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

In the waning days of summer in 1944 Orrah and Violet towed a boom of logs to the Border Mill, leaving eleven year old Floyd and nine year old Elnora to look after the dogs. Violet felt for the kids being alone, as she had spent many times alone tending the dogs while Orrah was off to Fort Frances or Mine Center. Storms slowed their progress, as occasionally they were wind-bound for days waiting for calmer weather to tow the boom of logs. During this time, if possible, Orrah would hunt down a deer so they could have fresh meat to go with their other staples.

Arriving at the mill they docked across from Mr. Matthews’s houseboat that, according to Violet, was a “Floating Mansion”. Mr. Matthew paid Orrah for the logs and in turn Orrah made an offer to Mr. Matthew, and gave him down $500 on the houseboat. Mr. Matthew’s told him to tow it away, but he said he wanted a little job done when Orrah was beaver trapping in the spring; that he was to bring him enough “live” beaver so it would make up the equivalent of another $500, and Mr. Matthew got a permit in his name for the live beaver. Orrah came back down to the steam tug and told Violet they now owned the “floating mansion” and Violet was ecstatic. They bought their winters grubstake which consisted of about a half ton of potatoes, three hundred pounds each of carrots, onions, rutabagas and cabbage, white flour, bran and whole wheat kernel, a couple of barrels of powdered Klim Milk, and Violet reported “plenty of other staples”.

The Houseboat floated high and towed amazingly easy behind the steam tug. Upon arriving home, Orrah blew the whistle and Floyd and Elnora came running, and when they saw the two story houseboat they were just jumping up and down. They docked the houseboat on a shallow beach for the winter and then Orrah and Violet took Tony and the two older boys mink trapping. While Orrah and the boys were trapping, Violet hunted squirrels. They were gone about a month and when they came home Violet tried to teach Orrah Jr. and Floyd to read and write. It was very hard because they worked outside all day long and they were just too tired to concentrate. Besides that, their dad would whisk them away out to the trap line.

After arriving back to the Kettle River place, Violet never bothered to move into their old home and wasted no time in moving on to the houseboat. Orrah was in no hurry to move, but Violet promptly took matters into her own hands and told the boys to tow it out in front where she could start moving in. Violet made changes to the bedrooms and built-in lockers. She ordered new bed springs and factory made mattresses from Eaton’s; she had quit making deer hair mattresses.

Violet ordered yard goods to make curtains as she had lots of windows to make curtains for and she loved every minute of it. Orrah cut a hole for a chimney through an outside wall and up past the second story. They had to be extra careful because every so often it would catch fire and burn red hot. However, after a few ordeals Orrah would burn the chimney out once a month so that when they left the older boys or Elnora alone with the other children, she did not have to worry too much. Violet later notated that they had plenty of beds and plenty of everything. She had taken everything out of the old house except for the white flour sack curtains that she had put fancy red ruffles around the edges. Orrah asked her to leave them, to remind him of the house that she had fixed up, as he would be using it as a last stopping place when he tended his traps in the spring. Even Violet was a bit sentimental over leaving the place as it was once the nicest home she had ever had since she was first married. It had been comfortable, warm and she had given birth to two of her children there.

In the fall of 1946 with the houseboat docked Violet was repairing the top when she fell through the roof just missing the cast iron box stove. The fall was terrible, causing the start of a horrendous time for her. Next up, Violet has it tough.

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