Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way
Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end
Waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend
Moon river and me
Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey Hepburn
Huckleberry blood flows in the veins of huckleberry bushes.The bushes are green but the blood is dark red. The blood flows all year but only in the spring does it leak out and in the fall coagulate into huckleberries.
An old man, short, stout, with a round face and a nose with pig-like nostrils picks the huckleberries once they’re ripe. He separates the berries from the leaves, twigs, spiders and other things by rolling them along a screen. It’s a laborious job. His name is Uni.
Elfriede, the German woman, makes the berries into juice, jam, pies, bread and other things at Huckle Farm. She is a fine baker. Everyone at Huckle Farm enjoys the great variety of huckleberry things she makes.
I’m not sure how I ended up at Huckle Farm. I can’t remember anything that happened before. Uni says I was born here but that doesn’t seem right. Nobody knows anything about my family, who my parents are or were or if I have any brothers or sisters. Sometimes at night when I look at the stars in the sky I think they have the answers. Uni says it’s in my huckleberry blood but he doesn’t say what it is and I don’t ask. I think if I were born here someone would know about my parents. Don’t you?
In the winter when it’s cold we burn the huckleberry blood trapped in trees to stay warm. Uni says huckleberry blood warms you twice, when you split it and when you burn it.
Noisy black ravens cloud the sky. It’s winter, bitter cold. The ravens grow fat on huckleberry blood in the spring. In this bleak and barren time they are forced to beg and scavenge for other kinds of food. Sometimes Elfriede sets out a few leftover old dry huckleberry muffins. The ravens love them. This gives their wings an iridescent purple tint.
Most of the other birds are gone. The robins are among the first to return when it gets warm again. Huckleberry blood pumps through their chests. It gives them their red color. But, they aren’t here yet. Too cold. Same for Cooper’s hawks. They get their red eyes from huckleberry blood but they fly to Mexico in the winter.
Uni says he saw a red fox the other day. Spring must be right around the corner. If the seasons have corners. Red foxes store enough huckleberry blood in their tails to stay warm in the winter. So, they don’t migrate like most birds. But, they sleep a lot. The one Uni saw probably just woke up.
Every day I look for the little white flowers on the huckleberry bushes. The red dot in the center is the huckleberry. It means the blood will flow again soon. Then the cold winds will stop.
There is a network of roots under the huckleberry bushes where red worms work the soil. Spring, summer and fall. The worms sleep in the winter. That’s what Uni says but he can’t see them of course. They are under the ground. Sometimes he digs them up. To fish for steelhead trout. These trout have huckleberry blood. Their meat is red.
The last time I went fishing I got a hook stuck in my finger. My blood is huckleberry red. “I guess that proves it,” I say to Uni .
“What?” he says.
“I was born here. Descended from huckleberries.”
He laughs. “You just eat a lot of huckleberries,” he says. “Let’s take these fish to Elfriede. She can make us salmon en croûte with huckleberry sauce.”