The Mussels of Nebraska

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13 account is in a book entitled "Co. Aytch" written by Sam R. Watkins in 1881 (The book is in the public domain and can also be found online). 50 Sam Watkins was a member of the Maury Grays of the First Tennessee Regiment in the Civil War (1861- 1865). Here is what he had to say: "EATING MUSSELS Reader, did you ever eat a mussel? Well, we did, at Shelbyville. We were camped right upon the bank of Duck river, and one day Fred Dornin, Ed Voss, Andy Wilson and I went in the river mussel hunting. Every one of us had a meal sack. We would feel down with our feet until we felt a mussel and then dive for it. We soon filled our sacks with mussels in their shells. When we got to camp we cracked the shells and took out the mussels. We tried frying them, but the longer they fried the tougher they got. They were a little too large to swallow whole. Then we stewed them, and after a while we boiled them, and then we baked them, but every flank movement we would make on those mussels the more invulnerable they would get. We tried cutting them up with a hatchet, but they were so slick and tough the hatchet would not cut them. Well, we cooked them, and buttered them, and salted them, and peppered them, and battered them. They looked good, and smelt good, and tasted good; at least the fixings we put on them did, and we ate the mussels. I went to sleep that night. I dreamed that my stomach was four grindstones, and that they turned in four directions, according to the four corners of the earth. I awoke to hear four men yell out, "O, save, O, save me from eating any more mussels!" Collecting Freshwater Mussels The easiest and most common way to collect shell is to walk the shoreline of a stream or lake, picking up shell as you go. You can also wade while feeling with your feet or, if the water is shallow, you can use your hands. If you feel something that might be a mussel, you reach down and pick it up to see what you have. You might try an underwater viewer such as a bucket with a clear plastic bottom or a commercial viewer. I should note that I have not had much success with these viewers as our streams tend to be too turbid to see much. You might also use a mask and snorkel to look for mussels or, if you are SCUBA certified, you can do that. As a rule, I do not collect live mussels but prefer to photograph them and return them to the water. This is especially true if I have already collected dead shell of the same species at that site. Unless you are planning on cooking them (see "Can you eat them?" above), mussels would have to be preserved. This requires a large wide-mouth container, lots of preservative and someplace to store

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