Huckleberry Harvest - Jennifer Beckstrand

Chapter One

The chickens gathered at Anna Helmuth’s feet as she scattered scratch from her pail. “Oh, dear,” she said. “I suppose I should have tossed it away from me if I wanted to keep my shoes clean.”

“You’re doing a fine job, Annie,” her husband Felty said. “The hens are getting fat.”

Anna tiptoed around the chickens as they pecked at the feed. Bitzy, the Plymouth Rock hen, put up a fuss when Anna accidentally stepped on her, but she recovered enough to squawk in disapproval before going back to her breakfast. “Did you bring the chopped carrots?” Anna asked.

Felty pulled a handful of carrot pieces from his pocket. “This is all we had.”

“It will be enough.” Anna took the slices from Felty’s hand and tossed them into the small flock of chickens. She beaned one chicken in the head inadvertently, but surely a carrot to the head wouldn’t have hurt anybody seriously. The chicken kept right on eating and didn’t seem to notice. “I’m planning a special breakfast for Mandy’s first day on Huckleberry Hill, and I want the eggs to be extra-bright yellow.”

“What special breakfast are you making for our granddaughter?”

“She’s only staying a month, so I want every meal to be memorable. Tomorrow morning we’re having Eggs Benedict. I’ve never made it before, but the picture in my recipe book looks delicious. I just have to figure out what a poached egg is, and we’ll be all set.”

“Do you still want to find a boy for Mandy while she’s in town?”

“Jah. But don’t worry. I’ll see to it that any romantic goings-on will not be detrimental to your blood pressure.”

“What about my ulcer?”

Anna propped a hand on her hip. “Now, Felty. You don’t have an ulcer.”

“I will by the time Mandy goes back to Ohio.”

“We can’t let Mandy leave Bonduel without a husband.”

Felty stroked his salt-and-pepper beard. “It’s a bit of a stretch to think Mandy will meet a boy, fall in love, get engaged, and plan a wedding in one month’s time.”

Anna bit her bottom lip. “Maybe we could talk her into staying an extra week.”

“We better encourage the chickens to lay more eggs if we need five weeks of Eggs Benefit,” Felty said.

“Now, Felty. We’ll have enough time. Our biggest problem is finding the right young man for our granddaughter. Her plans for a visit took me by surprise. I haven’t had the time to spy out prospective husbands like I usually do. I just don’t know what boy in Bonduel would do for our Mandy.”

Felty nodded. “She’s a spunky sort of girl.”

“Jah,” Anna said, dumping the rest of the scratch from her pail onto the ground. “She needs a spunky, cheerful boy to keep her laughing.”

Felty took the pail from Anna as they walked toward the house. “What do you think of Noah Mischler? He’s as gute a boy as ever there was.”

Anna furrowed her brow until the wrinkles piled on top of each other. “Noah Mischler? He’s as solid as a tree.”

“Is that bad?”

“Nae. It means he’s not afraid of hard work.”

“Being a hard worker is the most important quality for a grandson-in-law to possess.”

Anna ran her hands down the front of her apron. “Don’t get me wrong, Felty. I adore Noah Mischler. Saloma Miller tells me he put a new gas stove in her kitchen last April that practically makes dinner by itself. Noah is smart enough to fix anything that’s broken, and he’s so gute to his dat. But I don’t think he and Mandy would suit. He’s gloomier than three weeks of rain.”

Felty rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe he don’t have much cause to smile these days.”

“Mandy won’t look twice at someone like him. We’ve got to think of somebody else.”

Felty opened the door for his wife of sixty-four years and followed her into the house. “How will we ever find someone in four weeks?”

“Five weeks. We’ll talk Mandy into five weeks. And I’m going to pull out my new recipe book. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

“In that case, Mandy won’t have a lick of trouble finding a boy. Nobody knows how to cook like you do, Annie.” Felty paused inside the door, looked around the great room, and thumbed his suspenders. He grinned as an idea came to him. “Annie, how would you like a new gas stove for all this cooking you’re going to be doing?”

Chapter Two

“Is this the house?” Mandy asked as she pulled Dawdi’s buggy in front of the run-down shack with