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

Dogs were permanent fixtures in Violet's home from the time she eloped by dog sled with Orrah, until her children were grown. Violet's son Floyd was on his trap line when he lost his lead dog Lassie after she licked about a spoonful of poisoned mouse seed that was on a greased saucer. She died alongside of his bed while he slept. Floyd came home with Brownie in the lead and broke into tears because of the accident. Lassie was smart and Floyd prayed wanting another dog as good as Lassie. Orrah and Violet traveled by windjammer, a snow plane with ski’s on it to Fort Frances and met with a Dutchman from Holland where they had bought Lassie. They brought back Sandy, who turned out to be as smart as Lassie. Floyd could be setting a beaver set and would point to his gloves that were some distance away and tell Sandy “go fetch my gloves” and she would do it. One day Floyd told ten year old Tony to take Sandy and go home. Tony got lost but Sandy knew the way and took over the lead and led Tony to safety.

One day when Floyd and Frankie were winding up the spring trapping season a big old black bear kept coming closer and closer to the Cabin and it wasn’t just satisfied with eating the beaver and muskrat carcasses that the boys were drying for dog food he broke through the lightly made cabin door and according to Violet it was “to get at the boys”. Sandy was bedded down just inside the door and drove the bear off for the rest of the night. They next day the boys set traps and snares all around the cabin, the next morning they discovered that the bear had again come close to the cabin and had been caught in one of the snares but had managed to drag it some distance. Floyd grabbed his 763 German Mauser pistol with a removable shoulder stock on it accompanied by Frankie with a 12-gauge shotgun. Violet reported that the bear had been a crafty bruin, he had been caught many times in snares but he would manage to use one of his feet and push the snare off his foot and managed to even pull the snares off its neck, she described it as a true wild renegade. In the past the bear had plodded up and down the shores of the Big Marsh from their Pipe Lake cabin to the Popple shack on the Pipestone Rover, for years it had eluded the families best laid strategies to trap it. The bear was snarling fiercely when Floyd shot and even though he shot it dead, Frankie shot it again with the 12-gauge.

Orrah was without a dog team and he told thirteen year old Elnora that Violet had once prayed that he would not have a team anymore. Elnora responded by saying God had answered her mother’s prayers, so she must have been right. He never did have another dog team.

Orrah Jr., Floyd and Frankie trapped beaver through the ice using ice chisels that their dad had made in his forge, and with a shovel scooped the ice out of the hole so they could put a set on a limb in the water. Violet acknowledged that trapping beaver through the ice was hard on the boys, recalling the winter that Orrah Jr. had only three dogs and they got stuck in the slush so he had to put a rope over his shoulders and help pull the load. This adventure caused Orrah Jr. to freeze the bottoms of both feet. She thanked God that they healed up causing no ill effects. With the dog teams the boys still had to get up very early and be moving by daybreak. They traveled far to tend the trap lines and when they got to a cabin they always made sure to cut enough wood so there would be some for any traveler passing by who might be wet and cold.

Always, in the later part of February, the boys and their dad would come off the trap line to put ice up for the coming summer, sometimes Paul or Allen would bring their horse Dolly to haul the ice cakes up to the icehouse. When the sun would get warm Violet’s girls covered the ice with sawdust even though some of the sawdust was frozen in lumps.

Next up Orrah is shaken and Violet is badly hurt.

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