Handful of huckleberries

Networks of huckleberries to Montana’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte for taking swift and decisive action to convince Verizon to uphold its contracts with thousands of its rural customers. The cell phone service provider initially notified these customers, including more than 900 in Montana, that their service was being discontinued because their monthly payments don’t cover the full costs of data roaming. Verizon opted to provide better customer service, however, after Tester and Gianforte contacted CEO Lowell McAdam, and customers will now have until Dec. 1 to either choose a new data plan or find a different provider.

Insubordinate chokecherries to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for his recent, recklessly insulting comments to an oil industry group accusing “30 percent” of his department’s employees of being “disloyal to the flag.” Among other bizarre statements, such as one about fracking being “proof that God's got a good sense of humor and he loves us,” Zinke announced his intention to significantly re-organize the U.S. Department of the Interior, including moving some agency headquarters to Western locations. But the comments that brought him the most condemnation this week, and rightly so, were those suggesting that Interior Department employees are not loyal to himself or to President Trump, and therefore not loyal to their country.

Huckleberry barbecue sauce to Montana’s congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, Tester and Gianforte – for calling on the Secretary of Agriculture and the acting head of the Food Safety and Inspection Service to investigate the contemptible treatment of Montana meat processors at the hands of federal inspectors. In a recent series led by the Montana Standard and published in the Missoulian, Riley’s Meats and other Montana businesses described being targeted by FSIS front-line supervisor Jeffrey Legg and told to comply with nonexistent regulations. This week, the state’s congressional delegates used their considerable authority to demand answers from the folks responsible for allowing this situation to fester. Three cheers to the three of them – and our full encouragement to keep up the pressure.

Chokecherry-flavored licorice to the closing of the much-loved Hummingbird store in Arlee, long a favorite place to stop in at when passing through, or to take friends and family visiting from out of town. After three decades in business, owners Tony and Michelle Hoyt are officially closing the doors to their sweet shop, famed for offering dozens of different kinds of licorice and other candies. A final clearance sale will be held Oct. 6, and then the Hoyts will get to enjoy a much-deserved retirement. Meanwhile, licorice lovers in Arlee and miles beyond will mourn the loss of this unique store.

Huckleberry high bids to the Eureka Lions and community supporters for transforming an annual fundraiser into a tsunami of aid for victims of this year’s Caribou fire. In just four hours, an auction of hundreds of donated items raised more than $44,000 from a crowd of more than 500 bidders in Rexford. The Rumble in the Jungle Auction combined with other donations to create a fund of about $60,000 to distribute to those who were displaced by the fire in West Kootenai, which destroyed more than 10 homes and other property. In fact, donations are still being collected, and checks marked “Fire Relief Fund” can be mailed to the Eureka Chamber of Commerce at P.O. Box 186, Eureka, MT 59917.

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