For those of you who do not know what Honeybuns are (other than that cute name you call your significant other), I will tell you they are not an Alaskan thing. They are a pastry that I would say is a cross between a cinnamon roll and a donut.
Back when I was seven, about the only way you could get these in Alaska was to have someone ship them to you. They were popular in the south and midwest, so when we had one of our rare calls to our grandmother in Oklahoma, my oldest brother Shane told her he wanted honeybuns for his upcoming 14th birthday.
She probably spent twice as much on postage as she did on the four dozen honeybuns, but she mailed them and I won’t forget the day that medium sized brown box arrived with my brother’s name on it. You would have thought we had just won the lottery.
Of course that excitement quickly died when our mother informed us that this was Shane’s birthday present so they were his, despite the note that my grandmother had written saying they were for the family. We each got one for breakfast, but the other 3 1/2 dozen went to my oldest brother.
You can eat them straight from the package, but the best way is to cook them on the griddle with a little bit of butter. This caramelizes the sugar and warms it up creating a decadent, gooey taste of heaven.
After breakfast, Shane took his box and went to hide it. We were on the mine site living in a small trailer so we didn’t exactly have personal space, but we all had our “spots.” Shane’s spot was an old Korean War era ambulance that my dad was planning to convert into a mobile processing lab for his new drill rig.
Mom gave us a stern warning not to bother Shane because they were his honeybuns. If we wanted some, we could ask grandmother to send some for our birthdays. So you can imagine her irritation when Shane entered the trailer and Clint, the middle brother, asked if he could have another.
We were sent on our way as the trailer was too small to hang out in and besides, we all had our jobs to tend to. I finished my chores quickly, being too small to have a “job,” and went to play with my cars in the sand pile.
While I was playing, Clint walked by as if heading to the trailer when he stopped, looked around, and sprinted for the ambulance. He disappeared through the driver’s door which faced away from the camp and since I knew what he was up to, I jumped up to follow.
I found Clint standing on a bucket in his search of the upper compartments and he shushed me as I climbed up. I closed the driver side door with a loud thud which was louder than a normal car door since it was made of multiple layers of steel.
Finding the right compartment, Clint pulled down the box and hopped off the bucket, sitting the box on one of the fold out stretchers. I climbed up next to him and we looked down into the box full of honeybuns.
Clint grabbed a couple out, putting one in his pocket and gave me the other. “Don’t tell,” he said, which was a common ploy of his when he was doing something wrong. He would try to get me involved so I would get into trouble too if I tattled.
It didn’t always work, but this time it did. I grinned as I tried to open the cellophane wrapper as Clint took one more before putting the box back.
We sprinted from the ambulance and ran behind a dirt pile to enjoy our spoils. I still couldn’t open my package, so Clint opened it for me and I dove in, shoving as much in as I could, expecting any moment to get caught.
Clint didn’t eat his as quickly, and I supposed he didn’t have to since he had two. “Slow down,” he told me as I took another big bite. “Save the rest. You won’t get another.”
I took another bite, then, as instructed, I folded down the wrapper and put the rest of the honeybun in my pocket. Clint wiped the evidence from my face and we merrily went back to our activities.
I hid the remainder of my honeybun in the tin that I put my toy cars in and thought about it all day.
The next day, as we set about our jobs in the morning, I saw Shane head to the ambulance. I held my breath and watched as he went in. But he emerged a couple of minutes later with his hands in his coat pocket and marched off to work without even a sidelong glance.
I was contemplating where I could take my honeybun to eat it and not get caught, when my mother called for me to ride with her into town. This journey took up most of our day and when we returned, my dad and brothers were working in the gold room where I had stored my toys so they wouldn’t get rained on.
It would be another day before I could savor the last of my honeybun, so I waited until the next morning, and as soon as my chores were done, I snatched up my tin box and went behind the dirt pile and devoured what was left of my honeybun.
While I was doing that, I heard the door to the ambulance squeak open and spotted Clint climbing out, a honeybun in hand. He ran off towards the woods and I snuck over to the ambulance.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach the compartment, even when standing on a bucket, so I gave up, sure that at any moment Shane was going to walk in and catch me.
I heard mom calling for me and realized it must be time for my next set of chores, so I sprinted as quietly as I could from the ambulance. Being as smart as I was, I wound my way around the camp so I came from behind the trailer and not so obviously from the ambulance.
Mom was waiting with two empty five gallon jugs that I was to use to gather water from the spring on the other side of camp. She set them on the ground as was about to head up the steps into the kitchen when she stopped and asked, “What did you get into?”
I looked down at my pants as I usually have crawled in the mud or something, but mom grabbed my face and wiped at it with a dish towel. It came away sticky and dirty.
“You have been eating honeybuns. Did you steal one from Shane?” She squeezed my cheeks so hard I couldn’t respond if I wanted to, so I shook my head no which only caused her to squeeze a little harder.
She let go and I said, “Clint gave it to me!” which wasn’t a complete lie.
Mom stood up and yelled for Clint. I saw his head duck down behind the embankment along the road. Mom yelled a couple of more times before Clint emerged from the woods about a hundred feet from where I had first spotted him. He walked over sheepishly and glared at me the whole way. He knew I had ratted on him.
Mom ordered us to go sit next to the trailer and called for Shane. He came running and mom instructed him to go get his honeybuns. When he exited the ambulance, he was fuming. “There are at least six missing!”
“I only had the one Clint gave me!” I blurted which got me an elbow in the side from him.
Mom lectured us about stealing and how we were not allowed to have any more of Shane’s honeybuns without his permission. Clint pointed out how unfair that was since Shane wasn’t going to share and my mom responded that he didn’t have too, especially since we stole from him.
She instructed Shane to find a better hiding place and took Clint and I around to the other side of the trailer to give us a spanking. When we were done, Shane had gone and so had the honeybuns.
Two days later I was sitting back in the sand area playing with my cars when I spotted Clint slinking off. I went out front by the oversized gravel parking lot and watched as he moved between the vehicles, watching something.
That is when I spotted Shane who had sprinted across the lot to where the mechanics worked on the heavy equipment from the mine; one area that was completely off limits to us kids. Shane disappeared into the scrap yard at the edge of the work area and Clint sprinted to a dirt pile nearby.
Clint climbed the pile and looked down, then flattened himself as Shane reappeared. Shane looked about, then sprinted across the lot and down towards the mine where he was supposed to be helping dad today.
Clint disappeared into the scrap yard and emerged a while later, his hands in his coat pocket. He looked around to make sure no one could see him, then sprinted for the woods.
Clint repeated this multiple times over the next two days, and on the second day I followed and repeated Clint’s actions from a few days earlier and spied on him from the dirt pile. I couldn’t see into the scrap yard, but I did see him climb up into the back of an old fire service truck that one of the mechanics had hoped to fix up and make his service truck.
Clint didn’t spot me as he ran to the woods. As many times as he had taken honeybuns, I wasn’t sure how Shane didn’t notice. I could only assume that Shane really was making his honeybuns last and hadn’t gotten another one yet.
The next morning, Shane started for the scrap yard and this time Clint stood out in the open. Shane saw him and stopped. He wandered down the road away from the honeybuns and Clint followed as if he wasn’t sure where Shane was going.
They played this cat and mouse game for about 5 minutes before dad came out and honked his horn, letting Shane know it was time to go to work. Shane came running and glared at Clint who only grinned back at him, his arms crossed.
As soon as the truck was out of sight, Clint sprinted for the scrap yard only to emerge a couple of minutes later and sprint for the trees.
I’m not sure if I was more upset with Clint stealing from Shane or the fact that neither of them was sharing, but that’s when the plan started to form in my head. I waited until all my chores were done and that Clint had gotten called off to work before I set out.
I knew the scrap yard was off limits and I could get into serious trouble if I got caught, so unlike my brothers, I skirted the edge of the woods rather than run across the open lot. When I got there, I climbed into the back of the fire truck and it was easy to spot where Shane had hidden his honeybuns since everything had been coated in dust.
It took me a few tries to open the compartment since I didn’t know how to use the latches, but when I did, I was surprised to find only about a dozen honeybuns left. I took one out and set my plan into motion.
After dinner, Shane said he needed to go use the bathroom and took off. He returned a few minutes later calling Clint’s name. Clint’s eyes went wide and Mom met Shane at the door.
There was a whole lot of yelling before mom drug Clint and I out of the trailer to face Shane. This lead to more yelling as Shane yelled that all his honeybuns were gone.
Clint tried to play innocent, but his glances at me told my mom he was hiding something.
“Matthew–” my mom started.
“I took them and hid them so Clint would stop stealing them!” I replied before she could say my whole name, a sure indication that we were in trouble.
This got me a glare from both of my brothers, Clint for ratting on him, Shane for taking his honeybuns.
“Clint followed you on the first day and found your hiding hole. He’s been eating them everyday!” I continued quickly. “I haven’t eaten any!”
“Where are they?” mom asked.
“I hid them someplace safe.”
They all looked at me, waiting for me to tell them where this safe place was.
“I think that I should get a reward.”
“What!” Shane bellowed.
“Just one honeybun.”
“Matthew! Those are not yours and you will give them back immediately!” my mother demanded.
I pressed my lips together, indicating I wasn’t going to respond.
So she spanked and grounded Clint, then told me she wouldn’t spank me if I told Shane where his honeybuns were.
I got spanked.
“Fine!” my mother protested, “We will let your father sort this out.”
So we all sat in the little trailer glaring at one another for an hour until dad came in. Apprised of the situation, dad took Clint out and gave him a spanking with his belt and left him sitting outside while he sorted out the rest of the problem.
“Where are they?” he asked as he came in, hunching over to squeeze his tall frame into the tiny trailer door. Being my dad already made him formidable in my eyes, but this caused him to loom over me and my resolve melted.
“I put them in a safe place.” I replied, afraid to look up. My dad let the silence linger and I finally said, “Shane is sitting on them.”
Shane sprang up and pulled up the cushions. Under it was a small storage compartment and when he opened it, there was his box of honeybuns. He pulled the box out and his face dropped when he opened it. He turned and yelled at me, “Where are they all at?”
Dad took the box from him, then asked him, “How many have you had?”
“Four since they stole them! There should be twice this many!” Shane wailed.
Dad turned to me and I held up my hands, “I haven’t eaten any! Mom said we couldn’t have any unless Shane gave them to us.”
Anger burned in Shane’s eyes and I knew if he got Clint or I alone, we were in trouble.
Dad placed his hand on Shane’s shoulder and said, “I think Matt deserves a reward, don’t you?”
That seemed to rattle Shane as he shook his head and stared in disbelief up at dad. “But…”
“If he had’t hidden them from Clint, you would have even less now. He could have eaten them, but he didn’t. He could have taken some, but he didn’t. He could have not told you were they were, but he didn’t. Losing one for the right reason is better than loosing them all for the wrong reason.”
Shane reluctantly took a honeybun out of the box and tossed it at me. I picked it up and smiled from ear to ear.
Dad looked at me and winked before he usher Shane out with the promise of a box with a lock on it.
I savored my prize over the next couple of days, making sure to keep it hidden.
It would be nearly two years before I got to eat another honeybun, but now, each time that I do, I remember that summer at the mine and the lessons learned.