Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Berries

It seems like my thoughts have been turned to the berries lately.  Usually beginning in the first part of August one of family activities was to go into the mountains and pick huckleberries.  These are a small and very tasty berry that grows wild in cretain parts of the forests surrounding the Bear Lake Valley.  They are quite often plentiful, though in some years they are rather hard to find.  Our family had several places which were our favorites.  One of the closest was up behind Neibuhr Spring in the Dry Fork area in a place we called, of all things, Huckleberry Hill.  I remember going with Dad and Mom nnd some of the family and we would usually come home with a few gallons.  I remember Dad saying that you were really doing well if you got in a spot where you could pick a gallon every four hours.  I have come to realize, that he really did know what he was talking about.  Very rarely, have I found a spot where I could pick any more than a gallon in that period of time.  Some might say they are not worth the effort, but they were free fruit for the family and Mom could make a huckleberry pay like none other.  We were grateful for the fruit and came to enjoy our time sitting in the huckleberry patch picking all day.  As a youth we always had to quit a little bit early in order to get home and get the cows milked before dark  Sometimes Dad would go picking alone and sometimes Mom did too.  I remember once Mom telling me about how she had decided to go picking huckleberries up in Mill Canyon. She found a good patch and as the day wore on she was beginning to fill her second gallon bucket.  Dad had come home from turning a few streams of water as the water master on the Lanark Canal and decided to go see if he could find her.  He did and as she sat picking in the berry patch Dad came in from behind her and scared/ surprised her.  I think she was nonetheless very happy that he was thinking of her and that he came looking.  I can imagine the good conversation they had for the rest of the day.  Of course they had to be back to milk the cows and take care of the kids. 
       The tradition of picking huckleberries did not originate in our family with Mom and Dad and us kids though.  I remember Mom telling us about her childhood years when the whole Hymas clan would go camping up Emigration Canyon around Grandpa Benjamin Hymas' birthday and stay until they had several ten gallon milk cans full of huckleberries.  That seems almost impossible, but then we must remember that it was a family affair, and it was no small family. 
     I also remember Dad telling about one of the neighbors in Lanark who had gone up into the mountains to pick huckleberries and had picked two large buckets full.  While he was picking the second bucket full he  had put the first bucket under a tree until he was finished.  When he finished the second bucket, he searched and searched, but could not find his treasured bucket of berries.  He went home with one bucket full and when he told the sad story of the full bucket sitting under some tree in the mountains his wife was furious.  Dad said for the next several days this poor hen-pecked husband could be seen early in the morning heading for the hills on his horse in search of the the lost bucket of huckleberries.    I know not whether he ever found them or if the whole story was absolutely true, but it made a good story and serves to emphasize the value of a bucket of huckleberries both then and maybe even now.
      Since those first days of picking and relishing Mom's huckeberry pies, I have tried to keep up the tradition.  Every year about the end of July I can be found out in the woods exploring some of my favoite huckleberry haunts to see what the harvest will be like in the next few weeks.  I have discovered many good places.  They are not all good every year, but it is a rare year whe I can't find enough to fill a few buckets and to relish all winter long and into the next summer.  Some of my favorite places are Huckleberry Hill,  Mill Canyon in Emigration Canyon,  Copenhagen Basin,  North Canyon,  Ant Basin,  Cheatback, Stauffer Canyon,  Skinner Canyon, and Georgetown Canyon and at the RC& D Camp.  I have done a lot of exploring as you can see and have enjoyed every moment of it.
     A little over a week ago I took Reed and we  went up by the RC& D Camp in Emigration Canyon and spent about eight hours picking huckleberries, and I might add, in our advanced years and the frame of our minds, philosphizing, mostly on subjects of religion, but sometimes just about life in general.  It was a great day and the four gallons of huckleberries we came home with at the end of the day were really just a bonus.  We couldn't help but wonder what Mom and Dad were thinking as they looked down from the Heavens and listened to us in deep discussion as we sat and scooted through the huckleberry bushes on the seat of our pants stainingg them a deep purple as we picked and prodded one antothers minds.
     On a melancholy note, I missed my dog, River, who had gone with me on these ocassions for thirteen straight years.  He passed away last fall.  He would sit next to me and eat the declicous little berries right off the bush all day.  We would later find little huckleberry flavored tootsie rolls around the yard and on the lawn at home for the next several days.

One at a time,  how many will it ake to fill a gallon bucket?

     Life is good.

By Bart