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

Violet thought a sudden gust of wind must have pushed the houseboat forward, ramming it into the steam tug; resulting in the stern of the tug going under water. Violet and daughter Elnora, home alone, were helpless, so according to Violet, “they prayed, and prayed we did". That afternoon Orrah and the boys came home from the trap lines.

It didn’t take long for the men to figure out how to get the tug out of the water. They hooked cables to the stern, and with block and tackle, winched the stern around to the bank and the water began to flow out of the hull. They hauled her out stern first and that is where she sat for a year until they could tow it across the river where they were building the “S.S. Clipper”. Violet reported that taking the steam boiler out of the tug and putting it in the Clipper was no small feat. Orrah and the four boys beached the tug, laid her on her side and, again with block and tackle, managed to get the steam boiler out and into the Clipper. They set the steam engine and bolted everything down. Violet reminisced that when their children were in their teens they never went hungry again and in fact they never got low on provisions, and it coincided with the launching of the “S.S. Clipper”.

During the summer the boys set up a salt lick for deer across the Falls River. They had situated the lick in such a way that they could just make out the deer’s shoulders. Because Game Wardens were patrolling the lake, any of the men had to make their first shot count. Down would go the deer and they would slip a canoe into the water and paddle as fast as they could, pick up the deer, and paddle back, slipping into a nearby creek behind the house and butcher the deer. What they could not eat they processed; canned for future use and buried the jars behind some big roots in the woods so the Wardens wouldn’t find it. Son Frankie loved to hunt partridge and rabbits and always saw to it that small game was on the menu. Violet and Elnora loved to fish and while Violet would handle the stern in their wooden canoe Elnora rowed. In just minutes they would be around the rapids on the Pipestone River, a little over two miles from home. They invariably came home with walleye, jack-fish or bass. The ladies fished with home-made spinners and as described by Violet “just plain old seaman twine”.

Once in a while the boys would bring home a big snapping turtle and Violet made soup out of it. She was never fond of it and the girls became fussy enough that they wouldn’t eat it. Violet attested to the fact that the head of a snapping turtle could stay alive two weeks after it was beheaded. Violet remembered that in the spring of 1942, she was with Orrah muskrat trapping when they ran low on food and he caught a couple, of what she described, as huge snapping turtles to cook and eat. One week later he picked up one of the heads and its mouth was still opening and closing. Orrah thought it funny and chased Violet all around their camp. She ate it but didn’t like it. The boys never brought any more home to eat. Instead, they cleaned them up and cooked them in the dog feed.

The game wardens would not let them keep their processed and canned meats such as beaver and venison over the summer. There came a time when Orrah was elected to be Head Councilman of the Ontario Trappers Association and all the trappers and woodsmen who lived in the wilderness voted to be allowed to keep their canned meat over the summer, so that could have protein in their diet. Orrah and Violet got a hunting license for each child who turned 16, and as a result they quit eating beaver.

After the duck, goose and deer hunting seasons were over Orrah, Orrah Jr., Floyd and Frankie would head out on the trap line with their dog teams. Orrah Jr. and Floyd each had a small dog team of three to five dogs.

Next up, Floyd loses his lead dog Lassie after she licked about a teaspoon of poisoned mouse seed that was on a greased saucer, and she died alongside of his bed while he slept.

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