Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/54

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44
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

In a great number of localities service-berries are stored for winter use by the Indians. They are gathered where most abundant, crushed and made into a paste which is spread out on bark or stones in the sun until it is thoroughly dried. It is then put in sacks, and during the winter serves to give variety to their diet which otherwise consists of flesh or dried fish.

HucJcleherries.—As formerly among the Eastern Indians, so now among those of the Far West the huckleberry is not only a luxury but almost a necessity. The species in the two districts are not the same: in the East the high and low blueberries ( Vaccinium corymbosum and Y. Pennsylvanicum), and the black huckleberry ( Gaylussacia resi- iiosa), are the most useful kinds. In the West are many species, but only two which have economic importance. Of these, one is small, and resembles our V. Pennsylvanicum, but has a berry covered with bloom of a very pronounced blue color; the juice is very red and somewhat acid. This covers glades on the slopes of the Cascade Mountains, Oregon, and the fruit is so abundant as to give a bluish color to the whole suface; this 1 suppose to be V. occidentalis of Gray. Another species, which does not correspond to any description yet written, but may be a form of V. MyrtUlus, surpasses in the excel- lence and abundance of its fruit any other huckleberry of which I have knoAvledge. It covers great areas on the flanks of the Cascade Mountains, in Oregon, where the forest has been burned off; growing two to four feet in height, and standing close on the ground; some- times really bending under its load of berries. These are round, half an inch in diameter, of light wine-color, and of a delicious vinous flavor. So abundant is this fruit that, sitting down in a clump of these bushes, I have filled a quart cup without changing my position. The Indians make long journeys to the localities where these berries are most abundant and gather and dry them for winter use. The drying is rapidly effected by burning one of the great fir-trees which, killed by fire, have been subsequently prostrated by the wind and now lie thick- ly strewed over the open surfaces where the berries grow. When this is well burned and affords a steady heat, flat stones, if they can be found, are covered with crushed berries and set up before the fire where the drying is soon effected.

Several other berries that abound in the country bordering the Columbia are gathered and stored much in the same way. Of these, that which after the huckleberries and service-berries is most used is the salal ( Gaultheria shallon). This plant is as unlike our Eastern wintergreen {C. procumbens), or the closely allied but acaulescent species of Oregon (C myrsinites), as can well be imagined. It is a decumbent shrub, of which the stem is one to two feet long, the large ovate alternate leaves so thickly set as almost to touch their edges, and hanging below are a considerable number of black, pedunculate berries, growing in the axils of the leaves. These are larger and