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

It was early June of 1952 and Violet was expecting a new addition to the family but didn’t show it; however she never showed with any of the children before and had never had to wear maternity clothes. It wasn’t a good time for Orrah Jr. to come down with the whooping cough, all the children came down with it, including Violet. In her words, “it sure was awful, you hacked for two weeks, then whooped for two weeks and then hacked for the last two weeks”. Violet ruminated about Bill and Laura McKaveth who came to visit with neighbor John Kulauski, the couple for many years had wanted children but could not have them, one doctor would tell her that she was too fat another told her she was too skinny and diet as she might she never became pregnant.

Orrah and Violet made a trip to Fort Frances in one of their big open skiffs, on the way home she told Orrah that her water had broke but he seemed to pay her no mind. They got to Mr, Kulauski’s near Brule Narrows where she went into labor, the McKaveth’s were still there and were just a bundle of nerves. Orrah was delivering the baby when he found the baby’s head was veiled and the cord wrapped around its neck. Orrah asked Mrs. McKaveth for a knife but she couldn’t find one, so he told her to open his jackknife but she couldn’t do that either. While he held the baby’s head in one hand, he opened his jackknife with the other by pressing the handle against his hip, then he cut the veil and unwrapped the cord. In Violets account, she felt that if he hadn’t acted quickly, the baby would have been retarded. Orrah named him William John after Mr. McKaveth and Mr. Kulauski, they called him Billy for short. Because of Laura being so nervous and telling Orrah not to do this, not to do that, Orrah was afraid to remove the afterbirth like he had always done before. Violet was in a lot of pain so she said “will you please take me to Fort Frances and do one or the other? Remove the afterbirth or take me back to Fort Frances”, Orrah did the later and Violet was in the hospital for nine days. Orrah and the kids brought the S. S. Clipper down to Fort Frances and ferried Violet and new baby home. Violet reminisced about how Billy sure got a lot of attention, when the boys would come in it wouldn’t matter if he was asleep, they woke him up to hold, hug and play with him. Violet thought him “such a good baby” and he liked every bit of it.

Violet had long wanted a piano so she could give the children music lessons and Orrah’s brother offered them the piano that had once belonged to their mother, but she had no place to put it because where they were living then was just too small. Violet’s kids just loved music, they played the Edison or Victrola all the time. Wesley bought an accordion and he taught himself to play by ear and Violet thought him fantastic, he could play polkas, waltzes, Scottish's, and just about anything else. One day Wesley handed her $150 to buy a piano with. She scanned the weekly papers and found a big Bell Piano located in Gulf, Ontario. The children’s uncle Paul had a big boat called “The Danny” and he went out of his way to deliver that piano right up to their dock, and with the help of the four older boys, they managed to get that piano up on the bank and up the hill to their big log cabin. They put it in the large living room where Elnora started to learn to play a little bit, though she didn’t have much time, because she was studying to better herself trying to get through school. One day when Orrah was working, Wesley decided to make a piano bench. He went out and started the gasoline powered bench saw and planer. Per Violet, he wasn’t out there an hour when he came running into the house and said, “Mom I did it, I cut off my fingers!” All three of his fingers on his left hand were cut off. Violet was “thunderstruck.” She couldn’t believe what she was seeing; he wasn’t bleeding and was in shock. She wrapped his hand in clean dish towels and told Orrah Jr. to get a boat ready.

Next up, some luck, more luck, and some complications.

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