This’ll be my last Huckleberries column as part of Handle Extra. When you next see Huckleberries, it’ll be after the new year, included in the weekend edition of the regular Spokesman-Review. The Handle Extra is going away at year’s end. Huckleberries has morphed several times over the past 26 years, beginning in January 1985, a few months after I joined the Coeur d’Alene office as a government reporter. The column began as the Kootenai Grapevine. I wonder how many of you remember that I lost the column because then Editor Chris Peck and The Powers That Be thought it had become too controversial late in Mayor Ray Stone’s second term in office? In the interim, a former desk man wrote the column for a year or two under the new name Huckleberries from material largely provided by me. I got the column back when he quit because he was fed up with editors tinkering with his prose. I won a national award with Huckleberries in 1999 (Herb Caen Tidbits Column Award from National Association of Newspaper Columnists). I watched it shrink to 6 inches of daily copy in the old Idaho section of the paper and then back to full size in the Idaho-only Handle Extra. Meanwhile, I moved from government reporter to editorial writer to full-time blogger. The column is something like a Timex. It has taken a lickin’ but it has kept on tickin.’ I wish I was as resilient.
Jen Rude, the blogmistress of A Butterfly Moment, is a kindergarten teacher who knows when Christmas fever overcomes her students. On Dec. 14, her class had more than sugar plums dancing in their heads when another teacher peeked into the classroom. They were chattering and bouncing, rather than lining up as they had been instructed. The visiting teacher gave Jen a look that said: “I thought MY class was bad.” At that point, Jen asked the class: “Who put up your Christmas tree this weekend?” Eight little hands shot up. Observes Jen: “I can tell when the tree goes up at home. Might as well start vacation now. They are in Santa mode.”
Coeur d’Alene High grad Sam Taylor was officially confirmed Monday as city clerk of Ferndale, Wash. – on a 4-3 vote. Seems one council member who voted against him thought he was a “closet Democrat.” Which is the unforgiveable sin in some places (including all of Idaho). Sam, a former S-R intern, is neutral when it comes to politics … I applaud the success of top-flight Pilgrim’s Market on 4th. But I wish it’d do a better job of shoveling streets and parking lot on snow days. My reinjured left knee (suffered in a fall in Pilgrim’s lot Dec. 18) does, too … John Austin sez there was a man behind the celestial curtain on lunar eclipse night: “What a remarkable show (Monday-Tuesday) night as the clouds parted just in time for us to witness the total eclipse of the moon. It was as if some cosmic Moses drew the drapes and let us see the golden orb as the earth did its best to get between it and the sun” … Hucks Online Poll: Don’t look now, but 52.45 percent of my blog readers say that Raul Labrador will be a one-term congressman, like Walt Minnick and Bill Sali before him … For those of you keeping score at home, my Huckleberries Online blog will attract more than 2.5 million page-views in 2010. A blog best … A Christmas miracle: One of my favorite recent entries on my blog Scanner Traffic was this one: “Deer thought to be killed by vehicle on Highway 95 near Fighting Creek Store wanders off into bushes.”
A Berry Picker in the Bentwood Park subdivision, off 15th Street/Coeur d’Alene, was stunned Dec. 16 to hear the roar of a lawn mower in her ’hood. She reports: “I heard the mower noise, and it took me a moment to realize that it was mower noise in December. When I looked out the window, I saw him mowing away.” The neighbor mowed his front and back yard but didn’t mow the snow-filled swales. Later, the Berry Picker puzzled: “I’m not well versed in lawn care, so maybe this is a good thing to do?” I advised her to wait 5 minutes, for the weather to turn, as it has a habit of doing in North Idaho, and chase the groundhog back inside for at least six more weeks of winter.