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

While repairing the roof of the houseboat, Violet fell through, just missing the cast iron box stove. She described the fall as terrible and not too long after she became very ill and weak; so weak that she couldn’t lift her left arm above her head. It was just too painful. Then the pain began to spread to the other arm.

She mentioned the pain in front of some of the children, and she later learned that Orrah Jr. went to the engine shed on the back of the houseboat and got on his knees asking God to intervene and heal her. Violet suffered a miscarriage and somehow the placenta did not come with the fetus and she then began to get, in her words, “terrible sick”. An abscess eventually appeared on her left collarbone.

Orrah took a piece of vitriol, a deadly poison in itself, and drew out the poison from the abscess, and found that a piece of the collarbone was gone. Violet again turned to Bernarr MacFadden’s Encyclopedia on Health and Natural Methods. She began to fast one day a week, drinking only water. She would fast one day and eat five days, then fast two days, until she was fasting three days drinking only water. Violet kept fasting until she was able to fast an entire week. At this time she would fast a week at a time and drink canned grapefruit juice for several days.

Violet’s son Floyd would come off the trap line and just sit and look on sadly. This is when Orrah began to look into the Holy Scriptures and cursing and swearing no longer came from his lips. Orrah told both Floyd and Elnora to pray fervently for their mother. Violet was at her sewing machine when she started to hemorrhage, and sent Floyd to get Orrah who was only a hundred yards away. It took only a minute for Orrah to get there but in that time, she had lost what she termed, “a tremendous amount of blood”. Orrah came in ghost faced and immediately tore up anything in the line of bedsheets to pack her and stop the flow of blood; he elevated her feet so they were higher than her head.

Wesley took over the scrubbing of the clothes and also helped Elnora with the housekeeping, cooking and associated chores. The other boys all got in wood and cooked the feed for the dogs. Orrah made a trip out to Fort Frances with the dog team and flew back in one of Mr. Matthew’s smaller planes, which was a Beaver, and landed out at the forks of the Pipestone and Falls River. He hitched up the dog team and came back to the houseboat, telling her he was sending her to Fort Frances in one of Mr. Matthew’s big Northmen. Violet had started to feel better and she told Orrah she didn’t want to go and she was going to be okay. A few hours later the big Northmen buzzed the house; Orrah waved him on.

Violet continued to fast on and off for another month and in March the sun began to come warm, so she would lie on a blanket on the front deck of the houseboat. Violet than started on a milk diet. She drank quarts and quarts of milk mixed from the whole powdered Klim milk. She began to do housework again and take care of the mink. In her own words, she went from skin and bones too “pleasing plump”. Violet never felt any ill effects from the ordeal and knew that many prayers went up to God in heaven from her children and loving husband.

In April after she had recovered she painted both stories of the houseboat white and the rails green. While painting the bottom story she was standing on a 55 gallon wooden keg when the bottom fell out and she went right through the bottom. There she was, standing inside of the keg on the houseboat walk. The walk was over the deep water and scared twelve year old Elnora, who told her that had she fallen in the water, she would have perished, as she couldn’t swim. The next year Elnora did the painting and Violet did acknowledge that her children were always very concerned about her.

Next up, Violet reads scripture to her children. She not only read the New Testament but the entire Bible. Spring trapping for muskrat and beaver begins and Mr. Matthew wants more live beaver, but it was the last time.

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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