Wild Snails

There was no doubt. The next driveway to the right was the Door Country tour depot. Rows of bright red trolley buses bordered the big square building. As she pulled into the driveway, my daughter Tammie remarked, “I hope they haven’t left without us. We’re a little late.”

Inside the depot a gift shop and several shoppers distracted us. We began to look around. A man with a clipboard stepped out of the office and announced in a loud voice, “I’m looking for the Richardsons.” We turned toward him as he said, “It’s time to board the trolley for your Premier five-hour winery tour.” As we boarded the bus, I hummed the theme song of Gilligan’s Island. Obviously in a party mood, or relieved by our tardy appearance, the other passengers cheered and clapped.

In the short drive to our first stop, Tammie researched restaurants for our evening meal. Looking up from her phone, she laughed, “The menu at this restaurant offers wild snails.”

I silently stared at her for a moment before peppering her with questions, “Does that mean people actually farm snails? I wonder what they eat? What is a large gathering of snails called? Several crows are called a murder of crows. Would it be a slime of snails? How in the world does a person hunt for wild snails? Are wild snails even a real thing?”

An employee at the first fruit farm and winery handed flights of wine to each person. She described the wines we would be tasting pointing out the different notes we could expect. Tammie and I bought additional flights. Sitting at a shaded table, my daughter and I shared the ten small cups. Now researching snails between tastes, she read, “The farming of snails is called heliciculture.”

After sniffing a pink wine called Raspberry Splash, I took a sip and asked, “What sort of feed do they give the snails?”After a taste, Tammie announced, “I Like this one. I’m going to buy a bottle of it.” Next up was a pale-yellow pear wine. Smacking her lips after tasting it, she read, “Snails primarily eat greens, either fresh or dried. Sea snails are omnivores. I suppose that means any other small, slow-moving thing they come across.” That seemed funny to us, so we laughed.

Back on the trolley I confessed to Tammie, “I once talked to a mother whose son suffered chronic pain. She said the doctor prescribed the poisonous venom of a sea snail. I’d never heard of anything so unusual. I laughed, imaging how sea snail venom would be collected. She was very angry. I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings.”

Tammie snickered then offered, “You and Daddy always used dark humor to cope with my health problems.” By the time we arrived at the next winery, everyone on the trolley was singing “Sweet Caroline.”

Samples at this winery had memorable names, such as “Red Frosting” and “Pink Door”. Taking a picture of the flight setting before her, Tami returned to her snail research, “The article about snails says that wild snails live 3 to 7 years, but in captivity they can live up to 15 years.”

With a goofy grin I wondered, “How could a snail manage to be in captivity for 15 years without being eaten?”

My daughter exclaimed, “People with fur allergies like snails for pets!”

Frowning, I doubtfully commented, “A small snail doesn’t sound like a fun pet.”

Shrugging, Tammie pointed out, “Apparently, African snails get as big as hamsters. They’re illegal to own in the United States, though. If they got away, they could do a lot of damage to the environment.”

Back on the trolley headed to the third winery, all the passengers belted out, “I Love Rock-and-Roll” like a chorus of college fraternity chums.

At the third winery we had lunch after tasting more wine. My salad reminded me of the snails again. I leaned over to quietly ask Tammie, “Did you read about how snails reproduce?”

My daughter nodded, and laughed outright as she reported, “Snails have their sex organs on the side of their heads. Sex for them can last six to twelve hours!” I started to laugh, too.

On the trolley ride back to the depot we sang along with the Four Season’s “Walk Like a Man” and another round of “Sweet Caroline”. Between songs I asked my daughter, “Do you think slugs are just naked snails?”

Dedicated to journaling about our vacation, Tammie shrugged in answer. Then she looked up from her note book to ask, “What was the name of the restaurant where we ate lunch?”

I responded, “I’m not sure. I remember seeing a sign that said, ‘Max’.”

Tammie joked, “Are you sure the sign didn’t stand for ‘maximum capacity’?

The five-hour winery tour was enjoyable. Arriving back at the depot, we shopped in the gift shop. Then we sat in the shade at a picnic table drinking cups of coffee, chatting and watching other tourists coming and going at the Door County tour depot.





While on our wine tour in Door County, the topic of wild snails came up. My daughter and I had many questions, such as; How and where does a person go to hunt snails? Is a license needed? Is a bait used? How many snails make a meal?  Do they need to be field-dressed? Are escargot eaten raw or cooked?
 
Dr. Snail face

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