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Christian Therrien of Sparwood shows off a giant puffball mushroom he found near Fernie. The 'shroom weighs 57.4 pounds. He plans to return it to where he found it, so its spores may spread. (Sebastien Therrien/Sebastien Therrien)
Christian Therrien of Sparwood shows off a giant puffball mushroom he found near Fernie. The 'shroom weighs 57.4 pounds. He plans to return it to where he found it, so its spores may spread. (Sebastien Therrien/Sebastien Therrien)

summertime

Massive mushroom found in BC just the start of silly season stories Add to ...

The June rains never seemed to stop, so Christian Therrien delayed his annual foray into the fields to forage for fungi.

On a sunny day, he drove to a favourite spot outside Fernie. He was returning to a routine after rediscovering an appetite for mycological delights.

“For a couple of years I didn’t go, because I was kind of sick of eating them,” said Mr. Therrien, a native Quebecker who has been living in British Columbia for 33 years.

His mushroom hunting grounds have in the past delivered prizes the size of a baseball, a softball, and, once, memorably, a basketball.

He had expectations of a bounty crop. “They grow good in the rain,” he said. “This year the rain lasted almost until July.”

Mr. Therrien, 62, was accompanied by his son, Sebastien, 34, as they made their way slowly through tall grass reaching to their waist. Then, the father cried out, “Look at this!”

The two men stared at the largest mushroom either had ever seen.

“Me and my son, we said, ‘Holy S,’ quite a few times,” Mr. Therrien said.

He pushed against the boulder-sized puffball mushroom to break it from its root.

He then lugged it to his vehicle, drove home to Sparwood, and placed it on the home scale.

It weighed 57.4 pounds (26.04 kilograms). About the same as an eight-year-old boy.

The Fernie Free Press wrote a brief story about his find and the next thing he knew a national newspaper was tracking him down on the job working for a limestone plant across the Crowsnest Pass at Coleman, Alta.

Summertime is what we in the journalism business call silly season. Oddball stories capture attention during the doldrums. Summertime, and the writin’ is easy.

This week, some American-based websites picked up on a Victoria newscast from last month about two drunk young women who helped themselves to potato chips spotted through the open door of a garage.

The report by CTV Vancouver Island featured grave intonation by anchor Hudson Mack and Joe Perkins’ on-the-site gumshoe reporting, including the re-creation of a trail of potato chip crumbs as though Hansel and Gretel had been Bonnie and Clyde. The item included Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen noting the “effervescent chip package in the open garage just appeared too yummy to pass up for two highly intoxicated young ladies.”

The elderly homeowner, alerted to the presence of intruders by her growling chihuahua, called 9-1-1. Saanich police were joined by units from Victoria and Oak Bay. A police dog was used.

The three-minute segment has been mocked by thebiglead.com (“Canadian newscast gives drunken potato chip theft serious investigative journalism treatment”) and Gawker.com (“BBQ chip bandits’ terrorize sleepy Canadian city”).

Saanich appreciates the media’s appetite for light fare. More recently, Sgt. Jantzen’s briefing included a report about arresting three youths for throwing eggs at pedestrians from a moving car. He posed with cartons of seized eggs.

How many more days before before such cryptozoological wonders as Ogopogo, Sasquatch, or Cadborosaurus make an appearance in the media?

The first Sasquatch story appeared in print in the Daily Colonist in 1884 with the report of the capture of a strange, hairy creature near Yale. The captors named it Jacko and the newspaper describing it as a “British Columbia gorilla.” The story appeared in the July 4 edition, a 19th-century silly season story.

Back in Sparwood, Mr. Therrien decided not to cook his tasty find. (His basic recipe – sliced mushrooms sauteed in butter and olive oil with garlic and onions.) Instead, he returned to his special spot near Fernie.

“I put it back where he was so the spores can spread again in that field,” he said.

The massive mushroom will release countless spores, creating new colonies next summer, about the same time when another crop of silly stories will ripen.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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