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

Violet ruminated on just how far a dollar could be stretched. Son Wesley worked all summer and with $15 he bought himself a couple of pairs of pants, some shirts, a harmonica that he learned to play very well, safety razors for himself and brothers Orrah Jr. and Floyd. He even bought each of them a thermos bottle and still had a couple of bucks to spare.

The idea of raising mink for profit was short lived as they encountered issues feeding them as they lacked a commercial fishing license and had to sell them. Violet opined that if they had kept them much longer they would only go in the hole.

In the winter of 1947 and 1948, Wesley went to work in the logging camps. In those days they used axes and two-man crosscut saws to fall the big timber. Horses were used, but in the next few years they gradually broke into using big trucks, tractors and caterpillars. According to Violet, Wesley, just 18 years old, worked like a grown man and was such a hard worker he was always in demand by the logging camps. One year Wesley came home for Christmas, he left early one morning from the logging camp and walked eighty miles to their home on the Falls River. He told his dad that he could buy a team of horses with harness for $50 as he did not like the idea of his sisters out cutting and hauling wood for the stove. His dad told him to forget it as they had dogs to haul the firewood. The snafu was that the boys weren’t home with their dog teams when the wood would run out, so Elnora would have to go into the woods with an axe, saw and sleigh, fall trees and cut them into length so that she and Violet could haul the wood home and then cut it up into stove length. They cut wood for three stoves. After New Year’s, Wesley walked back to the logging camp.

In the spring of 1948, he came home sans horses, and helped put up ice for summer’s use and get ready for the beaver and muskrat seasons. The family was given a large quota of beaver to trap and no longer had to poach to have extra money coming in. The beaver were multiplying fast over their trap ground. As an aside, the beaver that they had live trapped for Mr. Matthew were expanding their ground and becoming public nuisances. In fact, according to Violet, the beaver were going right into the immigration office at the Port of Entry and acting like they were waiting to go across to International Falls to become American citizens. She reported the Immigration and Custom officers had to chase them away. Mr. Matthew asked Orrah if he would come and help him shoot off the beaver, but Orrah said he didn’t want any part of that, as he iterated he had just worked too hard to catch them in the first place.

Violet was proud of the fact that her three older boys had become remarkable canoe men, stating that their dad had trained them well in canoe safety around whitewater. Floyd, who was only a teenager, would boast “I can run any set of rapids that my dad can” and was quite brave when it came to running rapids, and it appeared to Violet that he really seemed to enjoy it. Orrah not only showed them how to run whitewater rapids, he also taught the boys the art of canoe building, and according to Violet, Orrah Jr. became a remarkable canoe craftsman.

In the spring of 1948 when Orrah and Violet were in Fort Frances disposing of the winters fur catch, the older boys and girls cleared land and dug up a garden. The soil was not good, but between the kids they gathered rotten logs and packed in moss, leaves and soil from other places to cover the garden. Where they once had a root cellar was just red clay, but by digging holes far apart and putting a little soil in each hole Violet managed to plant a good crop of corn.

Next up Wesley and Orrah guide rich people from Florida who owned a resort on Rainy Lake, and they decide to build a new steamboat by using an old boat frame for the pattern.

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