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Pick fungi with care; abundant mushrooms vs. rare truffles

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Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2005 10:00 pm

Years ago, our mailman delivered five letters to our address, one for each of our four children and myself, but none for my wife. Each letter was from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After about two months, we received another. These checks came as a complete surprise. We challenged each child that we would match the dollar amount of their two checks if they held onto them for at least five years. Our youngest, Shauna, still had the value of her checks after five years so we matched it. The money came from the sale of land that belonged to our Karuk Indian tribe of California. It is a peace-loving tribe of less than 4,000 members.

Our Indian tribe doesn't own any casinos, but we have other perks. I have been granted salmon fishing rights on the Klamath River in California plus mushroom rights. I have been offered housing plus medical and dental care. These can be significant because they include the rights to harvest truffles, which in some areas will sell for $500 to $1,000 a pound. We have rich, unfulfilled gourmet tastes; we are easily satisfied by the ordinary mushrooms that grow in abundance here in the valley. They are quite prolific at this time of the year, especially after a wet winter season.

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