“Huckleberry Hounds” by Kathe Campbell

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Parent.” 

Whoops and yells echoed up and down Hannibal Street as our little children pedaled their bikes, hollering that their dad was about to finish the playhouse. My husband, Ken, had finally taken leave of the decking on our new home to concentrate on the little ranch-style dwelling he promised to build our children before summer’s end. Having one’s own private digs at the far southeast corner of our sprawling backyard was as good as it gets in a neighborhood full of little girls.

“Where will our window be?” piped up our youngest as Dad the builder screwed in the last pieces of bright red metal roofing.

“Right here on the east side to catch the morning sun, and maybe one on the west for the sunsets. How does that sound?” their dad quizzed them while concentrating on measurements.

It all started with our transfer to Montana, a move that excited us, as nature lovers, to our very cores. Our young family fell in love with a life of leisure in the great outdoors, far from big city trappings.

Though we sometimes missed the sophistication of metropolitan culture, we settled into a lifestyle most folks only dream about. Then the ugly “transfer” word sprang up. A transfer back to Seattle was imminent. There was groaning and moaning from the cheap seats as great wails loomed over the dinner table, lamenting missing their sports, Brownie Scouts and, most of all, their friends. We didn’t want to leave the Montana lifestyle we loved so much, so as a family, we made the decision to say goodbye to Dad’s big-city corporate job and not return to Seattle. We then rolled out the welcome mat for friends and relatives at our Montana Shangri-La.

red wineThree years prior, our fun-loving neighbors and we had brewed homemade wines using local huckleberries. Any vessel that could be corked qualified to hold our fermenting and coveted vintages. Up and down our street, our fermenting wine gurgled in laundry rooms, garages and basements. We celebrated New Year’s with popping corks and sparkling secondary fermentation that produced perfect spume. But unhappily, most of us had trouble taming our big jugs of the reds. Despite hours of poring over how-to manuals, there surfaced a glitch.

One shelf in our big new garage was home to the anvil chorus of those sorry reds I had hoped would disappear. Instead of fermenting gracefully and sipping like nectar of the gods, the liquor had become the stuff of lacquer. Rip-roarin’ headaches caused near blindness and morning distempers with anyone who dared speak. I had begged Ken to let me toss the stuff out, but he was adamant. “We were lucky to pluck huckleberries ahead of the bears,” he insisted.

Now and then he braved the opening of one or two bottles on special occasions, while the younger set grimaced and groaned in unpalatable pain. “What are you guys celebrating with that awful smelling stuff anyhow?” came young challenges. “You’re not going to serve it to company, are you?” No one could have felt more secure knowing that our darlings would rather commit hara-kiri than make friends with that god-awful wild huckleberry stuff.

When the playhouse was finally carpeted and furnished, and bright curtains hung, the girls moved in with the dogs to test their courage 85 feet away from the safety of the house and their bedrooms. They turned on the FM radio while a soft rain doused their new metal roof with soft splatters. Best friends fairly waited in line for a sleepover invite, not that much sleep ever took place with a mischievous older brother and his buddies skulking about the playhouse’s premises.

Kathe's girls, 1968

Kathe’s girls, 1968

An evening came when Ken and I would attend a wedding and our eight-year-old asked to invite a couple friends for a sleepover in the new pad. Without even a second thought, I agreed. “Sure, take your sleeping bags, pillows and flashlights. We’ll be home around 10 or so. There are snacks in the pantry and extra soda pop in the garage should you run out.”

The giggling and gossiping on the lips of three third graders enchants. The giggling and gossiping on the lips of three third

graders with a snoot full jades that charm somehow. Because those awful wine jugs were languishing in close proximity to the soda, the temptation had obviously been too great. We discovered their foray into our forbidden liquid fruit offerings when we returned home. It hardly took a genius to figure it out.

So what to do? Swallow our pride and take the little pie-eyed guests home with awkward apologies, or hide them away in big warm beds while they sobered up back to the land of the living?

“Well, good morning sleepyheads,” I said as I stirred late-morning pancake batter for the ravenous survivors of a first-time binge that never passed over anyone’s lips again. And I finally got my way parting company with the contents of those wretched jugs, though Ken and I often laughingly recall that night of the schnockered huckleberry hounds.

Parenting 250_rgbKathe Campbell lives her dream on a Montana mountain with her mammoth donkeys, a Keeshond and kitties. Three children, 11 grandkids and four greats round out her herd. She writes on Alzheimer’s and is a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Not Your Mother’s Book anthology series.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Being a Parent.” The book is filled with 68 entertaining stories about parenting and raising kids. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1rttaBF) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/11EGnCl).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.