photo of McLeod kids: Stella, Ken James, Susan © George W. McLeod
Huckleberry Hill was just what the name implied...a partially forested hill where the huckleberries grew in a rather abundant and prolific manner. Though the name was a local one and didn't appear on any maps, the hill was more or less a mountain and was well known as part of North Mountain, which was situated in the Cascade Mountains near the small hamlet of Darrington, Washington. And like many other postwar (WW II) families of the 1950s - 1960s era, traveling and camping was something almost everyone did in the summer time, especially when the berries were ripe in the mountains. Then, the car was packed up and we went camping, fishing, and berry picking. The huckleberries were picked to make pies and jam out of, but many were just eaten raw by the tiny hands (we kids) that picked them.
Up the hill the old Chevy "Woody" rumbled with dad at the wheel and mother sitting beside him as the co-pilot.
"George, please watch the curve and the chuckholes," she could be heard saying from time to time as we drove the mountain road...with three young kids in the back seat eager to pick and eat the red-hued succulent berries so promised.
For us kids, there was always a sense of "indulging" as we neared a patch we intended to pick; it was like going to a candy store with unlimited funds to buy all the sweets one could muster. How many could we eat before mother or father would tell us to stop? How sweet those little red-candied blobs tasted!
In the hours that followed, after my sisters and I had had our fill and the cartons or buckets were full enough to our parents content, our fingers looked like red orbs...our lips the same. And when the blueberries were ripe, we all looked like children of the "Purple People Eater" a hit song that came to be about a purple monster of sorts. Of course all the children of the day sang it and the parents began to unconsciously whistle it...
Today, it's no wonder why I have an inert desire to pick and eat huckleberries when I see them growing in the mountains. And on occasion, when picking and stooped over a bush, when the wind is just right, I swear I can hear mom and dad saying, "save some of those berries for the pies and jam or you'll get eaten by the Purple People Eater who lives just over the hill."
"The Purple People Eater" was a novelty song, written and performed by Sheb Wooley, that reached #1 in the Billboard pop charts in 1958.
Ken James McLeod
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