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

Violet had a proverbial laundry list of things to do before winter set in but Orrah kept pestering her to go out on the trap line with him, iterating that the kids were now responsible enough to get the chores done prior to winter. The kids agreed and Violet was persuaded. The plan was for her to go out with Orrah for about a month and return after freeze up; as it turned out Orrah got real lucky.

Orrah and Violet were about three miles from their trapping cabin when he fell through the early winter ice. It was about minus thirty degrees and his clothes started freezing immediately. He tried to get a stub of wood to build a fire, but he was so numb that he couldn’t move. Violet was feeling the cold too, so Orrah told her, “Vi go back to the cabin, I will be all right”, but Violet saw that he was turning blue so she grabbed a hatchet from his belt sheath and promptly hauled the wood stub over close to him. The stub was full of slivers caused by what she referred to as woodworm. She struck a match and lit it up, she piled more wood on the stub that turned into a large fire, helped Orrah take off his socks and dried his boots and clothes. When he was completely dry they walked back to the cabin, and she thanked God for bringing them through another close encounter with death. Weeks later when they returned home, the girls not only had that falls chores done and the canning complete but Elnora had the kitchen ceiling, the living room, and the kitchen floors painted. Naturally though, Violet thought about the eight rooms on the houseboat that needed to be cleaned and varnished.

Violet commented that it was nice to come home to a freshly painted house and, according to her, and to add to her satisfaction the girls had pulled a very large deer into the house to thaw. Then they hung it up from the ceiling in the shop off the house and skinned and butchered it. The girls also made chocolate fudge, baked pies and she allowed that the girls were becoming a big help to her. After Violet got settled back into her routine she baked a giant logging style fruitcake and was thankful that the family was there for Christmas. On Christmas morning everyone slept in, and when they came for breakfast each had a big bowl of nuts and candy, a piece of fruitcake, an orange and an apple. Per Violet, “the kids sat down and ate like it was going out of style." For Christmas dinner, Orrah or one of the boys would pick out the choicest set of deer ribs, cut them about three inches apart with one whack of a cleaver so she could roll them and stuff them with dressing. Violet cooked them nice and crisp in the big wood stove oven, they had mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw and vegetables. Desert was pumpkin pie, mincemeat pie, and fruitcake. Everyone ate until they were stuffed and in Violet’s words “they didn’t eat for just one day, they ate until New Years and all through New Years Day”. The new year found them back to their chores on the trap line and in February they put up ice, and put extra effort into beaver and muskrat trapping.

Once son Wesley was up at the poplar shack five miles up the Pipestone River and he did not show up back home when he was supposed to, so Floyd checked up on him. He had been badly injured. He was making a beaver stretcher by bending a willow into a round frame and tying the ends together, and on the frame they would use carpet tacks to secure the pelt. One day he ran out of tacks so he was using his sheath knife to push slits into the frame so he could use wooden pegs in place of the tacks. He had the frame on above his knees on his lap when the knife slipped and the long blade went deep into his thigh, injuring him so bad that he had to crawl back to the cabin. He was beginning to heal by the time Floyd got there and he stayed with him until the wound healed.

Next up, the offer of a horse for hauling firewood didn’t go well with Orrah and they continued to put up their winters supply of firewood by hand. The girls worked hard at it.

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