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

According to Violet, when she was getting ready for school lessons. “all hell broke loose” and she lost the battle to teach her children. Orrah told her that she was to go out on the trap line with him and leave the older kids to look after the younger children. Wesley was learning to read and write, so she sent lessons out with him with words to spell after he had done his chores, which were cutting firewood and feeding the dogs. Elnora learned to read and write just watching and listening to Violet as she tried to teach Orrah Jr. and Floyd, and by the time she was five she could write the alphabet. That winter they left Orrah Jr. to look after his brothers and sisters. Violet dressed in buckskin pants and a parka that she had sewed on her own machine. Orrah liked her in the suit so much he took her picture.

Orrah made plans to sell his furs in Fort Frances and Violet insisted on going as she iterated, “I have been earning my share around here." He didn’t argue and they made the trip by dogsled. The fur buyer had forgot to lock his office door and they walked in, Orrah stepped over to the desk and pulled a drawer open and found it was “chuck full” of rolls of money. They called the buyer at home and he hurried over, walked in and pulled open the drawer and saw that it was untouched. He turned to Orrah and said, "whenever you need a loan just let me know", and from then on Orrah could get up to a thousand dollars.

They were gone a week and it was nearing the time they were going to welcome another child and according to Violet she almost had the baby out on the lake. It was -40* and a wind blowing when they got back home and she was happy to find that the kids had plenty of wood and water inside. After dinner they all went to bed and she went into labor. Orrah helped her deliver her seventh child and fifth boy , Antone David (nicknamed Tony) on January 6th, 1942, and as an aside Violet commented that the other kids never did like their nicknames. Tony was born with yellow jaundice and Violet opined that it was because all she had to eat during the last months of pregnancy was greasy fried salt pork and onions with potatoes, during this time she always had heartburn. It frightened Violet that she might have had Tony on the lake, however, Orrah said he would have pulled over into a Spruce bluff, built a large fire and delivered the baby. Violet commented that “as ornery as Orrah was” she always felt safe when it came to emergencies or having a baby, as he always seemed to know what to do. Orrah’s mother had passed away during child birth when Orrah was five years old, in Violet’s opinion “it seemed to have a bad effect on Orrah all the rest of his life”.

The summer of 1942 was momentous. Orrah had his eye on a steam tug but the price tag was $100, so Violet gave him all her money from blueberry picking the previous summer. Wesley went with Orrah and his Uncle Paul to bring the steam tug up the lake to their home at the Kettle River place. A big, big event followed as there on the deck stood her first new cook stove, bought from Wells Hardware in Fort Frances. It had a big firebox, six large stove lids, an oven that she said she will never forget, and it would burn any kind of wood.

Orrah and the boys had to cut wood for the tugs boiler, but it was a whole lot better than trying to rake up the pennies to buy gasoline even though gas was only fifteen cents a gallon. Late that summer came a time to tow a boom of logs; so with the help of what Violet termed an “obnoxious” hired man, they started out only to have a drive shaft break, and they turned back to Kettle River to get another. They picked up Wesley for added help because the hired men had jumped ship, managing to clean out what was left of their summer grubstake. They were running short, all they had to eat was beans and a little flour. They left eleven year old Orrah Jr. to look after seven year old Elnore, and left them some of the groceries, it wasn’t much as she hadn’t grown a garden that summer.

Next up, being shorthanded made the trip rigorous, there wasn’t dry wood for the boiler and Orrah became sick.

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