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

Like all of us, as time passed Violet ruminated about her adventures, she already had eleven grandchildren and eleven great-children. She looked back and wondered about the machinations of what happened and her own vision looking back on the life that she lived and hacked out in the wilderness with her husband and first seven children. Her only regret was that her children did not get sufficient schooling and if she would have known about the Canadian Correspondence Courses she would have gotten them for all her children that way her husband Orrah would have had to leave the children home with her to be taught. Violet learned after enrolling two of her children in the correspondence courses that the papers did not have to be sent out every week and that they could be sent out every three to six months. She learned about the details after Elnora had “snuck” out of sight of her dad one day and went and visited the principal of the Robert More Elementary School in Fort Frances, Ontario. Elnora was nineteen and she enrolled in the eighth grade, per Violet “other than that I do not have any regrets of ever living away from civilization”.

However, Violet was extremely proud of her children, they learned survival firsthand, they learned to make steel traps on the forge, they made knives and ice chisels and carved their own ax and saw handles out of ash or birch. They learned the art of boat and canoe building which some of them became masters at and even on the west coast they built big boats and operated them. The girls became excellent cooks, learned to sew and loved to sketch pictures of wildlife and scenery using crayons and pencils, friends often remarked that if they were that good with rudimentary equipment what would they do with oils. Violet remembered that when folks saw her children as they were growing up into their teens they would comment that “what a wonderful family you have”.

Violet’s kids loved to swim and they would spent an hour or two in the hot afternoon swimming in the river. The Falls River was over two-hundred yards wide and during the summer the water was lukewarm and there was no heavy current from the rapids which were less than a half-mile away but in the spring the rapids would become a torrent, the current from it would turn huge icebergs weighing tons upside down in the river but would quiet down as the spring thaw decreased.

Violet remembered that in 1947 she and Orrah were in Fort Frances after the spring trapping season selling their furs and visited their old friends the Peterson’s that they hadn’t seen in years. Mrs. Peterson was overjoyed about the Violet’s family coming through the Great Depression and getting their heads above water that she could not eat her dinner, only a little ice cream. She showed them pictures of the houseboat, the steamboat and the seven children, two of which they had never seen since they had left for the west coast in 1938 because of her failing health. Indeed, the Peterson’s wanted to visit them on the Falls River but the trip would have been too hard on Mrs. Peterson, Violet got word a few month later that she had died of an enlarged heart.

Violet looked back at the time she was picking blueberries with six of her kids and neighbor Mrs. Langford. Violet picked berries all day to fill up forty-eight quart cups that went into a 48 quart crate. Mrs. Langford had brought along an extra white bed sheet and showed her how to pack out her crate of blueberries the easy way, she wrapped the case in the sheet then made little straps to go over the shoulders but the first thing that happened to Violet was that it went tumbling to the ground spilling them all over. Son Wesley laughed and Violet ordered him to stop but it just caused him to laugh all the harder, then he helped her pick them up, of course it made them later than ever getting back home.

Next up, in her own words Violet reminiscences about the gatherings they had at home, how they fed themselves, the things they discovered, how the kids responded and her indefatigable faith.

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