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Survival in a Northern Wilderness: A Mother's Story--Part XI

June 13, 2018

            Orrah had the fish-nets all laid out over flat rocks drying in the sun when the Canadian Mounted Police paid his family a visit.  Orrah offered them a cup of coffee, the head Mountie for that District Officer Robertson said, “Um good American coffee”.  The Mounties were after murderers, robbers and thieves and also after folks who had American goods such as food or clothing.  He could not prove that the coffee was American because Orrah had put it in jars so he did not investigate or push the matter.  It was a practical matter for Orrah as he either had to paddle his canoe to Kettle Falls a mile away or paddle sixty-miles to Fort Frances, Ontario to get coffee.  It was also illegal to have fishnets in your possession unless you were a commercial fisherman; which Orrah was not.  When the Mounties were preparing to leave, the youngest Mountie asked Mr. Robertson if he was going to arrest Orrah for having the nets. “Hell no, that’s all he’s got to feed his family!” and with that they took leave.

 

            After Orrah and family had camped three weeks on Oak Island picking blueberries they packed up, leaving the dogs tied and left for their Kettle River home.  Arriving back home they found the garden had begun to produce so they had a big pan of potatoes and fresh vegetables.  A few days later Orrah told Violet to row the punt around to the other side of Oak Island to feed the dogs.  Violet had to row through heavy current in the Kettle River channel which was about five miles to their campsite and then back home again.  This sort of thing hurt Violet and made her angry and upset with Orrah. She had a baby at home to nurse and small children to take care of.

 

            After the blueberry picking was done, Violet gave Orrah her share of the money to buy “Iron-sides”. It had been owned by a businessman in International Falls.  They had to pay a duty, It was just an open boat thirty-five feet long with no cabin powered by an old worn-out Gardner engine for power.  When Orrah got the boat home he promptly dumped the engine on the beach where it sat for many years as an anchor to tie boats to.  He put in an old Model-T Ford engine in it but that wasn’t sufficient so he took that out and replaced it with a Model-A, that was okay.  His plan was to haul fish from the commercial fisherman to markets in International Falls and Fort Frances.

 

            Their neighbors, the Peterson’s, were selling out and moving to the west coast in response to a Mrs. Peterson health issue, son Wesley got her wagon, Floyd the steel runner sleigh, Orrah the wheelbarrow, Violet bought a hand wringer for fifteen-cents with rubber rollers so she no longer had to wring out the clothes by hand.  They moved back into the logging camp for the winter, the last time they would winter there.  Orrah’s brother Paul stayed with them most of the winter and every so often would spot a deer that would come into the clearing, Orrah would load up a 20-gauge shotgun shell with powder and ball and Paul would shoot the deer, they had fresh meat most of the winter.  Prosperous was not in their vocabulary as they couldn’t afford to buy ammunition especially shotgun shells.

 

            Louie Halverson also spent part of the winter with them and according to Violet didn’t have much sense, one day he came back to camp carrying a bobcat in a trap dangling from a pole singing at the top of his voice.  Violet thought him a nut and used the phrase “what in tarnation”.  Louie was lazy and would not cut wood or carry water, he did nothing but eat, after Rainy Lake froze up he left for Fort Frances, Orrah walked him out to Mine Centre over the ice because he was in no doubt that Louie would have perished. 

 

            Even though they had killed a few deer they still ran low on food by spring and they moved back to the Kettle River place in 1939.  It needed sprucing up, Orrah never did any remodeling or ever built anything such as tables, bunks or benches but he never stopped Violet from doing it. 

 

            Next up how did the remodeling go, who did it and are the boys getting old enough to start earning their way.

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