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Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

Sometimes I wish Mom, Aunt Nell, and Aunt Doris had not been good cooks.  I wish they hadn’t made the most delicious pies and cornbread dressing and casseroles.  Then preparing Thanksgiving dinner would be easier.

Aunt Doris’s chocolate cream pie is still a high standard that no one in my family has reached.  Mom’s dressing was the best ever.  I’ve tried to duplicate Aunt Nell’s asparagus casserole.  I wonder if she added a secret ingredient that’s not in the recipe?  

If my family had never eaten Thanksgiving dinner that Mom and her sisters prepared, maybe they’d be happy with a meal advertised by grocery stores and restaurants.  Turkey, dressing, gravy, two sides, and pumpkin pie for twelve people for $114.95.  Just heat and serve.

Although it’s been more than twenty years since my aunts and Mom served Thanksgiving dinner, my cousins, sister-in-law, and I have carried on the tradition of a home cooked feast. Which makes me wonder how many hours are spent preparing Thanksgiving dinner?

That question came to mind as I stirred cornmeal, an egg, and buttermilk to bake cornbread to be made into dressing three days later.  The cornbread dried out for a few days so it could be crumbled and mixed with celery and onion, chicken bouillon, an egg, and a sprinkling of seasonings. The celery and onion were chopped and sauteed, and because a few people in my family don’t like celery I blend it with bouillon to hide the green.  One time, I omitted celery and used celery salt (omitting additional salt) and that was the worst dressing ever. 

When the dressing is mixed, I form balls, a bit smaller than a tennis ball like Mom did because we like crunchy dressing and every serving browns perfectly.  Hours – just for the cornbread dressing.  As I sometimes say to Husband, “I’m not complaining.  Just thinking out loud.”

There’s nothing to roasting a turkey.  Unless, you brine it so the meat is more tender and delicious.  Dissolve sugar, salt, and spices in hot apple and orange juice and let it cool, and place the turkey in the brine for at least 24 hours. 

Wash the salty brine from the turkey and dry it before roasting.  Husband is in charge of carving and the turkey platter is a work of art.  Each piece is evenly sliced.  Hours – just for the turkey.

Then there are the sides.  Green beans.  Home canned beans are the best, but store-bought ones can be seasoned to taste almost like backyard garden beans.  Corn.  Lima beans. Sweet potato casserole. Mashed potatoes.  Asparagus casserole. Cranberry salad and yeast rolls complete the meal

And desserts.  The crusts of Mom’s pumpkin pie and Aunt Doris’s chocolate pie were made from scratch.  Refrigerated store-bought crusts are almost as good. 

 A heat and serve meal would be easier, but when many cooks bring a dish or two, we get to enjoy the Best Meal of the Year.  The Best – that’s what Daughter says. Soon it’ll be her turn to roast the turkey and make dressing.

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Doing Right Isn’t Always Easy

            Richard stood straight as he walked toward the front door that summer afternoon in 1963.  Mom, Dad, and I watched through our living room picture window.

            Richard had called the day before and asked to visit.  He said he’d just been discharged from the Air Force and worked with my brother Roger in Spain. He asked if it would be okay to stop by on his way home to Mississippi; he wanted to meet Roger’s family.

            He shook Dad’s hand and nodded, almost bowed to Mom and me.  He stood taller than Dad’s 6’2” and although Roger had written about his good friend Richard and I knew he was black, his presence in our living room surprised me.  As a 16-year-old, I’d hoped he would bring gifts from my brother, but that wasn’t the reason he visited. 

            After a bit of small talk, we realized Richard had driven many miles out of his way to our home in Byrdstown, Tennessee.  He sat on the chair’s edge, closest to Dad who sat in the red rocking chair.  Mom and I sat on the couch facing them.  Richard leaned forward, his back straight, his hands clasped between his wide spread knees.

            He began to tell stories about his and Roger’s service together at Moron Air Base.  As communication specialists, they had sat side-by-side in an underground bunker. It was stressful: twelve hours on, twelve hours off.  Roger was still there.

            After a few minutes, Richard dropped his head and was quiet.  Then he said that Roger had been his only friend when he needed one. I don’t remember how Richard was wronged or if he explained.  I do remember that he wiped the back of his hand across his tear-filled eyes and I left the room.  Maybe because I got a non-verbal message from Mom or Dad or because I was uncomfortable watching Richard cry.  I sat out of sight in the kitchen, but close enough to hear.

            Richard said he wanted to meet Roger’s parents and thank them for their son.  He said Roger stood beside him when no one else did and Roger may have saved his life.  They had both been punished, and Roger’s only transgression was that he told the truth. 

             Richard also talked about good times he and Roger had shared in town during their time off, and about Diablo, the horse Roger bought and trained in Spain. Mom, Dad, and Richard talked and laughed. 

            Richard hugged each of us before he left our home, and we watched through the living room window as he walked to his car.

            The only time I heard my brother talk about Richard, he said that he was a good guy and wasn’t treated fairly because he was black.

            Even as a teen-ager, I knew Richard travelled many miles to do what most people wouldn’t do; he was a good guy.  And whatever my brother did, he did all his life – he stood with friends to do the right thing, no matter the consequences.

Greeting Strangers

A few words can bring laughter and good feelings. While four college girlfriends and I spent four days together, we stopped at a Walgreens to buy hand lotion, ice, and playing cards. 

My friends stood nearby when I laid ice and cards on the checkout counter. A man, about age 40, stood behind me and cleared his throat. “Hmmm.  Looks like it’s poker night,” he said and smiled slightly.  With a serious look, I replied, “You’re exactly right.” His slow nod made me chuckle and I shook my head; then he laughed, as did the woman behind him.  

A fifteen-second encounter among strangers.  Yet, one of the best stories from our girlfriend trip to celebrate our 75th birthdays.  Who would suggest a group of retired women would buy ice and cards for poker night?  (Actually, we’d planned to deal a few hands of bridge, but we didn’t stop talking until bedtime.)  This young man’s comment brought smiles to everyone who heard him.

            A friendly comment can make both the giver and receiver smile. A FaceBook friend posted about giving compliments to strangers.  Words can be simple.  ‘Love those shoes.’  ‘Great looking hair!’  ‘I like that green shirt.’   Why give such compliments?  The FB post states: Because life is hard and some people are just plain mean. You never know what other people are going through and a few positive words might make them happier, at least for the moment, and will boost your spirits, too.

When I do grocery shopping, stock clerks are often in the aisles opening boxes and placing items on shelves.  What a monotonous job.  One day as I put cake mixes in my shopping cart, I said, “You keep everything so orderly on the shelves.  Thanks for making it easier to shop.”  The young man turned to me, grinned, and said, “Thanks.  No one ever noticed.”

            I admit speaking to strangers doesn’t come naturally to me.  I’ll stand shoulder to shoulder in a crowded elevator and only acknowledge those around me with a half-smile and not say a word.  I think of Husband’s and my long-time friend Russell who lived the adage of never meeting a stranger.

            While riding on an elevator, Russell would strike up a conversation with strangers, make connections, exchange contact information, and claim kinship.  He had the gift of putting strangers at ease and making all around him happier.  One time I dreaded going to a social event where I knew very few people and I gave myself a pep talk, ‘I’m going to be like Russell and have a good time.’  I’ve shortened that talk:  Be a Russell.

            Who needs compliments?  Everyone.  Even a few words encourage.

Who responds to friendly comments?  Almost everyone.  We college friends certainly did.  Every time I play with those cards, I’ll smile, or maybe I’ll send each girlfriend one card on her next birthday. 

Because a young man greeted me, a stranger, my friends and I laughed and have a happy memory.

A Tech Homecoming Memory

When the phone rings close to midnight, it’s never good news.  “There’s been a fire.  Can you come help?” 

My friends and I wanted to, but we had a big problem.  We couldn’t get there.  Not because we couldn’t walk the half-mile there, but because we were locked in our Tennessee Tech dormitory.  In 1967, Friday night women’s dorm curfew was 11:00 p.m. and the doors were locked for the night.

At 10:59 we girls had stood on the well-lit steps of Meadows Hall and kissed our boyfriends good-night.  They left to put the finishing touches on their fraternity homecoming yard decoration which was to be judged early Saturday morning. 

The call for help had come on the hallway dorm phone. “The fraternity decoration has burned.  We have to help build it back!”  The message went from room to room along the hallway dorm.

Many of us had spent hours and hours that afternoon and evening stuffing 4-inch tissue paper squares into chicken wire.  In only a few minutes, the twenty-foot-tall Golden Eagle had gone up in flames.  Only the wire structure remained, but the fraternity brothers were determined to complete the decoration again..

Was there any way we girls could get out of the dorm and help? A loud siren alarm would alert the dorm mother, who was a graduate student, if we opened a door.  Climbing out windows that were covered with screens didn’t seem possible.  Besides, none of us were risktakers who were willing to break the rules and suffer the consequences.

What if we explained to the dorm mother what had happened and asked to leave for a few hours?  What if we begged? What were the chances she’d let us leave? 

Relying on the adage that the worst that could happen was that we’d be told no, a few of us donned our raincoats over our baby doll pajamas and knocked on our dorm mother’s apartment door. We must have looked desperate or frightened because she immediately welcomed us into her small living room.

I’m sure we poured out our hearts and probably shed a few tears, maybe from the nervousness of asking, as we explained what had happened and asked to leave the dorm to help rebuild the destroyed decoration.

Now, I wonder if our dorm mother confirmed the fire with the fire department? Did she call the Dean of Women to get permission for us leave?  Or did she trust us enough to take the responsibility herself to unlock the dorm front door and watch us pile in our boyfriends’ cars in the middle of the night?

Under the illumination of street lights on Dixie Avenue and the beams of cars’ headlights, we stuffed every chicken wire hole with tissue paper and the Golden Eagle stood to be judged. 

Neither Husband nor I remember if the decoration won, but we agree that it was the only time he picked me up at a Tech dorm after midnight.  

And it’s a happy memory.

Halloween Hayrides

How do you entertain kids who are really too old to trick or treat? 

            Edna and Delmer Crouch, volunteer youth leaders at Byrdstown First Christian Church, knew exactly what to do with us young teens many years ago.  They loaded hay, some baled and some loose, in the back of a truck, told us kids to hop on, and then drove all over Pickett County for hours.  Every teen who attended church showed up for hayrides, even if they never went to regular Sunday night CYF, Christian Youth Fellowship, and Edna and Delmer encouraged us to bring friends.

            Remembering hayrides, I think of cold evenings, full moons, star-filled skies, wool blankets, and singing.  My memories are all happy, all romanticized, but I needed the help of two high school friends for details.

Sometimes Delmer drove a pick-up truck and sometimes a big truck with racks around the truck bed.  When he drove the pickup, we had to sit, but when he drove the big truck, we could stand.  Standing was fun; we swayed as we sang every verse of “Kumbaya” and “The Ants Go Marching One by One.”  

Sitting in a pickup wasn’t as much fun; maybe because we couldn’t lean our whole bodies with the curves.  Or maybe because it was common everyday practice for kids, of all ages, who lived in rural communities in the 1950s and 60s to ride in the back of a pickup truck.  No seats, no seat belts. 

Sometimes we even sat with the tailgate down to drag our feet on the road, but not on church hayrides because the tailgate was securely latched. While Delmer drove, Edna looked back through the cab window often and if someone wasn’t seated or threw a leg over the side of the truck, Delmer put the brakes on and the truck stopped.  Neither he nor Edna got out of the cab.  When the truck stopped, the culprit straightened up.

Edna’s watchful eyes must have also caught a kiss or two.  In fact, that was one friend’s memory:  on a hayride he kissed a girl, but he didn’t remember who.  Kissing couples didn’t kiss for long; we girls giggled at them and the boys teased and the kissers blushed. 

Sometimes we’d stop at a church member’s home where there’d be a campfire to roast hotdogs and marshmallows and sit around the fire to hear stories.  One night, Vicky wasn’t quite finished eating her perfectly browned marshmallows so she took them back on the truck.  Soon, white sticky marshmallows were in her hair and stuck in hay. What a mess!

Delmer and Edna’s son and daughter-in-law were the chaperones for one hayride, and we rode in the back of their big two-ton truck, usually used to haul corn.  The son drove around the river hill hairpin curves down to Dale Hollow Lake and into the lake just to scare us.  He did.  Delmer would never have done that. Martha summed up hayrides perfectly when she wrote, “I loved those hayrides! We always begged Delmer for a longer ride. Always.”   

Monday Morning at School

“Today we’re going to write another five-sentence paragraph,” Mrs. K* said.  Her second grade students opened their flip top desks to get pencils.  Mrs. K placed sheets of paper on her students’ desks.

“Julie is sharpening her pencil.  Bill knows to clear his desk of everything except his pencil.  Mary is ready.” 

            Children wiggled and chatted among themselves quietly.  “Who remembers the name of the first sentence of a paragraph?”  Several children shouted, “Topic!” and others echoed in sing-song chants.

            Mrs. K sat at her desk and focused a small camera on paper that projected onto a chalkboard size Smart Board.  “Let’s begin together.”  She wrote and said, “My weekend was _________.  What words could be in the blank?”  She repeated her students’ answers.  “Great. Fun. Happy. Wonderful.”  She wrote ‘great’ in her sentence and then walked around the classroom.

            “Now, we’ll use a transition word. Beth just wrote the word ‘first.’ That’s her transition word and I’ll use it too.”  Mrs. K wrote ‘First, I cooked pizza for Friday night supper.’   “I heard Tom say he didn’t do anything and his weekend was boring.  So, he can fill in the word boring in his topic sentence and what could he write for the second sentence?” 

            Tom’s classmates offered ideas. Mrs. K said, “Tom is writing that he went to bed Friday.  That’s a good detail sentence for his topic sentence.  After everyone puts a period at the end of the second sentence, let’s choose another transition word.”

            Students suggested words: then, after that, next. Mrs. K wrote ‘Then on Saturday, I went to my sons’ soccer games.’ “You write something you did Saturday.”  Again, Mrs. K walked around the classroom whispering to individual students and then she said aloud, “We’ll add one last detail sentence.  What transition words can we use?”  The students were silent.

            “How about another thing I did or finally?” She wrote a sentence and students wrote on their papers. “That’s four sentences.  We’re ready for the concluding sentence.  Is it a detail?” 

            Students responded:  some shook their heads and some shouted, “No!” Mrs. K wrote ‘As you can see my weekend was _______.’  “What’s another word for great?” Mrs. K pointed to her topic sentence and then repeated the words students suggested: fabulous, outstanding, happy. 

            Students wrote and Mrs. K walked around the classroom.  “All right. Let’s draw a picture.” Mrs. K drew a stick person on her paper; a few students laughed.  “Oh, please be kind.  I’m just learning to draw.”

            As a grandparent volunteer, I’d cut out four-inch felt squares for twenty minutes that Monday morning while Mrs. K had guided nineteen students to write paragraphs. I stood from my seat at the back of the classroom and quietly applauded.  Mrs. K grinned and nodded. 

            Mrs. K’s last directions before recess is a quote I’ve saved.  “Take a minute to put things where they belong.  Remember how good that feels?”

I’m thankful for teachers like Mrs. K. Let’s honor them with respect and appreciation.

*Names changed – just because.

Does Everything Have to be Pumpkin Flavored?

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and a cup of coffee taste good these cool fall mornings. That’s black coffee, not flavored, and I learned to like the bread when I ate it with my Grands at the Great Harvest Bread Company last fall.  They called it The Pumpkin Bread Store and were disappointed when Cookeville’s Great Harvest closed this spring.

            Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread took me out of my food comfort zone because I’ve always liked plain pumpkin, as in pie.  I’m almost appalled by the many foods and drinks flavored with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. 

Nothing tastes better than pumpkin pie, topped with real whipped cream, after a Thanksgiving Day turkey and cornbread dressing feast.  Even now, I look forward to baking a pie using Mom’s recipe, which she tore from a Libby’s Pumpkin can label.  And that recipe doesn’t include pumpkin pie spice. 

Libby’s recipe was probably created before the spice was bottled, which proves to me that pumpkin pie spice is totally unnecessary. It’s simply a concoction of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and depending on someone’s tolerance of allspice and ginger, one or both can be added.

When the calendar turned to September, store shelves magically filled with all things pumpkin and coffee shops promoted pumpkin lattes.  A Facebook friend shared pictures of her fall shopping haul, and while all items weren’t pumpkin flavored, many were. Pumpkin Spice Trail Mix.  Pumpkin Spice Coconut Granola.  Pumpkin Chipotle. Pumpkin breakfast bars. Pumpkin yogurt.  Pumpkin spice craft soda.  

I can imagine most of those tastes, but pumpkin chipotle?  Smoked dried jalapeno chili peppers flavored pumpkin?

As I shopped for groceries recently, I noticed several favorite year-around foods were featured on the end caps to entice impulse shoppers, except these items were the flavor of fall.  Honey Nut Cheerios make a good snack eaten hand to mouth or with milk for a meal, but I won’t buy Pumpkin Cheerios.

Chocolate marshmallows make double chocolate s’mores; I’m almost certain that pumpkin marshmallows would taint milk chocolate Hershey bars. I really like the sweet and salty combination of yogurt covered pretzels; I’m not sure about pumpkin yogurt pretzels.

I’ve tried pumpkin recipes.  When I ate a warm pumpkin sugar cookie, I wished I’d baked chocolate chip cookies, and pumpkin cheesecake bars are a poor substitute for pumpkin pie.

After Great Harvest closed, Daughter began baking Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and it’s really good, but on a recent trip I spotted a Great Harvest Bakery and packed a loaf of my Grands’ favorite bread in my carry-on flight bag. I had to do some fast talking to explain to the airport security officer that my Tennessee Grands would be so disappointed to not get pumpkin bread from the real Pumpkin Bread Store. 

When my Grands and I ate the bread, I decided it’s best eaten with people you love.  And who knows, maybe pumpkin yogurt pretzels are worth trying.  Just don’t mess with my coffee.

Kids Talk About Banned Books

While driving with four Grands in my van, their discussion about a Harry Potter book made me think of banned books and recent columns my friend, Jennie Ivey, wrote.  So, here’s another column about banned books – this one from my Grands’ perspectives.

            “Have you talked about banned books in school or at home?” I asked. 

            “What’s a band book?” said my 8-year-old Grand. 

To simplify this writing, the children are identified by age.  Because I was concentrating on driving – not writing notes during the conversation or who said what – quotes may not be exact, but are close.

“Gran said banned books.  Not band books.  Banned comes from b-a-n. Ban.” age 15 said.

“So, what’s a ban?” asked 8. 

The 11 and 13-year-olds giggled.  “Ban means to not allow.”

“Like Gran might ban candy and we can’t have any.”

“We can’t have candy!” 8 asked.  Everyone laughed.

“We can have candy,” 15 said. “That was just a way to say what ban means.  A banned book isn’t allowed to be read.”

“Why couldn’t you read a book?” 8 asked.

I tried to explain, “Sometimes people think a book shouldn’t be read because it might be scary or include things that are aren’t real or death. Like “Charlotte’s Web” because animals talk and they die.”

“But that’s just fiction if it’s not real,” 11 said.

“Then I guess “Animal Farm” would definitely be a banned book and not just because animals talk. I read it for school,” said 15. 

“You read it for school so it’s not banned. Right?” asked 11.

Through several questions and explanations, I think everyone understood that a book can be banned from some schools and public libraries, like the Putnam County Library, but not all schools and libraries. “So, we can still buy a banned book or get it online?  If Momma says we can?” Yes and yes.

“Do you know some banned books, Gran?”  13 asked. When I said that Harry Potter books are banned in some places, my Grands reacted and I listened.

“What! That’s crazy. Why?”

“Probably the spells and witches.”

“And the Quidditch games and riding on broom sticks.”

“And Voldemort and all the mean stuff he does.”

“But it’s all pretend. It’s fiction.  Everybody knows that.”

“Maybe some people think it’s real.”

“Why? Nobody rides on broom sticks in the sky to play a game.”

These children have read the Harry Potter books and watched the movies at home with their parents and siblings.  After a few minutes of talk about favorite scenes and who has read which books and seen which movies, the van was quiet. We were almost home.

Thirteen-year-old ended the discussion. “That’s really sad that somebody couldn’t get to read Harry Potter books.  There’s lots of imagination and fun and the books are a whole lot better than the movies.”

Play and Learn- Whether We Like It or Not

That’s not even a word. It’s not in the dictionary. I’ve never heard of that word.  Wordlers, people who solve daily Wordle puzzles, were angry.

Friday, September 16th, the five-letter word puzzle stumped the best of Wordlers.  I scrolled through FaceBook that morning and noted that three friends who regularly post successes hadn’t guessed the correct word in the six allotted tries. And a friend sent a mad emoji and her failed attempt.  Should I even try?

For you non-Wordlers, I didn’t see the words they tried, I saw colored boxes for the five letters: green for a correct letter in the correct place, orange for a letter in the word in an incorrect place, gray for a letter not in the word. 

On the fourth, fifth, and sixth tries, my friends’ puzzles showed one of two patterns. (I wish boxes were printed here in color.) Green, green, gray, green, green. Gray, green, green, green, green.

So, it was a word that is the hardest for me – a word that makes me play the rhyming game.  Rhyming words is a way many children learn to read.  After they learn the word ‘mad,’ they can substitute beginning letters and read dad, had, bad, sad, fad, and lad.  But the rhyming game is frustrating when there are many choices and only a few guesses.

I began with a word I sometimes use: adieu. The ‘e’ was in the right place and the word had an ‘a’ somewhere. I tried raked.  The ‘e’ and ‘a’ were in the right places, and there was a ‘r.’  Could it be maker, taker, farer, raker?

How about ‘r’ in three places:  rarer?  All were correct except the first letter and now I was stumped just like my friends had been. Barer, darer, carer, oarer, parer?  Were these all words?  My fourth guess was incorrect: carer.

For no good reason, my fifth guess was ‘parer’ and that was the answer.  A word I’ve never used.  Never heard. Never seen written.  One friend said that it wasn’t even in his online dictionary.

We all know what a paring knife is.  We pare down our wish list.  But who expected parer to be a Wordle word?

            According to my online Merriam-Webster dictionary, parer is a transitive verb meaning to trim off an outside or excess, as in to pare an apple or to pare fingernails. Vocabulary.com gives two definitions, both nouns: a small sharp knife used in paring fruits or vegetables, a manicurist who trims fingernails.

            The word originated from the Latin word parare, ‘prepare.’  The Middle English origin is derived from a French word that means to peel, to trim.  Which makes me wonder if parer was a common word during the time period from 1150 to 1450 in England?

            As friends ranted I listened, content that I had learned a new word, as did most Wordlers.  I discovered that only  41% of the millions of players guessed ‘parer.’ We learn through mistakes, whether we like it or not.

What’s a huckleberry?

  “I ate some really good huckleberry ice cream,” I told four Grands after one asked what I had eaten while Husband and I took a bus tour through parts of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.  “Huckleberry?  Like the boy in the book?  What’s his name?” one Grand asked. 

Another Grand answered. “Huckleberry Finn.  Was it his favorite kind of ice cream?”

Before we could discuss possible connections between Huckleberry Finn and huckleberries, my Grands asked more questions.  “What’s a huckleberry?  Do we have them?  What’d the ice cream taste like? Did you eat it a lot?”

Huckleberries are small purple berries that grow wild in the Pacific Northwestern United States. They thrive in the regions of the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone National Park, but don’t grow naturally in Tennessee.

Huckleberry ice cream is delicious and unique – a flavor combination of dark sweet grapes and cherries. I wish I’d eaten a lot.

Before leaving for this trip, several people told me to eat huckleberry ice cream so I was eager to try it. Husband and I spent the first afternoon walking around downtown Rapid City, South Dakota, where I expected to see ice cream parlors, but didn’t, and huckleberry ice cream wasn’t available at the restaurants where we ate for two days.

We made stops in Gillette and Sheridan, Wyoming, and stayed overnight in Billings, Montana, and I only found individual package ice cream treats, like in our local stores.  On to West Yellowstone, Montana, a small town, population 1090, and I spotted an ice cream truck parked on a street corner.

As Husband and I walked to a local 1950s style restaurant for supper we passed the truck, and I checked out the flavors.  Yes, huckleberry was on the list!  “That’s my dessert!” I said.  What I didn’t notice was the operating hours and an hour later, the ice cream truck was closed.

After a day in Yellowstone Park, we stayed in West Yellowstone another night.  At suppertime we walked to the ice cream truck, and  I ordered two scoops of huckleberry ice cream.  The young lady apologized, “I’m sorry.  We’re out of huckleberry.”

To go with my supper, cheeseburger and cheese-covered tater tots, and to drown my disappointment, I drank a huckleberry soda pop that tasted like a Nehi grape soda, except sweeter.  Never again.

Our last overnight stop was Jackson, Wyoming, well-known for antler arches on its town square corners and its ski slopes.  Surely, a resort town of 10,000 would also have ice cream shops on every corner.

Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream Shop was on a side street and at the top of the flavors list was Wild Huckleberry.  I didn’t celebrate until I held two scoops in a waffle cone. Husband and I sat on a park bench, near an antler arch, and I slowly licked and savored that delicious ice cream. 

            Huckleberry Finn and huckleberries? Because huckleberries are small, the word ‘huckleberry’ was used to refer to something small or unimportant. Some scholars think Mark Twain had that in mind when he named Huckleberry Finn.