My mom is an outdoorsy person.

She loves being outside, and though gardening, identifying and picking wildflowers and sitting on the side of a lake or stream with a book obviously isn’t as great as fishing, I still love her, and I promise to spend some time in her version of the outdoors every year. This is a testament to how much I love her because May is the peak month for fishing Upper Klamath Lake, so I demonstrate my love through sacrifice.

I know. I’m a good person.


Last year, she wanted to go for a walk in the woods.

We loaded up the car, made like babies and headed out.

My brothers brought their shotguns because it was spring turkey season, and I brought my fishing rod because I always travel with my fishing rod.

Our goal was to walk through the woods, enjoying the beauty of spring in the Cascades and maybe find a few morel mushrooms.

We drove to a perennial favorite spot and began walking along a small creek — tragically not full enough to fish — that was shaded and seemed like a pleasant place to hike.

Almost immediately, my dad found mushrooms. What can I say? He’s a fun guy.

Then mom found some.

Then Jake.

Naturally, I was last on the board, but it’s never a competition in my family. Never.

Before long, we were filling our hands and hats with the brown bounty of spring, morels.

We split up slightly as we began harvesting.

It took maybe 20 minutes before we’d each picked a sizable haul.

Many of the mushrooms were old and dried out, so we had to be discerning.

I’m a huge fan of mushrooms, and I cook and eat them whenever I can. I add them to eggs, put them on pizzas, steaks or anything else umami.

Morels are among the best locally available mushrooms, so we didn’t hold back.

We met up at the car, unloaded our bounty in the shade and then made a plan for another loop.


My brothers and dad were going to branch off to the top of a hillock and make a few locator calls for turkeys. Mom and I were going to walk opposite banks of the shaded creek.

We all split up and agreed to regroup in 30 minutes.

Time in the woods can be incredibly subjective, so the half hour blew by.

I started back to the car, appreciating the warmth and beauty of that nice May day.

The ripping screams of abject horror tore through my reality so suddenly and effectively, I tripped.

Dropping my mushrooms, I raced toward the sound, but my heart outpaced my legs.

My mom was there, up on a log and wracked with terror.

I saw the snake and acted, grabbing the nearest softball-sized rock and smashing its head in.

Seconds later, Jake appeared, and we both pummeled the beast with rocks.

My dad arrived just after that, and we crushed the fleeting life from the serpent in earnest.

Apparently, as she stepped over a log, her foot landed inches from the maw of a coiled rattler, and she’d been understandably terrified.


There is an inherent human aversion to snakes, likely going back to the Garden of Eden.

Imagine how different life as we know it would be if Eve had cried out when she saw the serpent, and she and Adam had smashed it with a rock instead of heeding its words?

It’s not always logical to freak out, as most snakes are not venomous, but just as our fight-or-flight response kicked in last Mother’s Day, it’s a pretty common reaction to rattlers.

Is it objectively fair to the snake on the other end of the rock? Probably not, but we killed that snake, and I don’t regret it.

When we grilled it up and served it with fresh-picked morels, a salad, and freshly baked bread, I regretted it even less.

It was a nice way to end a Mother’s Day weekend and cook for our mom after all the cooking she’s done for us over the years.


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Snake prep

If you’re ever simultaneously fortunate and unfortunate enough to come across a rattlesnake, you should take the opportunity to eat it.

I’m a shameless foodie, and I’ll try anything once, but I’ll come back to the best foods over and over again.

To date, gator (when properly prepared) remains my favorite meat. It is a perfect blend of fish and chicken both in flavor and texture. Rattlesnake is very similar, albeit leaner.

For those wondering about a rattlesnake’s venom, don’t worry.

Poisonous animals can damage you if eat them, while venomous animals can damage you with their bite, sting, skin, mucous, or other contact.

Rattlesnakes are venomous but not poisonous, so they’re perfectly safe to eat.

When preparing a snake for the table, begin by cutting off the head, where a snake’s venom is stored. This eliminates any chance of ingesting the venom.

Gut the snake as soon as possible by sliding your knife into the anal vent, or cloaca, much the same way as you would when gutting a fish.

Clean out the insides thoroughly with water, being sure to remove all blood and entrails.

Skinning the snake is preferable for most applications, but you can leave the skin off if cooking over a fire or barbecue — just be sure to eat around it.

Rattlesnake is lean and a little chewy, so be careful not to overcook it. We soaked ours in a saltwater solution for an hour to help soften the meat before putting on a dry rub of black pepper, salt, brown sugar, dry mustard and crushed red pepper.

We then brushed on a little butter, put it in foil and barbecued it for about 15 minutes until the meat was white-gray and flaky.

Mushroom prep

We paired it with morels.

Slice the mushrooms lengthwise, then wash off any visible dirt, moss, vegetation or bugs.

Soak the sliced mushrooms in a saltwater solution for an hour or so to draw out any remaining critters.

Morels have a naturally oaky flavor that I find pleasant and try not to overpower. We usually just pan fry or broil them in drawn butter, seasoning lightly with garlic salt.

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