It’s “Wild Foods Day”

I thought this was a day to celebrate sweetbreads (the thymus gland and pancreas of a calf) or chitterlings (hog intestines), but it is not. Whew. I would be thoroughly disgusted if I had to write about that. No, Wild Foods Day is a celebration of foods found in the wild, like berries and mushrooms. If you’d like to learn more about what you can eat in the wild, click here:

I love to spend time outside. I like to camp (or, at least I did until my back started getting old). I love to hike. I have to admit, though, I’ve never had to resort to finding plants and berries to sustain me. I always take a nice trail mix along, loaded with nuts and m&m’s because there’s nothing like that growing on trees. But it would be good to know what I could eat if I were ever lost in the wilderness. As it stands right now, as soon as my trail mix ran out, I’d be in big trouble.

The only time I was worried about being exposed to the elements was back in the late 70’s. No, I’m not talking about disco. There was an event where my step sister and I decided to go sledding at Mound Builders park near Newark, Ohio. The mound builders, for those who don’t know, were Native Americans who built mounds in shapes like serpents, etc. Often, the mounds were used as burial grounds for their dead. Why my sister and I decided to sled on top of dead bodies, I’ll never know. But it’s a nice tie-in for Halloween, which is just around the corner.

Anyway, Stacey and I headed out to walk down to Mound Builders park. She was dressed from head to toe in a warm snowsuit and snow boots. I had on jeans and what turned out to be an extremely inferior pair of shoes. See, I was visiting my dad and I didn’t have the proper equipment to go on such an endeavor. But, I was about nine or 10 years old, so such things didn’t matter… until it was too late.

We sledded over the dead Native Americans for about five minutes before I lost the feeling in my toes. I started voicing minor complaints to Stacey as she surfed over Central Ohio’s lost Native Americans with an excited “Whee!”. I trudged back up the hill even as the feeling drained from the rest of my feet. I flew down the steepest part of the mound with a less than excited grunt of pain, as the feeling from my hands and fingers left me.

I stopped at the bottom, still on my sled, and stayed there. Stacey, meanwhile, was gleefully trudging up and flying down, shouting out for me to join her. By then, my face was frozen, which made forming words impossible. “Ugh”, was the best I could muster.

I willed my body to get up and start digging a snow cave. I’d heard somewhere that this is where little nine-year-olds without proper snow gear went to die, so I thought that before my entire body froze, I should start digging. I scooped away enough snow to bury my legs and torso, said a prayer, and prepared myself to join the dead natives. I’d built my own mound. Well, until the spring, anyway.

Stacey eventually came over and woke me up out of my pre-death slumber. She was rosy cheeked and a bit sweaty from her day of fun. Meanwhile, I was a human popsicle tinged with black on my extremities and cheeks. Oh, okay, that bit was just for added drama.

I did have a hard time getting up. Stacey pulled me up with a force that should have shattered my frozen bones. She walked ahead of me, leading the way back to my dad’s house, which felt like it was a million miles away.

Fortunately, once we hit the road, Stacey’s grandma drove by in her meticulous white Cadillac. I could see her as she spotted us, running after her and waving her down. I saw the look in her eyes for one split second that she was trying to decide if she should pick us up, seeing how we were going to get her red leather interior wet with snow. I ultimately think she took pity on me in my wet jeans and thought that this would be her good deed of the decade. She stopped to let us in while I wept with joy. I tried to fold myself into her pristine car that was deliciously warm, and knowing how she felt about her “baby”, I was worried about getting snow inside. However, when I heard ice cracking and realized it was my pants, I quickly forgot about her needs and focused on my own.

Stacey’s grandma ran me a hot bath, which technically hurt more than being frozen. But it did eventually thaw me out. I survived!

I’ve not gone out since then without all the foul-weather gear I can get. I kinda look like “Randy” from “A Christmas Story” whenever there’s a chance of snow. Don’t get me wrong. I love the snow. I live in Colorado for crying out loud. But I’d much rather be warm – even in the quickest journey out in the elements – or if I’m searching for mushrooms and berries out in the wilderness.

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