submitted by Walt Sturgeon
Having been a member of the Ohio Mushroom Society for 45+ years I have encountered some remarkable folks. Here are some examples.
There was the dousing lady. She had a medallion on a string and was testing mushrooms on the foray display tables. If the medallion swayed, she considered the mushroom was good for her. Fortunately, she was not eating them based on this determination!
Then there was a barefoot young man who announced after he got in a carpool, that there might be an odor as he seldom showered. Some months later he was looking for OMS references after being arrested for possession of a controlled substance in Montana.
One of my favorite people stories was a phone call. I did not know the man. He was interested in finding Gymnopilus spectabilis, a hallucinogenic species. He wanted to join me in observing it in the woods. I told him that I knew a couple logs where I had found it in the past and that I could contact him if I saw it again. Then he said he wanted to collect it under the light of the full moon! Don’t call me, I’ll call you. This man later became a prominent Amanita muscaria afficionado at the Telluride Mushroom Festival.
I have met two savant boys. One questioned me about a Cordyceps species. It soon became apparent to me that he knew as much or more about Cordyceps than me. As an adult mycologist he has written a book and travels extensively studying fungi. The other would be in the front row when I was giving a talk around the display tables. His questions were hardly that of a child and his interest was intense. A couple years later he is giving mushroom slide programs to adult audiences.
My first mushroom program was at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown. I brought an Amanita muscaria as an example of a common poisonous mushroom. I probably exaggerated its toxicity a bit. One man in the audience stepped up and in front of the crowd and took a bite of the cap. So much for my credibility. I doubt that he ate enough to poison him, but it was a learning experience for me. The next day a woman went to the park office with a bag of Amanita muscaria. She had washed the warts off the all the caps, and wanted to confirm that this was the mushroom I showed as a good edible. So much for stressing how toxic it is. Some people hear what they want to hear. Most mushroom hunters are good people and overall are an interesting group. I have made many good friends in mycological circles. As in any pursuit, it takes all kinds.