Spanish shooters and magic mushrooms

news: Spanish shooters and magic mushrooms

WITH A long hot summer over at last and the overhead fans silent, their gentle whisper has been replaced by a dehumidifier working 24-hours-a-day in my office among the trees. In no time the gallon container was filled with distilled water and my computer protected from the dangers of damp. Clocks have been put back and chocolate Father Christmas’s stand shoulder to shoulder with the Bolos dos Reis in our favourite supermarket, while all the razzmatazz of the festive season bears down upon us.

• The sun setting beneath mighty storm clouds
• The sun setting beneath mighty storm clouds

It came from a hill opposite where we were standing.

Fred and Bess being at my side, I thought it might be a mongrel from next door. Unwilling to leave the matter, the three of us went bushwhacking down the steep hillside and along a dry gulch separating us from a near vertical climb opposite. Fred quartered the dense undergrowth but found nothing, while Bess and I struggled along a streambed, pitted with holes and dammed by rock falls. Looking over the low wall of a small deep well, all I saw far below was my reflection. We made our way home up another stony climb into the sunlight, knowing that somewhere out there was a dog in trouble. It may have been caught in an illegal trap or have eaten poison laid locally, two criminal offences all too common within this lovely countryside still rooted in the 19th century.

The rapid regeneration from partial desert has produced a fungal outbreak. From pinhead sized puffballs to the magnificent white umbrellas of edible mushrooms, their delicate structures last only a couple of days before shedding spoors and turning to mush. The pedigree of these mushrooms is not really in doubt but I have reservations about eating them, knowing that there is a poisonous lookalike. As a teenager I roamed the countryside searching for such tasty additions to wartime rations and never doubted their goodness. Some years ago, while riding through woods in Somerset, I found three young men totally spaced-out after eating the Fly Agaric fungus, thought to induce similar hallucinogenic effects to LSD. Being deadly, and with permanent mind altering components, one wonders if or when they made their way home.

The sun having set last night beneath mighty storm clouds, we awakened to clear skies and mist rising like steam off the dewy valleys. It was a glorious Sunday morning and the hunters were out in force. We were taking an early walk and, having heard shooting in the distance, Fred was on the lead and Bess to heel when we came face to face with a party of shooters enjoying their legitimate rights. Others ringed the hills above us. Greeting them politely and hoping Bess would not pick a fight with one of their dogs, they sounded more Spanish than Portuguese in reply. Fred was itching to have a go, barking aggressively and hackles up, so we started towards home, whereupon one of the sportsmen from about 15 feet fired both barrels of his twelve bore into the bank across the way. This did nothing for my peace of mind or for Fred’s manners who, still in full cry, was walking on his hind legs and paddling the air with his front paws. There was no let up in the fusillade that sounded as though it was very close to both folded livestock and occupied property. As for wildlife, slowly creeping back among the hills and valleys in order to propagate their species after trial by fire and unremitting drought, such behaviour can only work against the future enjoyment these people might have – if only they would declare a couple of year’s armistice.