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Survival in the Northern Wilderness: A mother's story

July 22, 2017

          Violet was born July 9th. 1903.  It would seem to be an indication of her family’s financial straits when as a 6 years old she floundered in school because of how poor her diet was, progress was very slow until age 9 when her family moved to a farm in Saskatchewan.  On the farm she drank a cup of fresh warm milk after each milking, ate fresh vegetables from the family garden, her grades improved and she graduated from the Eighth grade when she was 14 years old.  A couple of kids would come by in a horse and buggy to bring the other kids to school but according to Violet they were real mean and would not let her ride, they shoved her off so she walked in the cold nearly freezing her feet.  Her teacher encouraged her to go on to High School and become a teacher but because of her family’s living standards and her clothing being not sufficient to wear to school she demurred, a decision she later often regretted. 

 

            Violet worked around the farm, built pens for chickens and turkeys, hung screen doors, took over the cooking duties and sewed not only for herself but for her sister, a prelude for her future adventures.  Violet was a slip of a girl at 5’ 2” weighing only 90 pounds with a boyish haircut when her family moved to Manitoba.  The proverbial red letter day came when she was out riding her pony and its feet got stuck in the mud, across the creek stood a red-whiskered young man who came over and helped free her pony.  He introduced himself as Orrah, born in Wisconsin.  Abandoned by his father after their mother died 5 year old Orrah and his 10 year old brother Everett survived on their own.  Orrah lived in the wilderness learning to be a hunter, trapper and woodsman from older men, he moseyed around until ending up in Maniitoba.  Orrah managed to go to school one or two years and he got just enough reading so that when he grew up he always carried a dictionary and taught himself to read, and read he did, everything he could get his hands on.  A few days later Orrah came to visit Violet, clean shaven and dressed up, eventually he helped her folks build a big log house and showed them how to put in a cellar and crib it.  One day Orrah told Violets father that he wanted her hand in marriage but her father did not approve he wanted her to marry a man who he liked, was 40 years old and a boozer. 

 

            It was about one o’clock in the morning when Orrah tucked Violet into feather robes in the carryall of his dogsled, she heard her little dog Fido barking for the last time as they passed by her family’s home.  They had to make haste because dad would have the provincial police coming on the train to arrest Orrah for kidnapping her, Violet was only 17 and Orrah 27.  The Mounties were on her side and told her dad that if he stopped them she would most likely leave home and never see her again.  Violet never did see her mother again and it was 28 years later before she saw her father.  In nine hours they covered 60 miles, Orrah ran behind the dog sleigh nearly all the way.  Arriving at a small community they awoke the Parson and were married that evening the first white couple in that part of the wild country.  A few days later they set out to continue their trip down Lake Winnipeg, it was the first time Violet had ever camped out, it was minus 60*.  On the way they met the Mountie that her father had sent to find Violet, the Mountie chatted with Orrah, looked in the carryall that Violet was in, smiled, bid them luck and farewell.  The winter was stern, Orrah got a job cutting cord wood and they resided in an abandoned un-chinked log cabin.  Violet later opined that it was a terrible experience for a young girl who was not accustomed to that type of lifestyle.  The spring found them completing the dog trip down Lake Winnipeg where at a wilderness depot they boarded a train bound for Fort Frances, Ontario where they landed right in the heart of the Great Depression, the tumultuous adventure was just starting for the new bride, Mrs. Violet Kielczewski.

 

 

 

 

 

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