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

For years Violet read scriptures from the Bible to her children after the noon meal and the children enjoyed it. In fact, son Paul took a particular interest just by listening, as he could quote sayings by Christ, St. John, St. Paul and St. Peter quite well. She not only read the New Testament to her kids, but the entire Bible. As an aside Orrah and Violet always marveled at their son Frankie’s learning ability just by listening, as he liked to sing music from the Edison and Victrola phonograph. According to Violet, he sang like a songbird and as he grew older his voice grew lovelier.

Orrah and the boys begun beaver and muskrat trapping in the spring of 1947, and at Mr. Matthew’s request trapped more live Beaver for his pond, but it was the last time. When Orrah and Violet had first arrived their area did not have any beaver, but they built up fast and they were very successful in their trapping endeavors, both for pelts to fill their quota and for Mr. Matthew. When the lake opened up Orrah and Violet made a trip to Fort Frances in their son Allen’s boat, and according to Violet it had one of those very, very noisy twenty-two horsepower Johnson motors. Before they left, Orrah pitched a tent upon a ridge on a spruce bluff so he could have one of the kids sleep in the tent with the live beaver. Frankie was only ten at the time and it almost proved fatal if it hadn’t been for Floyd coming in off the trap line and checking on his brother. The first thing Floyd saw were bear tracks. Each night the bear had come closer and he walked around and around the tent. Floyd promptly brought his collie dog Lassie to stay with Frankie so that he could be warned when the bear came too close. The bear was initially leery of the dog but began to get used to it. Luckily Mr. Matthew had sent a gentleman to pick up the live beaver before any mauling could take place. Floyd was quite agitated with his dad for having Frankie stay back in the woods without any protection, so that was the end of the live beaver trapping, and attested to by Violet they were all happy about it.

Orrah and Violet raised mink and when they ran a little low on mink feed, Orrah would send the kids out to catch frogs, fish and sometimes a turtle, which Orrah Jr. fed to them. It didn’t agree with Bucky, he got diarrhea and died, however just about every female mink produced kits. Orrah’s brother Allen, often brought culled fish that were not able to be sold, to feed the mink and the sled dogs. It became daughter Elnora’s job to look after the mink and so she had to cook the fish and clean the pens, which Violet reported that Elnora absolutely detested. While this adventure was going on, Orrah Jr. was splitting wood when his attention was diverted and he brought the axe down on his thumb. He came in the house, sans thumb, with his hand bleeding profusely. Violet asked him where the detached piece of thumb was and, sure enough, when she went outside to look for it, there on a rock beneath the water, was the end of his thumb. Violet brought it back to the house and his dad put it back on and it healed.

Orrah Jr. wasn’t feeling well, he stopped eating on his own and drank only water. His dad thought it a good idea for him to take a dive in the river every day, which he did. Violet didn’t think it was for the best, as he told her it chilled him to the bone. Orrah and Violet went to Fort Frances for a week and when they got back he was still very ill. The symptoms sounded to her like typhoid fever and she again consulted the Bernarr McFadden’s Encyclopedia on Health and Natural Methods. He fasted for about ten days drinking only water, during which time he was gravely ill and laid in bed day and night. Apparently he had done everything right, and within a few days they broke his fast on canned orange juice and milk, and a couple of days later he was able to eat solids again. Violet opined that when you are sick with typhoid fever, you go to skin and bones, but after you can eat solid foods again you put on weight very quickly.

Next up son Wesley works hard all summer and they divest themselves of the mink.

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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