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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.