Huck’s Museum and the promise of fried chicken
by Mary Cokenour
Before I can actually tell you about Huck’s Museum and Trading Post, I’ll need to tell how we got there in the first place.
We had just spent several hours hiking and exploring the Old Pioneer Dugway (outside Bluff, UT), and the slickrock ledges above it. While I had brought along snacks, that wasn’t enough for Roy and he wanted to hurry home as I had promised to make him fried chicken.
As we traveled northward, along Route 191, we were passing by Huck’s and the OPEN sign was by the road, the neon sign inside was lit.
Now we had often passed by Huck’s, but it was either closed, or we were hurrying off to elsewhere. It was Sunday and we were surprised to see the open signs, but I told Roy I wanted to go in.
He kept driving though and pretended he had not heard me, so I asked him, “Umm, the museum, are we going?”
He replied, “I’m hungry and want fried chicken.”
We were now two blocks away when I replied back, “You want fried chicken? I want to see the museum; it’s open, we’re here; no museum, no fried chicken!”
Roy slowed the vehicle, checked traffic and did a U-turn back to Huck’s.
The entrance to Huck’s brings you directly into the trading post with all manner of knick-knacks for sale; the majority of them are Native American in origin (jewelry, pottery, Kachina dolls, and carvings), local books and Blue Mountains Shadows, the magazine of San Juan County.
There are also old time artifacts on the walls, so you’re sort of in a museum without being in the actual museum.
Now, as Huck told us later on, he’s a hoarder; as soon as he empties out one area, it simply gets piled up again. No wonder then that you won’t notice him right away sitting by his desk, so don’t jump when you hear his low, raspy voice say “Hello”.
Hugh Acton (aka Huck) is, at first glance, a man of small stature (5’1”), frail and bent from the vestiges of age (87 years old), and cancer of the throat explaining the voice. It’s the eyes that give away that this old man is full of life yet; his tales are knowledgeable about San Juan County, and he is a pip! Don’t underestimate him; he’s not dead yet and is still full of surprises!
The fee for the tour is $10 and well worth every penny and while the handwritten sign says “no photos allowed”, he might just let you take one.
Huck owns and runs the museum/trading post on his own, and you can hear the love for his labors come through as he tells his tales. There are mind blowing collections of arrowheads, beads, jewelry, tools, all types of pottery, axe heads (462 on one wall alone!) and sandals made from various plant fibers.
Thousands of artifacts, some of which he reconstructed himself, are housed in glass display cases that he built, designed, and labeled. His collection includes donations from local residents of the county, as well as artifacts from other sites throughout the United States, Mexico, Peru, and around the world.
The “Hall of Fame” is a collection of artifacts sent to him by people from all over, who have visited the museum and knew he would appreciate their gifts.
He carefully labels each one with the name of the donor and the location where the artifact was found.
We developed an easy rapport with Huck; the first story he told was of when his father went to the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago and brought home a model of a Grey Hound bus.
“Well funny that.” I said, “When I was a little girl, I went to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and have lots of souvenirs still.”
His smile got so big, and I bet he was hoping I’d donate them to his museum. He asked us many a question and was pleased when we showed we knew much about San Juan County.
Huck showed us the golden shovel he was able to keep from the dedication ceremony of the new Four Corners Monument; he was so proud!
By the way, did you know that the Anasazi invented the microphone? No? Then you better head on into Huck’s and see the proof of it all. We oohed and aahed, we smiled and laughed till our faces hurt; this was one experience that would remain memorable!
Huck himself must have had a really good time with us; he actually offered to give us our money back as a thank you for making his day...we refused of course.
After we left I asked Roy if he was glad we stopped and I made him wait for his fried chicken. Oh yeah, he was happy, and that chicken was simply the ending to a great day.
Huck’s Museum and Trading Post
1243 South Main Street (Route 191)
Blanding, Utah, 84511-3204
Phone: (435) 678-2329
Now how could I leave you all hanging when I’ve mentioned that fried chicken several times, so here’s my recipe.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. paprika
2 cups Italian flavored bread crumbs
Clean any excess fat from the chicken and cut into 5 even strips.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, black pepper and paprika; spread the bread crumbs in a large, shallow dish.
Fill 1/3 of a large, deep fry pan with peanut oil, heat on medium-heat; oil is ready when cold water flicked into the pan sizzles.
Five pieces of chicken at a time, immerse each piece into the liquid mixture; press all sides firmly into the bread crumbs and give a light shake to remove loose crumbs. Carefully place all five pieces into the oil; fry for three minutes and turn over, fry additional three minutes. Remove to plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces until all are done.
Serve as is, with condiments of choice; or cut three large potatoes in half lengthwise, cut in half lengthwise again, then into wedges. Place into the hot oil and leave them alone for 15 minutes; remove to paper towels to drain; season with salt before serving with chicken.
Makes four servings.