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

The bear hit the ground, Orrah said she moved like lightning and was roaring like thunder. It seemed like slow motion as he got his 763 German Mauser pistol out, he steadied the pistol on her as she was coming forward, aimed below her head and shot her through the heart. She turned and ran about fifty feet and fell. She was left for the carrion. Violet was glad as they had to eat bear in the early years of their marriage and it didn’t appeal to her at all.

In the spring of 1954 Orrah, Wes, Elnora and Violet made a trip to Fort Frances on their steamboat the S.S. Clipper, they were there about a week before they left for their Fall River home. Violet reported that the rapids under the Rainy River bridge was exceptionally high; the current very heavy and she thought that Orrah had an uneasy feeling as he put Violet, baby Billy and Elnora on the shore near the rapids. In all the years before he had never put any of them on the shore. A reef that was usually visible and protruded above the water was submerged. Wes was manning the steam engine and Orrah piloting, when he somehow veered over to the left just a little to far. Suddenly she heaved up and was lying over on her side on the submerged reef in the middle of the Ranier Rapids. Violet described it as a gas-gator, that was owned by The Ontario and Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company, it went to the crippled Clipper and took Wes and Orrah off the boat with some necessary belongings, and other “paraphernalia,” and brought them to shore along with a rowboat that they usually towed behind.

Many folks in Ranier saw what happened, then some friends in International Falls heard of their plight, and, according to Violet, folks “came to their rescue from all over the place”. Someone brought over about a twelve man World War II pyramid army tent, another brought a stove to heat the tent and cook on. An essential need was for a pump that would keep ahead of the heavy flowing water that was pouring into her hull; she would need a new keel as it was completely knocked loose.

According to the Fort Frances Times, Captain Orrah expressed confidence that his steamboat, that was hanging on the rocks in the rapids, would be righted and repaired without much difficulty. They reported that he is camped on shore awaiting for help to come with equipment from his home near Kettle Falls. The Captain opined that his steamboat is the only similar vessel on the lake and he made it clear that his boat had sufficient power to climb the rapids and he said that it was actually too much power that got him into into trouble. The boiler that is fired by wood is capable of producing 185 pounds of pressure that can propel the large boat along at about 14 knots.

Then the work started. With the help of their uncle, Wes, Floyd and Frank came with jacks, winches, come-alongs, cables, and planking to repair the hull so it could be moved off the reef. A few years before, Orrah had cut a large Norway Pine down and hewed the keel that broke when the Clipper hit the reef. Orrah finally found a pump capable of handling the tremendous flow of water that was flowing into her hull. Within a few days the gas-gator came back to help pull it off the reef. Orrah and the boys had patched up the hull and were able to keep ahead of the water. There was more work that had to be completed on the hull and all the pay the captain of the gator wanted was a case of beer for his crew.

The Fort Frances Times later reported that Elnora stayed at their tent camp and cooked for her dad and brothers while they made it seaworthy again. The family was expected to set out later in the week, towing the 47 foot craft the Clipper back home. After getting home they hauled her out of the water and spent the rest of the spring and summer putting a new keel on. They cut a large Tamarack tree and with broad axes, draw knives and spoke shaves, they hewed the new keel into place and from Oak timber carved a new nose or bow piece.

Next up, yeah but does she float?

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