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Poverty, penury and pride :  

on the eccentric folks who pick Chanterelle, Pine,

Morrel, and Boletus mushrooms


                "People who pick mushrooms are of a very interesting type generally. There are those who, out of interest, go north and try their luck for one or two seasons of crashing through the muck and occasionally stumbling upon a sizeable patch of the hunted spore; there are other folks who live in the vicinity of the areas which bring forth the Pine, Morrel, Boletus, and Chanterelle mushrooms- which are the most common commercial varieties picked- and so these folks make some, or all, of their living off of the milk and honey coming from their own land; and then there are the true mushroom gypsies, who follow the seasons, migrating here, there, and wherever the picking is good that year.

                The common denominator among all the types, however, is their self-chosen fringe existence, and the life of chronic or occasional indigence which accompanies such a decision. Some of the freest and poorest folks I have ever met were mushroom pickers.

                I’m thinking of one young lad who made it across to the Charlottes without enough money to buy a return ticket, even if he wanted to- the cost of which was a mere twenty dollars, so he wasn’t carrying much green, to be sure. Yet he simply expected that things would work out, and they did.

                And a young couple who camped near me one year were waiting for the picking season to start with a half a tank of gas in their vehicle, a box of canned-goods, and a buck-fifty between them. But it didn’t faze them a bit.

                A fellow in his late teens, who was my picking-partner for a while, had been penniless for the last six months; he had left his father’s home because he couldn’t stand the man, and had wandered about until he ended up on the Charlottes where, for some reason or other, he wasn’t granted welfare, and so he had to live without a nickel for half a year, being given food and shelter by some good citizens in the area, until the shrooms started sprouting.

                Another man, a father with two small daughters, had come for a month or so, hoping to pick enough for his car insurance, food, and some nights out at the pub for himself. Small dreams perhaps, but when you’re sitting around a campfire out in the bush, and no boss has been standing over you all day, and no alarm clock goes off in the morning, and a guitar is being played while you sip a beer and look up at the night sky, they are some very beautiful small dreams.

                The population of the pickers is riddled with this kind of poverty, this kind of faith, this kind of liberation from the excessive tyranny of money, for they have found a form of freedom that money cannot buy. If a professional, workingman’s gold-card was delayed for a week in the mail he’d have a cardiac arrest wondering how he was going to survive. But not these folks. Live with what you’ve got and what you need will show up, it’s a law of the universe that they’re well acquainted with.

Existence brings you everything you need, as long as you are earnest enough to need it. If you need nothing, nothing will come. But if you give a damn, if you are crazy with life and wonder, and possessed by the miracle of being, ardently digging it up, uncovering the immensity of this unbelievable creation, sedulously seeking to find out what it truly is be, then life will hand itself over to you, it can do no other. That is life. That is what it demands, and what it gives. To float along, comfortable in the tepid roles of man, is to never uncover yourself, to never know who or why it is you are, and that is the greatest sin, and the greatest crime an individual can ever commit."


Excerpted from IN, AND OF, by Jack Haas           




















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