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Survival in the Northern Wilderness: A Mother's Story- Part IV

Violet and son Wesley came down with typhoid fever, twenty-one year old Violet was pregnant with her third child. Violet didn’t know what it was that made her so sick so she consulted Bernarr MacFadden’s Encyclopedia on Health and Natural Methods. She found out what to do but grew sicker and weaker so all she could do was just lay, you have to fast as many as ten days drinking only water. Both Violet and Wesley were terribly sick and near death.

Everyday Orrah would row across the lake to get culled fish to feed the dogs leaving the family alone, Violet was too sick to even care for her babies. According to Violet at one point she was so delirious and so oblivious of what she was doing she jumped off of a cliff into deep water, Violet couldn’t swim. She never did remember the ordeal but Orrah jumped in and with his teeth took her by her long hair and swam ashore with her. Orrah’s behavior became stout and she believes that he never left her side after that episode.

One day she woke up to see Orrah down on his knees by her bed, he was blowing his nose and had tears running down his cheeks and she just knew that he had also been praying for her. After ten days of fasting Violet’s fever subsided, she started to feel better and both her and Wesley broke their fast by drinking broth and milk and gradually started eating solid foods, she quickly regained her strength.

According to Violet Orrah was a stubborn and cruel man, he cursed and swore a lot but she knew that deep down inside of him he had a heart of gold and that through much prayer and sacrifice on her part it could be brought to the surface. Violet reported that years later through a miracle it did happen.

Violet heeded the advice in her “Health Encyclopedia”, one day one of her children started choking and she turned him on his stomach over her knee and gave him a firm slap across the shoulders and the upper part of the back which sent the object flying across the floor. A neighbor marveled at how she handled her children during emergencies, he told her that he and his wife not knowing what to do had just watched their children choke to death.

One day Orrah left her without firewood so she took an ax and sweedsaw and cut enough wood to do her for a couple of days. “That did it!” Orrah never cut any more wood for her so she got that job too and he began to heap more and more work on her. She not only cut the wood but she carried all of her wash water from the lake to cook with, bathe and wash clothes. In Violet’s words “there was never ever any end to the work and Orrah began to treat her like an Indian squaw, no that wasn’t right the Indian men treated their wives better than Orrah treated her”. The Indian children has shoes, hers had to walk over the hot rocks on their bare feet.

The roof began to leak, Orrah wouldn’t fix it so she beachcombed what boards she could find and fixed the roof, however Orrah did look after the kids and cook the meals while she did the repair. Violet made frames of poplar poles to stretch deer hides, after they were dry she started the task of shaving the hair off the hides with a graining knife that Orrah had made from an old file on a forge. Violet wasted nothing. She kept the deer hair to make mattresses and saved all the partridge, goose and duck feathers to make robes, pillows and comforters.

Orrah was away and Violet’s third baby was coming. On the way home to help with her delivery he shot a moose and because it was near their home he loaded the moose on his toboggan and hauled it home before dressing it out. Violet held the kerosene lantern when he dressed out the moose. Floyd Everett was born an hour later. Orrah always told him that he ate his first piece of moose liver that night because he licked the olive oil from Orrah’s hands while he was bathing him with it. Delivering the babies made Orrah start to realize that parents have to bond and comfort their children; he never did this with Wesley his first born. Years later he wished he would have been different.

Next up, the kids grow some, mushrooms can be poisonous, Orrah cuts timber, blueberries were a cash crop and they fix up an old abandoned log house.

About the Author: Mike Hanson is a long time resident of Birchdale, Minnesota. He enjoys spending his time in the great outdoors, building birdhouses, and has a deep interest in uncovering and understanding settlement history. His writings come from hours of research, as well as engaging discussions with locals and area historians, both professional and amateur.

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