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By Jesse Utz 

Huckleberry hounds


Last updated 7/18/2018 at 9:53am

This last weekend was our annual family campout and this year we welcomed Cairo on his first visit to the “plantation,” our huckleberry heaven. The crop was in good standing this year; an abundance of purple gold was everywhere and everyone ended the weekend with a permanent stain on their picking fingers that you could flavor your coffee with.

Karrie and I went up first to grab our coveted spot along the plantation and we went back to our younger days, sleeping on the ground in a tent. It was not bad, but our bodies said otherwise in the morning. But there was work to be done in the fields, so we got our buckets and headed out to harvest the wild purple passion. Big berries were abundant.

As the others showed up throughout the day, we would pause and help set up camp. I would sneak away every once and a while to try and spot some wild birds in the forest and around the lake. Loons, bald eagles, golden eagles, hairy woodpeckers, red naped sapsuckers, and yellow warblers were the highlights. The best moment of bird watching was when Karrie and I stared up at the trees one afternoon and were entertained by many cedar waxwings playing in the tops of the pine trees.

There were many special moments about this year’s camping trip. One was spending a little time in the plush crop with the new daughter, Davida. We had a great little talk as we picked the heavenly crop. One other was the night we all stayed up late gazing at the stars, Jesse, Levi and I all trying to catch glimpses of shooting stars or racing satellites. There was also the moment that the little bacon sucker laughed and laughed as his uncle Jesse said “bacon” over and over again. There was also the citronella flavored coffee incident, Karrie winning the cribbage championship (of course), and many, many laughs. Grandma said it best when she said her favorite part was “just spending time with all her family.” Yep. That says a lot.

We saw many Couleeites up in “No tell ’em creek” – Buttons, Dennises, Marchands and Nachtigals all camping among the trees in God’s country. Along with the Billups, Seylors, Siekers and Utzes, it was little Grand Coulee for the weekend. There was plenty of space to go around.

There is just something special about coming together in the woods and everyone just relaxing and doing their own things. We would come together for meals and in the plantation, but our free time was our own. Reading, birding, napping, games and other activities abounded, always surrounded by great conversation and people you love. The passing on of traditions to generations to come became apparent, and Cairo will eventually be passed the torch and he and his cousins will soon be the ones setting up camp, showing the berries, cooking the meals and doing the cleanup. But for now, he can sit back and enjoy family and sucking on bacon. Not a bad life.

The hardest part is always pulling up camp and heading for home. Karrie and I stayed back this year and had church in camp before we left. We spoke of God among the huckleberries, and the birds, bees and chipmunks listened. We compared our faith to searching for these purple nuggets. Sometimes you just grab what you see and that is good enough for you. If you don’t see any on the surface, sometimes you just move on, looking on the surface of the plants. But if you’re willing to go all in, get down into the plants, turn over and get low and look up into the plants, you will find a bounty and bigness. As Karrie said, “Sometimes you need to humble yourself and get on your knees in the dirt to see what God is doing.” Yep, maybe we should all go “all in.”

’Til next year, this is Jess Shut Up signing off from the Huckleberry Plantation.


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