Bill Moeller Commentary: Hunting Skunk Cabbage


Last week’s column had a hint in it that I might have some strange information to pass along to you. Well, it may not be strange to you — but it sure felt like it to me.

In that column, I gave notice of some of the items that I connect with spring, such as frogs and skunk cabbage. Up to that point, I had not mentioned either of those items in earlier columns, at least that I remember.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when, although my column had just been submitted to the paper, that I received an envelope in my mailbox with a picture of young skunk cabbage and a note on it indicating that it was taken on Feb. 20 at 11:47 a.m. at mile marker 44 on state Route 6.

There was nothing else written and no return address on the envelope, either.

So, “What do I do now?” I thought. If I have to drive 44 miles to see it and 44 miles to come home, would my limping 27-year-old, small pickup truck make it all the way there and back? 

But, if you know me, you’d hardly be surprised to learn that I chose to try it anyway. Once on the road, what I soon noticed was that the first roadside sign I saw indicated that I was already at mile marker 47, so I didn’t have as far to go as I first thought. After I reached mile marker 44, as you probably know, state Route 6 at that point has too many curves to make a 180-degree turnaround safely whenever one wants, so I had to go to the intersection with Boistfort Road to switch directions.

Driving somewhat slowly on my way back, I soon picked up a number of vehicles behind me, the drivers of which would have liked to pass me but were stymied by those many turns in the road.

So I sped up (slightly) and — on reaching mile marker 44 — couldn’t quickly spot a safe place to pull over. Neither could I spot any yellow buds or blooms. Two days later, I returned to the by now memorized mile marker.

I still saw no trace of anything yellow. Could it have been that the photo I received in the mail had been taken at a different time in a different year? 

This past Sunday afternoon, my son Matthew drove the two of us to the site and, yep, there are now some yellow spears poking their way into the daylight. But they’re just that — spears — with no great sign of real foliage. I won’t tempt fate and try to drive my old pickup to mile marker 44 again by myself but at least I know that there are still places where the world spins like it should.

On a somewhat similar path to knowledge mentioned in that first column, I want to tell the world that I officially heard the first frog call of the year 2022 at 3:27 p.m. on March 1. I heard it only for a short time but — while it was likely a tree frog that made the call — it was precise and to the point, which is displaying proof that the caller is masculine and his feminine friends had best get in line.

That frog must have been a true leader because the next afternoon the entire chorus assembled to begin their annual bacchanal. Some people think that their courting season is too long, but I don’t think there is such a thing.

I’ve mentioned several times before (after all, the master of columns such as these, Gordon Aadland, repeated himself on more than one occasion), that back in the times when I was a KELA nighttime disc jockey —and it was frog courting season — I would open the back door and leave it open so that any time I turned on my microphone to introduce another record the listeners could share in a true “call of the wild” — from the frogs, not me!

So, while the world has to deal with the crisis of Ukraine, I was able to escape, for a time, into a glimmer of changing seasons and life ahead.


Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at