Happy New Year! We hope that 2023 is starting well for everyone.
To start the new year, we have retitled the “Weekly Radio Readings” to “Historic Happenings.” Each week’s story will be posted in its entirety. The stories can also be heard Sunday mornings around 10 am on WILD 102’s “Looking Back in Time” program.
Weekly radio stories are researched, compiled, and read by Sheila Winstead, RCHS Board Member.
Available recordings will also be linked to the Wild 102 “Looking Back in Time” page.
January 22, 2023
Today’s story comes from Part 2 of Arnold Grefthen’s booklet of stories about life in the early days of Roseau County called “Land of Howling Wolves”. I found copies of his booklets in the research area at the Roseau Museum. This chapter is entitled “Snowbound in the Winter of 1944”.
January 1944, was a very mild and pleasant month weather-wise. Albin Oslund and I had purchased timber stumpage in the Beltrami Island Forest near an area known as Moose Lake. We had established a camp and put up a small log barn to house Albin’s team of horses which were used for skidding. The weather was warm and pleasant, really too warm to be cutting timber. One day Ralph, the Forest Ranger, came to see how we were getting along. The three of us sat on piles of cut timber, enjoying the warm weather, talking timber prices, et cetera.
We had hired Adolph Dahlquist and Eddie Syverson to help us cut timber as we had a lot of pulpwood to cut, scale and get to market before Spring breakup. At night we were entertained by the howling of the wolves in the forest surrounding our camp. One wolf had an especially coarse, spine-chilling howl. We figured this one to be a large timber wolf. The timber wolf is a lot larger animal and much more of a killer than the ordinary brush wolf or coyote. I have seen timber wolves that I would estimate to weigh around one hundred pounds.
We made good progress with our cutting and skidding. On Saturday afternoons, we would all go home for the weekend. Eddie Syverson would take along a trailer load of fuelwood behind his car every weekend. People, at that time, used wood as fuel. It was getting towards spring and we had a large amount of pulpwood skidded into piles and were anxiously awaiting the pulp trucks to come to our camp and start hauling.
On this particular Saturday, we had been notified by the pulp buyer that he was sending trucks to start hauling our pulp the next day, which was Sunday. He requested that someone stay in camp and show the truckers which piles to haul first and to assist them in loading if necessary, and also to see that they got something to eat. I was the one delegated to stay in camp that weekend.
As we were nearly out of hay for the horses, Albin, the first to leave, was driving his team hitched to the hayrack. Adolph was the next to leave. Eddie Syverson was the last to leave, as he spent some time loading his trailer with fuel wood. All were to be back in camp by Monday. Before Eddie left we had a cup of coffee and talked a while. As Eddie was getting ready to leave, the wind was beginning to whoop it up and a few wet, large snowflakes were falling. Eddie said, “I don’t like the looks of this. I believe we are in for a bad storm. You better go home, too.” I replied that it might storm but that I couldn’t take a chance on going home. The threatening weather might not amount to anything, and if the pulp trucks came the next day and no one was around, we would all be in hot water.
Eddie left and I was alone. I heard later that Eddie nearly got stuck on the road and had just barely made it to his home.
After Eddie left, I carried water from our well filling every available container. Then I carried in enough wood to last for a week. It was a lucky thing I did as it was the better part of a week before I dared venture outside to shovel a path to our snow covered woodpile. Another lucky thing was that we had enough groceries in camp to feed the whole crew for several days.
After supper that night, I turned on our battery operated radio. There was no radio station in Roseau then, but I was able to tune in on several other stations. The bad storm was the main news story. It warned to stay wherever they might be and not to venture out. I went to bed that night confident that by morning the storm would have blown itself out.
I was up early the next morning and the storm was still in full force. The radio reported that no let up in the storm was expected that day. The following morning the radio weather was still the same, “Storm continuing.” It wasn’t until the middle of the week that the storm was reported to be over and the wind had gone down.
During the time the storm was raging, I was very worried about how my folks in Wannaska were getting along, and also the community people. On Friday afternoon the radio reported that plows were out opening up the main roads. I decided that it would take some time before all side roads would be open and that forest area roads would be last of all. I made up my mind to start out for home the next morning, Saturday. I knew that the going would be extremely hard as the snow was hip deep. I should be able to make it to Ralph Thompson’s place, even if it took me all day to get there – a distance of six miles. Then I could use Ralph’s phone and get in contact with the outside world.
I started out the next morning at the break of day, using my body, at times, to push the snow away from in front of me. Where the snow had been packed hard by the wind, I would lie on my stomach and slide myself forwards. In places the snow had been blown to the sides of the road making for better progress. I had to rest often as it was hard, tiring work and I didn’t want to play myself out.
It was getting close to noon. I had come about two miles and as I was taking a rest I heard what sounded like a caterpillar tractor in the distance. The sound of the cat became louder. Could it be that the Winner Road was being snowplowed? Yes, now I could both hear and see the snowplow as it came towards me down the Winner Road. Behind the snowplow came Albin with his team of horses and a load of hay, followed by the pulp buyer in his car.
Arriving at the camp, the snowplow cleared the snow away from our pulp piles and then plowed out a turnaround for cars and trucks. While Albin put his team in the barn, I put on the coffee pot and prepared a hot meal for all. The next day the pulp trucks arrived and started on the task of hauling our pulp wood away. Our pulp cutters were the next to arrive and soon were in full swing again with our work of cutting and skidding timber.
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