior to hunting season, both my brother and myself essentially learned to drive in the ole blue beast.  This was, of course, before the days of adjustable steering wheels and those old vans had almost a bus’s angle on the wheel – which was a good thing because as a no-frills package it also had no power steering!  Also, being an automatic transmission, one of the nice things was that at idle, it would generally go that 10 miles per hour without touching the gas at all — which was great for a 11-13 y.o. something as you only had to worry about steering and when to apply the break.  (and when driving on a two track, you often didn’t have to worry about the steering part either)

I could probably write 100 of these, so I’ll leave it at that.  Of course the 8-track as well as that trusty old Ford van eventually became relics.  But a few years ago I chased down the CD release of the Everly Brothers album for my dad’s new Dodge pick-up that he had equipped with a CD player!  (although it’s now available through Amazon and others, at the time I had to order it all the way from Great Britain!)

I miss that old blue van!Blue ford van

(the pic is just one I found on the web of a similar van.  I’m going to see if I can get mom do dig out one from her albums to post later – if this disclaimer is gone, it’s will be a real pick of the ole blue beast)

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For anyone interested, I once made up a list of 8 ‘edible choice’ mushrooms that I wanted to find, positively identify and try eating. I chose these 8 not only because they were easy to find and considered the most collected and most enjoyed, but because they also tend to be (with the possible exception of the Meadow Mushroom, see the comments under that one) the least mis-identified and thereby safer of the wild mushrooms to collect and eat.

The only one I haven’t found yet is a Chanterelle. Some of the pictures of one’s I’ve found and/or identified or eaten can be seen in my photos.


The eight on my list included:

1) morels* (Morchella)

I’d already eaten those many times but I wanted to positively identify the types; Blacks, whites, common and grey
and yes, I got each – although I have a hard time telling the difference between whites and commons if I only find one of the two in the same hunt. I also found some half-free [false] morels which I have also eaten many times)

Common Morels

2) prairie or meadow mushrooms (pink bottoms, Agaricus campestris)

I’d also eaten these but wanted to get better at both finding and identifying them. Working at a golf course helped with this considerably – Pine View had TONS of them and they would grow from mid July through late August and I could fill about a grocery bag per week if I wanted to.
Another I found, identified and tried were ‘horse’ mushrooms which are HUGE but you have to get to them before the flies do, and the gills break down (rot) fast if you let them fully cap out as they grow in the hottest weeks of late July and August.
This is also the one most likely to mis-identify as it can look similar to the Amanita variants Avenging or Destroying Angels and Deathcaps if you are new to hunting and don’t know how to tell the difference.  Don’t rely on my suggestions if you are even at all in doubt on identifying these an differentiating them from the two aforementioned (or other similar) white mushrooms.  The most obvious difference between these an the other two is that the gills on these turn pink to dark greyish purple as they age.  All three varieties will have the veil or fringe underneath and have a similar grainy stalk, but the meadow mushrooms tend to have shorter, thicker, often times twisted stalks that taper downward where the other two tend to be longer, thinner, straighter and are more bulbous at the bottom.  Meadows grow in grass, sometimes in fairy rings (around old buried stumps) or out about 30-60 feet from a living tree, where the others are more prone to grow in dry leaves or pine needles nearer to tree trunks.  Again, if unsure, get a test kit, expert advice/supervision or learn more before trying one.

Meadow Mushroom

3) Puffballs

Again I had eaten some but wanted to find a couple of kinds. I never really liked the giants although I found a few on state land and again at work. I tend to prefer the jewel encrusted which I’ve found from morel season in spring through hunting season in fall. There’s also another I have only really seen in fall that is a light to medium brown and shaped kind of like an upside-down gord sometimes. You’ll also sometimes see a slight purple tinge right near the crown. and pores at the base of the stem.
Puffballs tend to be one of the safer mushrooms to identify, pick and eat.  The big test for puffballs is to cut one in half.  If it’s solid and white inside, it’s generally edible.  (again, do your homework before trying one)   One possible mis-identification stems from young ‘budding’ mushrooms such as Amanita varieties that will appear as a small white ball when young – cutting those in half will generally show the soon-to-spread out cap and gills inside.  The few varieties of puffballs that are inedible or not considered ‘choice’ will not be white inside not to mention a puffball that is ‘going bad’ will turn yellow or brown or have very porous sponge air-pockets starting to form.  In the latter case, if the sponge area is only the lower part of the stem, sometimes you can cut it away on some varieties if the remaining portion is still solid and white.

Jewel encrusted puffball

4) Shaggy Manes ( Coprinus comatus )

Also great ones to find on a golf course. They are very very hard to mis-identify and you’ll find them on the edges of grassy areas along tree lines or banks. These are of a variety known as ‘inky caps‘ that will start to get a wet-dark ink-like consistency as they age.  Native American tribes sometimes used these types of mushrooms to make dyes.  If they’ve started to ink out already, I usually leave them but if you can catch them before the bottom edge starts to get too ‘gooey’ they are pretty good.

Shaggy Manes

5) Hen of the Woods (Maitake / Grifola frondosa)

I was pretty sure I’d seen these before and finally stumbled on one squirrel hunting about twice the size of a basketball – THAT’S A LOTTA SHROOM! I then found a rotting one at work, and when we switched to the city course, I found 4 huge ones. (pictured in my pics) I have found them generally in mid to late fall at the base of oak trees.  ( I posted a list of tips on finding these)

Hen of the Woods

6) Sulfur Shelf (Chicken of the Wood / Laetiporus)

Another very unique, very hard to mis-identify mushroom. Ranging from yellow to orange to red with bands of white or lighter shades of the primary colors, it looks a lot like coral growing in the woods and sticks out considerably against the leaves and rotting wood it grows upon. The one’s I’ve seen were growing on the ground, but they can apparently also grow on the sides of trees. They call it ‘Chicken’ because it has the taste and texture of chicken if cooked properly.

Sulfur Shelf

7) Oyster Mushroom ( Pleurotus ostreatus )

Yeah, this is the same type you buy in the stores. It grows on rotting wood or sometimes on the side of trees. That’s where I found my first one’s when up checking out a state park in SW Oakland County. I also found some behind work while hunting 2 years ago but put it in the back of my truck before heading to my folks and forgot to take them out. They still looked good but I didn’t have my book with me and didn’t know if they’d last till I got home so I threw the second batch out. They are also so named because when cooked up they have a taste and texture similar to that of oysters.

Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster Mushrooms

8) Chanterelle

This is the only one I haven’t found yet. They are considered to be reasonably easy to identify, I just haven’t stumbled on any yet. They can range from white to yellow to orange and occasionally tan. They also trumpet up like a funnel not much unlike the oysters except they more frequently grow on the ground. If I find one, I’ll be sure to post pictures!




Honorable mentions:

I tried some Dryad’s Saddles a few years back. They weren’t bad but you really want to catch them young. If you prepare them the right way, they kinda taste like a ‘woody’ bamboo shute – they might be good for stir fries. I’ve seen these growing from spring through early summer.
I’ve also seen and reasonably identified ‘honey mushrooms‘ after I saw a guy picking a bunch at an area I hunt. A stump at work grew enough to fill 3 grocery bags so I’m going to try to get an acid kit to try some this year so I can be 100% sure none of them are Deadly Galerinas.
Another I used to see a lot at Pine View were Slippery Jacks, a type of bolete. I didn’t have the guts to try them but may if I can find more information on possible look-alikes and risks. (some people have bad reactions to boletes)
Another I may add to my list are coral mushrooms (small white guys) as I think I’ve seen some before but didn’t know what they were.

I also pick wild asparagus a lot during morel season and keep trying to find wild leeks but with no luck yet. There’s lots of spearmint and peppermint growing down at work, and I might make my own peppermint extract this fall. I am also considering making a Jewelweed infusion this year as well to help with bug bites and other things.

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