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

It had been four years since Orrah told Wesley that they did not need a team of horses, including harnesses, that he could have purchased for fifty dollars. A year or so later, the proprietor of the Kettle Falls Hotel had told Orrah that she would give him her horse in trade for him and the boys cutting a few 2 x 4’s, but because she had run an old red light place many years before, Orrah flatly refused the offer. She later gave it to a neighbor who butchered it for mink feed. That left Elnora to continue to cut wood and haul it out of the woods, and according to Violet, Elnora often felled huge trees which were about two and half feet through. Elnora and Violet cut blocks of wood off together with a crosscut saw, one day Elnora told her dad they could cut off a block in two minutes. Timed, it took a minute. The girls would roll the blocks onto a sled and pull it to the house where Elnora would split it. Violet thought Elnora could swing an ax better than most men. Violet and Tony would help carry in the wood. One day Orrah and Wes walked halfway down the lake on the ice to a neighbors place at the Brule Narrows and came home with a large pony. Violet stated that that little horse was as powerful as a steam engine. His name was Toby and Elnora and Violet didn’t have to go out in the woods anymore to haul wood, however they still had to buck it up in the front yard, but they didn’t mind that one bit. Orrah made a Cutter-bob for Toby to pull, and he and Violet would use it to go out to Mine Center, leave Toby with friends, and then take the steam train to Fort Frances.

In the spring of 1952 Violet went on up to Pipe Lake with Orrah to trap for beaver and muskrat. There were logging camps on the opposite end of the lake to their cabin where Wesley had worked the entire winter. Wesley had gotten very sick, had caught the old fashion measles and the mumps, with a touch of pleurisy pneumonia. Violet saw him walking towards them on the Big Marsh and she thought he appeared to be just skin and bones. He reported that as he walked, timber wolves followed him very closely and all he had was a knife and a flashlight. Fortunately, they had plenty of food, as the owner of the logging camp had left word that they could have any supplies that were left when abandoning camp.

When the trapping season was over, the boys and their dad had caught several hundred muskrats and their quota of about 500 beaver. After they were home a few days, Orrah built a home-made plow to pull behind Tony and Violets recalls never laughing so hard. Orrah still had his winter growth of white whiskers on and when he hitched up Toby to that home made plow they both took off. The plow didn’t even cut into the ground and there was Orrah running for all he was worth, his beard standing straight out as he ran behind Toby hanging onto the reins hollering, “who Toby! who Toby!” but old Toby wouldn’t stop. All the kids were laughing as much as Violet, the plow was just too light. Later they did manage to get a proper plow and the garden did get plowed. Violet reported that Toby was a very erratic horse, not made to be a plow horse. In her mind the horse from Kettle Falls or the team Wes wanted to bring home would have been quieter and easier for the girls to handle. Once Orrah got on Toby’s back and rode him up to the barn and Orrah ended up having to fall off over Toby’s backside and landed in a manure pile, all because Toby just started to walk into the barn with Orrah on his back. The barn was small, just big enough for two horses with a door just big and high enough to let a riderless horse in.

Next up Violet reveals being pregnant when they did their spring trapping and it was when they went to Fort Frances in one of their big open skiffs that, on their way back home, her water broke. Orrah seemed to pay her no mind.

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