How to pay for huckleberries

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Editor’s note: George Ostrom is under the weather this week. We bring you this column from 2004...

On August 19, half a dozen hiking friends went up to Snyder Lakes in search of the famous purple fruit. That is where we have most often found the biggest, thickest huckleberries down through the years. I spent the day watching grizzly bears near St. Mary Lake. Plan was if they found berries I was going up there Saturday. They didn’t do well, just enough to whet the appetites.

Couldn’t put it off any longer, last Thursday afternoon it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to find a large patch of huckleberries to get a yearly fix, so stopped at a stand in downtown Hungry Horse. There was a young man, maybe 13 years old working the cash register. Told me the hucks were going for forty-three dollars a gallon.

“FORTY THREE DOLLARS A GALLON?”

“YES, They are hard to get this year, but we have a fresh supply of really big juicy ones. Look at these. They’re from a secret place.”

The Kid was right. They were large, plump, and deep purple. My mouth was watering just lookin’ at ‘em.

“Young man,” I said, “My wife doesn’t give me very much money.” Showed him my billfold. “Not enough in there for a pint. I’ll have to write a check. Is that O.K.?”

“Is it a local check?”

“Yes,” I told him. “I live in Kalispell.”

Right then a deputy sheriff walked up and greeted me by name and the kid decided it was probably all right to take my check, but while I was gabbing with the officer, some other people moved up to the counter to buy something. A young woman snapped their picture just as the deputy walked away and I stepped into the field of focus.

“Gee I’m sorry Ma’am, but I think I got in the picture.”

“That’s O.K,” replied the young woman, you just have to tell me your name and what you do so I can explain during our vacation show for the folks back home in Michigan.”

“That’s nice of you. My name is George Ostrom, I’m a modest older fellow who does wonderful photo books about Glacier Park, which also feature a generous amount of high quality bull with each picture. They are best sellers in this area.”

The young woman said her name was Sue Stoll and she wondered where she could see one of my books. I said, “Right here in the back of my station wagon.”

Sue introduced her parents and husband John. They looked at the books and decided to buy all three if I’d autograph them.

That done, we shook hands all around while Sue took some more pictures, then I went back to the huckleberry counter and plunked down the green backs for a gallon of berries. The kid said, “You know…I would have taken your check.”

“Young fella. We live in a tourist economy. Never write a check, if you can get cash out of nice folks from Michigan.”

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