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

Orrah Jr. was holding a telegram in his hand, and Violet just knew “we had lost our beloved Frankie”, it read “Frank drowned on Harris Lake."

Violet and Orrah were always going to write Frank a personal letter telling him how much they loved him and that they wanted the best for his happiness. According to Violet, Orrah cried again and again and saying “the letter that we never wrote” she iterated that they had written a lot of letters back and forth but they were to Floyd and his wife Mardel and they would always ask about Frankie and tell them to give him their love but did not write one directly to Frank, they would write back and tell them “Frankie was fine and that he was happy."

Violet and Orrah stayed up with the older children trying to figure out what happened. Violet opined that one can do a lot of speculating especially when they don’t know what or how it happened. They could not afford for everyone to go back to Frank’s funeral but Violet and the kids thought it would be best to send their father back. Orrah was afraid to fly in big passenger jets so he took an amphibian Grumman Goose to Prince Rupert B.C. and then boarded the CN Railway to Fort Frances. He didn’t arrive in time for the funeral which according to Violet he didn’t want to attend anyway because he couldn’t have stood seeing their boy laid to rest at such a young age. He just wanted to comfort Floyd, Frankie was only twenty-two years old.

Frank had been contacted by a tourist resort owner asking him to trap some nuisance beaver and had stayed at his trapping cabin on Harris Lake. The resort owner reported that Franks dog had come to their back door and pawed and whined wanting them to follow him down the trail toward the cabin that was ten miles away. The owner contacted Floyd and Floyd got his uncle Allen to fly them over Harris Lake, Allen said that he saw the canoe with the fishnet around it, he said the Lake was very clear and that he saw Frankie lying on the bottom of the lake, he banked the plane sharply so Floyd couldn’t see him. Orrah told Violet that Allen choked up with tears when he told him the story. Frank was just about touching his feet on the bottom when he took to stomach cramping and drowned. Frank was out on the lake in a square-sterned canoe with a five horsepower outboard motor on it setting a fishnet, they didn’t know if he had the dog with him but apparently the canoe flipped over and they surmised that Frank had panicked and stayed with the overturned canoe too long when all he would have had to do was grab on to the floating gasoline tank and swim ashore with it. Orrah spent some time with Floyd who told him that Frankie had felt bad leaving his family in B.C. without saying goodbye, he met his untimely death one year to the day he departed. Orrah’s stepmother was very fond of Frank and told the story about when Frankie was visiting them when a drunken man came to the door and wanted a place to stay and wouldn’t listen when told to go away, Frank who was over six feet tall with his sky-blue eyes and blond hair looked right into the eyes of the inebriated man who took one look at Frankie and said “yes, yes sir” and took off. It gave Orrah a feeling of pride.

The locals said it just couldn’t be done, even the old timers living in Nenana, Alaska shook their heads as they turned away after watching the attempts of Violet’s two older sons Wesley and Orrah Jr. trying to push their heavily loaded barge up the Tanana River to Fairbanks, Alaska, in August 1962. According to Violet it was no wonder that they shook their heads, a deep sea troller of all things attempting to push a barge up that very swift shallow river. It just simply could not be done, it was what they were told repeatedly by the local patrons.

Next up, it was transcribed in a matter of fact way, kind of like it was just another day written in a seemingly nonchalant casual way, but a life changer indeed, how does Violet move on?

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