Rare treats

Having grandchildren in northwest Washington and living in Rapid City, South Dakota, one of the luxuries of our lives has been relatively regular travel between the two places. Being native Montanans, we enjoy the drive across our home state and know several routes that we can take. On this particular journey, we drove diagonally across the state, entering Montana at Alzada in the southeastern corner and exiting at Troy in the northwest corner. Montana is the fourth largest state in the United States and driving the route we took, stopping at the family ranch in Floweree, is nearly an 800-mile trek. Most of the time, we drive a bit more directly across the state, but even so, it is a trip of more than 550 miles. We have developed certain stopping places where we regularly top for food or fuel or just to take a walk and stretch our legs. One of our traditions, when crossing Montana, is a stop at St. Regis Travel Center for huckleberry shakes. We’ve been known to make the stop in the morning as well as the afternoon, depending on what time we happen to arrive. Once in St. Regis, a huckleberry shake is in order regardless of the time of day. The trick to a St. Regis huckleberry shake is that they use huckleberry ice cream. Lots of places make shakes with vanilla ice cream and syrup, but huckleberry ice cream is not commonly available outside of Montana, where Wilcoxson’s Ice Cream makes the flavor. And yes, Vermonters, there is a BIG difference between Wilcoxon’s Ice Cream and Wilcox Ice Cream. I have my biases. Besides Wilcox doesn’t make huckleberry.

When we take the most northern route through Montana, driving around Glacier National Park on US highway 2, the stopping point is the Huckleberry Patch in Hungry Horse, just nine miles from West Glacier. Their shakes contain the most real huckleberries per shake of any place that I know. Huckleberries aren’t like blueberries. Huckleberries are small enough to go through a straw.

Of course there are other stops. We rarely drive by Wheat Montana, near Three Forks, where the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson form the Missouri River. Wheat Montana has a great deli with all kinds of sandwiches and, of course their signature Montana wheat products, which include cinnamon rolls, breads and all kinds of bakery products. The one purchase I nearly always make at Wheat Montana is their coconut macaroons. They know how to get them just right. I always buy a couple of them.

It is a good thing that we live so far away from these wonderful foods. Otherwise I might be tempted to indulge way too often.

A big difference between where we are in Washington and our home is that there are a lot of berry farms around here. We’ve been out picking blueberries and raspberries and there are places where you can pick strawberries. There are also blackberry picking farms, but those are hardly necessary as wild blackberries are very common all around and all you have to do during blackberry season is take a walk with a basket.

This week I discovered that one of the local berry picking farms has, in their value added store, in addition to berry pies, coconut macaroons. Schuh farms is known locally for their pumpkins and their corn maze in the fall, but in the middle of the summer, it is the place to pick berries. The raspberries are really coming on right now and we picked enough to fill the freezer for the year. When we went to the farm store to pay for the berries, a couple of macaroons managed to find their way into the package.

I was enjoying half of a macaroon last night and thinking about some of the special treats that add so much pleasure to life. My life is filled with copious luxuries. I have not only special food treats, but I get special pleasures like visits from grandchildren and sleepovers in the camper and reading stories and singing silly songs. There are so many things I look forward to when we are traveling to our grandchildren’s home.

One of the dynamics of these treats is that they are not our everyday experiences. We have a rich and meaningful life with purposeful work, a lovely home, wonderful neighbors, and so much more. But our children live many miles away from us. We joke that we envy people whose children live close by. We’d settle for having them live close to each other. Actually, it would be a treat for us if they lived on the same continent. Our daughter and son in law have had some great experiences living overseas and we have gotten some wonderful trips out of their adventures, but we certainly would like to be able to visit more often. As it is every visit is a special treat because it is out of the ordinary. Some things in life seem special because they are rare. One or perhaps two huckleberry shakes per year, three or four coconut macaroons, and I am able to look forward to the next one with anticipation for a long time. And the anticipation is part of the joy. Just like Christmas for a child, the build-up and the waiting are all part of the experience.

I was watching our granddaughter last night, picking strawberries. Despite the warm weather, their garden is still yielding quite a few strawberries every day. Our Washington grandchildren all know the joy of picking produce and eating it straight out of the garden. Cherry tomatoes, berries, peas and other produce is available to them in season. They have even been known to pull a carrot, brush off most of the dirt and plop it into their mouths. I’m pretty sure that they don’t know what a luxury they have in their everyday lives. They think of such bounty as normal and usual. I’m glad they have such healthy lives, and I’m sure that there are other treats that are rare for them.

For now, a visit from grandma and grandpa is a rare treat - one they look forward almost as much as we do.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!