from the fifth Kate Shugak novel


Dinah lowered the camera. “This tape is almost full, anyway.” Her eyes were bright and excited. “There’s stories all over this place just walking around on two legs. See that girl over there? She quit her job waitressing to pick mushrooms. Said she could make more money. And that guy? He builds log homes. He says the rain made them stop, so he’s picking mushrooms instead. That guy cuts and sells firewood, but he said he can always cut wood. He says it’s been two good years for Chistona, the first year they made money fighting the fire for the BLM, and now they’re picking mushrooms for two bucks a pound.” She hesitated, shooting Kate a doubtful glance, and said hesitantly, as if suggesting something she knew to be in dubious taste, “Kate, nobody around here sets fires on purpose, do they?”

“Good heavens, no,” Kate said.

Fun fact: A wet spring after a forest fire brings out the morel mushrooms, the Alaskan mushroom hunters, and the mushroom buyers from Outside. The year I researched this book there had been a forest fire in the Interior the previous summer and everyone headed up the Richardson Highway with all the five-gallon buckets they could find. Outside buyers were paying as much as $40 a pound. It’s worth it so long as the fish aren’t running at the same time.

Chatter Kate Shugak

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4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Back home in Illinois “mushroom hunting” meant morels. While legions turned out for the hunt, you kept secret WHERE you found all of your mushrooms. Due to a lack of forest fires there were no great signs telling where the mushrooms were so even yiour “finding signs” were closely guarded secrets.

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