CHAPTER 2 - Rod
Roderick Schuetze was the third child in a family of seven. Born in Brazil just before the turn of the century, he was a son of German immigrants who were attached to an agricultural colony established by a French prince, and known as Joinville. Eugen and Elizabeth Schuetze's 1887 marriage had been arranged by their families, and very soon after the wedding, they moved to Brazil. Here, over the next fifteen or so years, their children were born: Lothar, Irma, Rod, Verena, Gerda, Ralph and Frank. As they grew up, the children learned to speak both German and Portuguese (Picture 2-1).
Picture 2-1 Rod's parent's
Eugen Schuetze was well educated by the standards of the day, and had been employed in the banking system in Germany. In Brazil, he served the community as a dentist, and filled much of his time collecting and drying native plants and flowers which were then shipped to Germany where they were fashioned into arrangements and sold.
Tropical climates are unkind to the health of some individuals, and Rod was one of these. He suffered repeated cases of yellow fever, and several times was close to death. He recalled one occasion when his parents sat at his bedside, in tears, consoling one another - " we had him for a little while." Their family physician counselled the Schuetze's to move to a more temperate climate where Rod might better be afforded an opportunity to outgrow his tendency to fevers.
Eugen, Elizabeth and the children returned to Germany when Rod was eight years of age. There they visited with family and friends over a several month period, then immigrated to Manitoba where Eugen became the manager of a large farm, located on the banks of the Assiniboine River. The absentee landowners were interested only in the land as an investment property, taking pride in its size and progressive nature. There was not a great deal of labour involved for the Schuetze family members, since the farm operated on hired help, both in the fields and in the household.
Eugen's role was that of an overseer, planning the work, organizing the work force, and reporting to the owners.
In that the Schuetze marriage was an arranged one, it is perhaps not surprising that the affection level in the home was limited. Elizabeth performed none of the daily tasks of caring for her husband or children - cooks and maids were employed to do the household chores, and Elizabeth's prime interest was entertaining influential visitors and filling the role of a charming hostess (Picture 2 - 2).
Picture 2-2 Elizabeth Schuetze
The Schuetze children loved the freedom Manitoba offered them. Other than Lothar, the children attended local schools. In Rod's case, his formal education concluded at or before Grade Six, and any time he could spare, he spent with nature. A portion of the farm was still in its natural state - an acreage of bushland as it had been for hundreds of years previous. Here Rod roamed, winter and summer, learning about the trees and other plants, the birds and animals that lived there. On one occasion, he discovered a nest of young squirrels and took one home as a pet. He hid the little animal in his bedroom - his parents never knew about it, and if the maids found it, they took no action. After the squirrel adapted to Rod's presence, he kept a bedroom window open slightly so it could enter and leave at will. In the autumn Rod thought it best to free the squirrel and let it make its winter preparations more in keeping with instincts dictates. The squirrel responded to nature's instructions, but the only home it knew was Rod's bedroom, so all the hazel nuts the little animal collected, he quickly stashed in Rod's room - hording a large cache for the cold winter ahead.
Lothar's education was more traditional. According to the customs of the social circle the Schuetze's belonged to in Germany, he, as the eldest son, was sent back to Germany where he lived with relatives and received his education. The eldest son was the one to carry on the family name, to see that all the family members' employment needs were met - in short he was to become the head of the family when his father could no longer fill the role. Therefore it was important that his education be as full as possible, after all, the rest of the family would some day be guided by him.
When Rod was in his late teens his home life changed. Irma and Verena were married and living in Washington State. His parents marriage was disintegrating. The farm went into bankruptcy. Lothar and Rod needed, and found, employment. Their jobs were diverse: Rod drove one of the first delivery trucks in Winnipeg, while he worked for a florist. Lothar and Rod had become friends with Fred and Charley Whiteway, and the four often sought work where they could be together. The foursome worked on farms during the busy agricultural seasons of seeding, haying and harvest. For a time Rod was employed at a brick-making plant in Winnipeg, where he operated and maintained the machinery used to mix the materials for bricks. Rod seldom had problems obtaining work - there was always a demand for men with the mechanical abilities he possessed. In the winter months, Lothar and Rod were self-employed as fur trappers in the region of Lake Winnipeg.
When World War 1 erupted in Europe, Canadian citizens of German ancestry discovered many jobs were no longer open to them, particularly in the settled areas. Rod and Lothar gravitated to the bush country around Lake Winnipeg, where, in the winter they trapped, and in the summer months built a reputation as skilled freighters for the Hudson's Bay Company. Eugen joined them, caring for their camps while they were out on the traplines, or away on a freight haul.
The Hudson's Bay Company operated a number of trading posts on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, and many more on the rivers that fed into the lake. Trade goods were shipped to the lake shore posts by boats that plied the lake during the summer months. These main posts accepted their own goods, as well as supplies for a number of inland posts located closest to them. The goods were then transported by large freight canoes, operated by individuals such as Rod and Lothar, to the inland posts. This was work for the experienced and the stout of heart and body. A good understanding of the river and lake system to be travelled was essential, and knowledge of canoes and other boats was invaluable. There were many unnavigable areas of the waterways the Schuetze brothers travelled, where portaging became necessary.
The Hudsons' Bay Company employed many men as inland freighters. Native Canadians were naturals in this function, as they were canoeing rivers they had travelled all their lives, and they were well accustomed to life in the bush. However, some of the finer points of delivering the trade goods in salable condition were a stumbling block with the native freighters. One problem arose in the transporting of salt pork, a summer meat staple included in each shipment to each post. Sides of salt pork were wrapped in burlap to protect the meat - these packages were to be carried on the shoulder or back of the freighter when portaging, to keep the meat clean and away from contaminants. If one was not cautious about how the side of meat was carried, it would soon rub the carriers skin, producing a raw spot on the shoulder or back of the bearer. An open wound, a warm day and a burden of salt meat quickly gave rise to a painful problem. The native freighters found a way around this situation - they tied a rope to one leg of the side of meat and dragged it over one portage after another until they reached their destination. The traders at the inland posts were most unhappy about the condition of their shipments of salt pork - the sides were dirty, showing evidence of mud, leaves and other debris collected in the bush. Similarly, fabrics of the time were a much-needed trade item. Traders ordered bright cottons, most of which were not colourfast, and the bolts, at best, were covered in paper wrappings. Native freighters did not understand the importance of keeping the fabrics dry and covered during the trip; many arrived sodden - once white, they were now discoloured; once bright, now faded, or with the colours having run one into the other. Early traders sold many mottled fabrics that in more modern times may have been described as 'batiked' or otherwise original art - but in the era of 1914 these were undesirable, and in some cases, unsaleable (Picture 2 - 3).
Picture 2-3 Rod at age 19
Rod and Lothar found ways to avoid these and other problems, and soon the Hudson's Bay Company was providing them with much of their summer's work. The Schuetze brothers began their freighting business with one large freight canoe, then added a second, and later fitted both with outboard gas motors to speed the freighting where conditions permitted. The Schuetze brothers were the first to use outboard motors on the Berens River.
Never one to be idle, any free time he had in the summer Rod spent exploring Lake Winnipeg - becoming familiar with its bays and beaches, the rivers that fed into it, as well as the moods of the lake, and the influences of the weather on the lake.
Meanwhile, the married Schuetze sisters were enjoying Washington State. Irma and her husband, Carl Boden, were living in Seattle and Carl was working as a travelling salesman for a meat packing plant. His weekly route took him as far south as Portland, Oregon, and necessitated his being away from home more than he and Irma appreciated. One solution was to move to a central location on his circuit, where he could then be home both on weekends and sometime during mid-week. Castle Rock was ideal - both he and Irma loved the area, and Irma's letters to Rod and Lothar in Manitoba were glowing tributes to the beauty, climate and wonderful job opportunities available. The three younger Schuetze children were also in Washington by this time, all employed in the Seattle area.
Rod and Lothar decided to survey the Washington State possibilities for themselves. They sold their fur traps and other equipment and travelled by train to Castle Rock. They, too, were delighted with the mild weather and beautiful surroundings, but, in time, found the employment opportunities were limited. Jobs they could obtain were low-paying. Rod's skills as a mechanic to serve the growing number of automobiles on the roads was no answer - there seemed to be a service station on every other corner.
Picture 2-4 Map of Lake Winnipeg
With their revenue from selling their equipment spent, the brothers settled in to the best jobs they could secure, determined to save enough money to return to Manitoba and re-equip themselves for the fur trapping trade (Picture 2 - 4).